Water has a very calming effect, both in sight and sound. In the evening with the setting sun behind the vast Sahara, or late at night when there is nothing to view but just to hear the water flow, the Nile speaks differently to me each moment. The waters reflect my inner thoughts, sometimes even giving me answers to questions I might not even know how to unravel. Here in the middle of Aswan and Luxor in upper Egypt as I wake up to the sound of the first prayer of the day, the Nile feels more Egypt than ever.
Although it flows through eight countries after its birth in the Victoria falls down south, It is only in Egypt that it gets its true fame. As much as Egypt depends on the Nile for its life, the Nile has depended on Egypt since ancient times to be known. The country is classified not into north and south but as upper and lower Egypt, and since the Nile actually flows into the Mediterranean in the north, the south of Egypt is called as upper Egypt. For me, the Nile is truly beautiful to be within Aswan, a town in the south or upper Egypt. Here the various small islands on the Nile, some formed after the building of the high dam gives the Nile the contrast of the rugged land. Otherwise only really the obvious contrast of the Sahara exists.
The Nile in upper Egypt has the community of Nubian people live on it. The Nubians are a beautiful lot, with their skin color distinctly different and their features more Sudanese than Egyptian. A Nubian house is colored with all the possible images of the surroundings, of everyday life, much like the scriptures on the walls of the ancient Egyptian temples. I wonder if 400 years from now when the natural colors of the paintings are still visible, only the Nubians here in Aswan would have something to look at from the past, while us living in the modern world will only have stories to hear of.
In Egypt, the people make for an interesting blend with the Nile. The Arabic that they speak flows seamlessly like the waters of the Nile and the tone in their sound is like music much like the sound of the waters. The food that they grow on the banks of the Nile is freshly served in their houses, more so here in upper Egypt and Nubia than in the mad rush of Cairo. Speaking of which, the Nile in Cairo doesn’t feel very happy. It feels like it just passes through the city while here in upper Egypt it feels like the Nile wants to be for a while, chatting with its people, wanting to know their stories while sharing its own. The Nile goes through eight other countries in the African continent before creating the fertile Nile basin on its way to the Mediterranean in the north. In our group tour to Egypt we spend 5 nights on the Nile out of the 8 nights in all and even then the people feel like spending a night or two more before they depart to India.
A huge chunk of the Nile experience involves sailing on the Nile and the 4 nights spent on the cruise help people to feel the river up close. Aswan to Luxor is downriver and takes 3 nights while the other way from Luxor is a 4-night affair. Luxor is known to have the highest number of heritage monuments in the world any single town, and you would realize it soon as you start sailing towards it. The kings of ancient Egypt aptly had the temples dedicated to the gods on the east bank of the Nile, while the place where their dead rested was on the west. You, would want to know why? Well, it’s quite simple, just follows the path of the sun, coming up from the east and disappearing below the horizon in the west.
The Valley of the Kings on the west bank for many is the highlight of the tour in this part of Egypt. The pyramid is a tomb but because it was so noticeable and on the training route of the Arabs and the Bedouins, it got looted time and again leaving it with nothing but black soot on its inner walls. The tombs in the Valley of the kings, however, were hidden and yet looted, however, they continue to shine with their interior chambers still possessing the vibrant colors of ancient Egyptian art. All over the Nile especially from Aswan to Luxor the kings built various temples. The temple at Edfu and Kom Ombo remain favorite of tourists for the way they come to be seen in the cruise itinerary. The former in the early morning sunlight and later in the evening.
I have heard that by not taking a big cruise and just going on a motorless sailboat, known as the Dahabiya the Nile can be enjoyed in an intimacy which is hard to compare. It’s the one thing I have always wanted to do. It’s nice to look forward to this. It’s nice to have the Nile to look forward to.