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Last updated : Nov 2009
Nile
Nile - TravelPuppy.com
Several tour operators offer Nile cruises, usually between Luxor and Aswan, and generally lasting around 5 days. It is also possible to get a cruise to Minia, a charming town with Greek, Roman and Pharaonic ruins, including the Beni Hassan archaeological area, and/or through to Cairo. Felucca trips offer the same route with more basic facilities.

Luxor

Once the ancient city of Thebes and powerhouse of upper Egypt, Luxor has grown into a big town, awash with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops, with most of its economy coming from tourism and visitors.

A highlight is the Karnak Temple, covering an immense one hundred acres (40.5 hectares). Of the 3 temple enclosures, the grandest is the Precinct of Amun, the main place of worship. The Great Hypostyle Hall is 6,000 square metres (64,584 square feet) and filled with vast stone pillars. The entire site has colossal statues, reliefs, obelisks and halls and, the Avenue of the Sphinxes. There are son et lumière shows every night.

Along the riverbank, Luxor Temple is guarded by a massive statue of Ramses II, and although a fraction of the area of Karnak, it also contains countless columns, statues and sphinxes. A pleasant walk north along the corniche brings you to the Luxor Museum where a small, fascinating collection of relics from the Theban Temples and Necropolis can be visited. The recently opened Mummification Museum has exhibits of human, bird and reptile mummies, as well as good explanations of how they are made.

On the West Bank of the Nile is the huge Theban Necropolis, containing some of the world’s finest tombs including:

The Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Queens
Tombs of the Nobles

Highlights include:

The Tomb of Tutankhamun
Ramses II
The Tomb of Nefertari, reputed to be the country’s finest, which is newly restored and allows only 150 visitors a day for ten minutes.

Close by is Deir el-Bahri (Northern Monastery), a picturesque temple set amidst the amphitheatre of the Theban Hills.

Along the Nile, felucca owners tout for custom, and it is possible to hire one for a brief sunset cruise to Banana Island, or even to organise a trip upriver to Aswan. Hot-air balloon trips are now also available, offering the best views of Luxor.

Around Luxor Temple, shopping is dominated by tourist bazaars with enthusiastic salesmen. The more traditional souk, with household goods, spices and clothes, is at Sharia el-Birka. Cafes and stalls sell hot food, and there are rooftop terraces overlooking the river. A livestock market is held on Tuesday morning at El-Hebel, a village 4km (2.4 miles) from Luxor.

Aswan

A beautiful winter resort, relaxing Aswan is the southernmost city in the country and the gateway to Africa, steeped in Nubian culture. Although the sights are not amongst the country’s finest, the town’s riverside location is picturesque and peaceful. It has a busy tourism scene although it is less aggressive than in Luxor.

The corniche offers attractive riverside walks, and a stop-off for cruise ships. In the evenings, floating restaurants present a lively gathering place, and the world-famous folkloric dance troupe performs each night during winter months at the Cultural Centre. Southernmost is the Old Cataract Hotel (made famous as the location of the film ‘Death on the Nile’). Sharia el-Souq is the atmospheric market stretching for streets, with spices, food and clothes, as well as predictable souvenirs.

Elephantine Island is easily accessible by a river taxi. Formerly Egypt’s frontier town, recent excavations of this ancient site have exposed temples and fortress. Aswan Museum contains exhibits found locally. The Nilometre on the south of the island, and dating back to Pharaonic times, was used to measure the height of the Nile.

Further south is the tiny Island of Plants, presented to Lord Horatio Kitchener in the 1890's in recognition of his military services. Importing exotic flowers and plants from Malaysia and India, he created a beautiful botanical garden, open daily, attracting a wide variety of birds.

The Monastery of St Simeon lies on the West Bank of the river Nile. Close by lies the domed granite and sandstone Mausoleum of Aga Khan.

Beyond Aswan

Outside the city are the Aswan Dam, built by the British at the start of the century, and the Temple of Philae, on the Island of Philae. The Temple is one of Egypt’s most famous attractions, and after being under threat from flooding from the High Dam, UNESCO moved it stone by stone to a higher point on the island.

Further afield is Abu Simbel, the magnificent Sun Temple of Ramses II, also rescued from flooding by UNESCO. Ramses had 4 gigantic statues of himself built in order to intimidate travellers entering Egypt from Africa, especially the Nubians.

Kom Ombo, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Aswan, is a largely Nubian settlement, known for its Temple of Haroeris and Sobek. Located nearby is the Darow Camel Market, held every Tuesday morning and mainly frequented by tribesmen from the northern Sudanese deserts.

Edfu is famed for the biggest and best preserved Pharaoronic Temple in Egypt, the Temple of Horus and a favoured starting/stopping point for felucca trips to and from Luxor.