Better than average summary of a trip down the Nile by the author and his 11 year old son.
I had decided to travel with my son Alexander, 11, who was on half-term and had been studying the pharaohs at school. Good to show him where history begins, I thought as we arrived in Cairo. Although he took great pains to appear underwhelmed at all times by the National Museum, the pyramids and the Sphinx, I noted from his post-trip chatter with his friends that these experiences left a deep and positive impression. He also bought a fez for the equivalent of £2 at a market stall, which thrilled him.
From Cairo, we flew south to Aswan, our port of embarkation on to the Nile, gateway to Nubia (the "land of gold") and home of the High Dam and the older Low Dam. Alexander was particularly impressed that the High Dam – 3,800m long, 980m wide and 111m high – had been built to withstand nuclear attack.
The 125-kilometre stretch of Nile between Aswan and Luxor covers most of pharaonic Egypt's greatest hits, including Kom Ombo, Edfu, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings. Five years ago, the government stopped issuing new licences to operators of cruisers, pegging the fleet to just over 300 vessels, which provides healthy competition but isn't enough to clog the river. . . .
We arrived at Kom Ombo, a cult centre to Sobek, the crocodile god associated with fertility. The temple at Kom Ombo gives directly on to the Nile, where crocodiles once basked and were fed meat. Ancient Kom Ombo also doubled as a medical centre. Hieroglyphics show the pharaonic NHS in rude health, equipped with scissors, sponges, bandages, cups, dental instruments, forceps... "And saws for brain surgery," added Farouk.
Dental equipment is a common theme in Egyptian carvings. In one temple at Saqqara, just outside u oCairo, I saw an image of a cow having its teeth fixed. Ramses II, I was told, had terrible teeth and is believed to have died from tooth infection. But, as the pyramids of pastries and cakes that greeted us every morning aboard the St George attest, the Egyptian sweet tooth has lost none of its bite.
The next landfall, Edfu, is the most intact ancient temple in Egypt, a relative novelty built during the Ptolemaic period (305BC-30BC), which is strictly post-pharaoic, post-Alexander the Great. We confronted a large fortress-like edifice covered in images of kings making offerings to Horus, patron of the living pharaoh. A pair of hoopoes played among the colonnades. "The various King Ptolemys didn't believe in the story of Horus," said Farouk, "but the temple helped give them power over the people, while it was paid for by giving money to the priests. So everyone was happy: the pharaohs got their power, the priests got their money, and the people went home with a story. Politics was pretty straightforward in those days."
A bird-lover, Alexander was engrossed by the hoopoes. Temples and pyramids notwithstanding, Egypt is superb for bird-spotting, being an important migratory stopover between Africa and Europe.
See the above page for the full story, which includes various remarks about the cruise from a travel point of view - service, food, comfort etc. I'm not quite onvinced by the author's remark that there aren't enough cruise ships to clog the river. The last few times that I've passed through Luxor it looked like mayhem on the river, and I've heard various complaints about the queues at the Esna lock. But his trip was obviously one of the lucky ones.