Find peace on the Nile

Luxor - Egypt

Encourage clients to go to the Nile now, while crowds are sparse, for an exclusive experience, says Rachel Wright, Cruise Select, fresh from her own trip with Discover Egypt

Sifting through the 3,000 photos taken on her recent Nile cruise, Cruise Select owner Rachel Wright has a clear message for fellow snap-happy travellers: “If you are a photographer or historian, visit the Nile. It’s a bucket-list destination, and right now it’s a photographer’s paradise. There is so much to photograph, and you are able to get clear, exclusive shots without anyone else in your pictures.”

The lack of crowds is testimony to the turmoil Egypt has faced, but having spent 10 days cruising along the Nile and visiting Cairo with her husband Bill, Wright is adamant the destination is now ripe for promotion.

Ancient Egyptian writing
Ancient Egyptian writing on stone, Egypt

“People think there are still problems in Egypt. Even some agents know there are no flights into Sharm-el-Sheikh, and that’s all they think of for Egypt. There is a real lack of knowledge. It didn’t feel dangerous at all, and there are no security issues along the Nile. Right now there are no queues to get into sites so you get a good experience.”

Wright visited in November with specialist Discover Egypt and says while interest in Egypt is currently low – with her agency making just one Nile cruise booking in the past year – she is certain it will return. After writing about her trip in the agency’s customer magazine she received an enquiry within a week.

Wright flew into Luxor and headed to Discover Egypt’s flagship vessel, MS Mayfair. “It’s very nice, with tasteful décor, a great selection of food and very good staff. With Egypt people worry about issues such as cleanliness and sickness, but it was all very clean and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.”

After spending the night in Luxor her group crossed over to the West Bank of the Nile for their first excursion, visiting the tombs of Pharaohs and nobles in the Valley of the Kings. It includes the area’s archaeological headliner – the tomb of Tutankhamen. “It’s the most uncolourful of the tombs as it wasn’t properly finished, but we got to see his mummified body, and you can even see his teeth and hair, it was amazing.”

Wright spent the afternoon relaxing on MS Mayfair’s sundeck as it sailed upstream to Esna. “It was nice to have time to relax, and the sundeck has plenty of sunbeds and canopies, two Jacuzzis and a small pool with a bar.”

Discover Egypt’s sailings boast qualified Egyptologists, and the following day Wright’s guide was able to translate the inscriptions and hieroglyphics covering the huge Temple of Horus in Edfu. He also had a novel way of bringing the ancient scripts to life. “One long wall had a play on it,” Wright explains. “So he asked for some volunteers and they acted it out, which really brought the whole group together.”

Recreating the past

The Temple of Philae - Aswan - Egypt
Wooden boats docked along the Nile River at the Temple of Philae in Aswan

After sailing to Aswan the group visited the area’s key historical sites and took a short boat ride to the Temple of Philae on Agilika Island. “This is a really beautiful temple, and it’s very interesting to look around,” Wright explains. “Like most of the temples it is sand coloured, and inside it’s faded, but you can still see the colours and it’s easy to imagine in its heyday it was really quite something. It’s almost surreal to see.”

The majority of excursions are included in the Discover Egypt itinerary, but Wright chose to book an optional tour to visit the statues of Ramses II at Abu Simnel. While visitors can travel quickly by air for £215, Wright advises booking the three-hour £85 coach trip. “While you have a 4.30am start by coach you get a packed breakfast and get to see the sun rising over the desert which is fantastic, and you wouldn’t see if you flew.”

Visiting the colossal 13th-century temples was one of the trip’s most memorable moments for Wright. “It’s huge, and feels magical.”

After seven nights on the Nile, and having had time to explore Luxor, the Wrights flew to Cairo for two nights. An “absolute must” for Wright was visiting the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, with its collection of artefacts from Tutankhamen’s tomb. She also booked a private guide to tour the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. “When you think of Egypt, you think of the Pyramids, so this was a real highlight for us, and we took some fantastic photos.”

Sample package: 

Seven nights cruising the Nile on the MS Mayfair and three nights at Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel in Cairo starts at £1,198pp, based on two sharing, departing December 1, 2017. Includes 10 excursions, all meals on the cruise and breakfast at the hotel, flights from Heathrow, all transfers and internal flights. discoveregypt.co.uk

SELLING TIPS

  • Wright recommends Egypt as a winter sun alternative to the Canary Islands and Dubai. “I wanted to go away in November, somewhere not too hot, without going long haul, and somewhere of interest. Egypt ticks all those boxes.” Visit between October and March to avoid searing heat.
  • Ensure customers know it’s a busy itinerary. “It’s full-on, with 80% of the time being busy, and 20% spent relaxing.” Most days include early wake-up calls, to avoid the heat. • For those seeking relaxation after the busy itinerary Wright suggests Hurghada’s beaches.
  • The majority of customers on Discover Egypt’s Nile cruises are aged 40 to 70. Wright’s fellow passengers included a honeymooning couple in their twenties, a female solo traveller and a passenger in her eighties. “There’s no set demographic.”
  • Stress the importance of the Egyptologists. “You can’t do without a guide, as they bring it all to life and answer so many questions. Our guide was very passionate, spoke very clearly, and had an excellent sense of humour.”
  • As well as learning about ancient Egypt, customers gain an insight into modern Egyptian life. Wright’s group sampled mint tea and shisha pipes while visiting a Nubian bar in Kom Ombo, and she received a henna tattoo in a Nubian family’s home.
  • There are ample shopping opportunities. In a paper showroom Wright bought four papyrus paper paintings to hang in her Bedford shop. “They were very reasonable and I’m hoping they will be a talking point.” She also left a perfume and oil shop £250 lighter. “They can match the scent of any perfume, which make nice presents.”

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