Sunday, August 24, 2008

Travel: Nile cruise

Vancouver Sun (Mark Angelo)

As our plane approached the town of Aswan in southern Egypt, I could see the meandering Nile below. Beyond the line of the river and the green ribbon of lush irrigated lands that paralleled it, there was nothing but the vast sands of the Sahara.

The dramatic contrast between fertile riverside lands and the emptiness of the nearby desert exemplified the fact that virtually all life here is nurtured by the river. As the Greek philosopher Herodotus so aptly said, "Egypt is a gift of the Nile."

Over the years, I've been fortunate to explore much of this great river and, on this trip, I was returning with my wife to travel the Nile by boat from Aswan to the city of Luxor.

For first time visitors to Egypt, this is the most popular part of the river where one can catch a glimpse of rural Egypt and a way of life that has changed little over the centuries. At the same time, this stretch of the Nile, once the royal route of the pharaohs, is steeped in history with many of the world's best-known attractions of antiquity.

After landing in Aswan, we headed to the stately Old Cataract Hotel, which would be our base for a couple of days before heading down river. Located on a picturesque bend in the river, the hotel is a magnificent historic structure.

Built in 1899, the Old Cataract has a fascinating history in its own right and so captivated Agatha Christie that she stayed here to write much of her book, Death on the Nile. Many of the rooms have large decks overlooking the river which, with its palm-studded islands and granite outcroppings, is at its most beautiful. The sunsets from the hotel lounge are also legendary!

No comments: