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Fellucas on the Nile, Aswan

La vallée du Nil
(Francais, cliquez ici)

Nile valley
(English, click here)
Du 24 au 30 Décembre 2004

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Cartourche, Karnak temple, Luxor

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I have been living in Egypt since August 2004 and thought I was accustomed to Egyptian life and culture mixing so well with foreigners. I was wrong. While there are well-preserved monuments, mass tourism is destroying Egyptian culture, temples and treasures. All of my previous travels have been by way of "backpack travel", but because we were traveling with and hosting foreign guests in Cairo, we decided to go with a middle to upper range package tour.

We started our journey with an overnight train from Cairo to Luxor. A private
double cabin for 55$US/person was a fair price. Service was excellent and cabins were small but very clean.

We then went on a four day cruise with the Oberoi-Shehrayar, which has the reputation of being one of the finest cruise lines in Egypt. Again, the service was excellent and the
accommodation was good. However, both my wife and my mother got sick during
the cruise probably due to inadequately boiled water or undercooked food. By the end of the cruise, it was known that other travelers also had experienced similarly upset stomachs.

The cruise was overall very good, but there are simply too many boats on the Nile during the tourist season and the lock at Esna is not capable of handling such volume. On December 25th, there were 18 boats lined up to cross the lock and all waiting between six and ten hours to do so. All the boat engines were running non-stop and the day ended up being a day of inhaling smoke and exhaust. Crew members told me that sometimes twenty to thirty hours are needed to cross the lock.

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Karnak Temple

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Ramses II, Luxor temple

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God Horus,
Horus temple, Edfu.

On a 4-day cruise, this waiting time becomes important, as all the sightseeing must be done quickly so the boat can leave early and wait at the lock. On our first day, we visited Karnak temple, Luxor temple, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens & Hatshepsut temple. Too much for one day. The original schedule gave us two days in Luxor, but was changed due to the waiting at the lock. Later in Edfu, it seems that all cruise lines have decided to bring tourists to Horus temple using horse carriages. For a five-minute horse ride, each person is required to pay 20LE (in Cairo, 20LE would get you a 25 minute cab ride). While quaint, 20LE for a horse ride is a tourist trap technique pulled on sightseers, and the operators won't tell you that a fixed price is in effect until after the ride is over. While 20LE may only be a few dollars and it is someone else's livelihood that is at stake, it is the feeling of being "ripped off" that leaves an unpleasant taste. A more reasonable amount for the ride would a good start or perhaps if the cruise lines offered additional options for reaching the Horus Temple.

As well, this Oberoi-Shehrayar cruise was billed as ''inclusive'' or ''full board''. However, we ended up spending more than 500LE ($80US) on extras like the horse carriage, a boat ride to Philae Island, and a bus driver to the Valley of the Kings to name a few.

The cruise ended in Aswan, where we were transferred to the Mövenpick Hotel on Elephantine Island (previously the Oberoi Hotel). This hotel is a poor value at $250US/night. The service was miserable, and while the room was clean it was very small and the two single beds were old and not befitting of such a high room rate. An extra bed was brought to our room and this was nothing more than a camping cot with two bed sheets. Unless you have nothing better to do with $250, then I wouldn't recommend anyone to stay at the Movenpick Hotel on Elephantine Island.

At 3:30am the next morning and for $50US/person, we were picked up by a mini bus to
go to Abu Simbel. As things turned out, we basically paid $50 for a squishy van ride that should have only costed about half that much (one can hire a car and driver for two days in Cairo for about $50USD).

The convoy to Abu Simbel is surreal joke, being sure that every tourist arrives at the temple at the same time. On December 29, there were 125 buses totaling approximately 3000 tourists trying to get into the Abu Simbel Temple.

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Kom Ombo temple

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Horus temple, Edfu

Consequently, it was a good decision to stay overnight at the Nerfertari Hotel in Abu Simbel. This gave us the chance to visit the temple in the afternoon at a much more leisurely and less congested pace.

The light show of the Abu Simbel temple is 35 minutes, but worth the 60LE, and is a much more impressive show than the one at Giza.

The Nerfertari Hotel in Abu Simbel has an impressive location being situated over Lake Nasser and a five-minute walk from the temple. But, like the Movenpick Hotel on Elephantine Island, $150US/night for a room there was excessive given that the accommodation is "OK" at best, that we had no hot water for most of
the day, and that the included breakfast consisted of cold toast and watery coffee. This hotel claims to have 4-star status, but is really a 3-star charging 4-star prices. Its location is its saving grace.

I will always remember my trip down the Nile valley. Amazing temples but expectedly too many tourists. Even more disconcerting, at many places I saw tourists writing on statues, leaning on perfectly carved walls, kids throwing rocks at 4000 year-old hieroglyphs, or visitors taking flash photography inside temples. It is frustrating, sad, and unbelievable to see how many tourists have no respect and no idea of the value of these national treasures.

Even sadder is that the local guides, tourist police, travel agencies, even the Egyptian government don't seem to bother to tell them that while this treasure has lasted for 4000 years, it may very be lost forever unless visitors admire the sights with a modicum of respect.

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Luxor Temple

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Horus temple, Edfu

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Du Caire, nous avons parcouru -vers le sud- : 800 km en train, 250 km en bateau et 285 km en camionnette et avons visité la vallée du Nil au complet jusqu'à la frontière Soudanaise.

Nous avons débuté notre voyage avec le train de nuit pour Luxor. Les chambres étaient petites, mais très propres et confortables.
A Luxor, nous avons visité le temple de Karnak, le temple de Luxor, la vallée des Rois et la vallée des Reines. Beaucoup à voir en une journée!

Les temples de Karnak et de Luxor sont indescriptibles : âgés de 4000 ans, des dizaines de pharaons y ont ajouté des statues, temples et tombeaux pendant environ 100 ans. Il faut le voir pour le croire.

De Luxor, nous avons navigués à Aswan pendant 3 jours et avons eu la chance de voir le temple de Kom Ombo, le temple d'Edfu (dédié à Horus) ainsi que le temple de Philae.

A Aswan, nous avons fait un petit tour de felluca (bateau Égyptien) et j'ai visité les tombeaux des nobles.

Nous avons terminé notre voyage avec un séjour à Abu Simbel.

A Abu Simbel (près de la frontière Soudanaise) il n'est possible de visiter qu'en convoi militaire. Disons que le convoi militaire est plutôt inutile : il s'agit d'un moyen efficace pour s'assurer que plusieurs milliers de touristes arrivent en même temps au temple. Je vous suggère de demeurer à Abu Simbel pour une nuit si vous avez le temps (et l'argent!)

Malheureusement, l'Égypte est sale, polluée et peu organisée. Tout le monde a eu des maux d'estomac, chacun à son tour!

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