Taking my first cruise was an act of fate. After our bus disaster (blessing?) at Abu Simbel, my group returned to Aswan 5 hours late. This meant that I was unable to get on the Felucca (traditional Egyptian boat) that I had originally booked and instead was upgraded to a Nile Cruise!
Real talk: at first I was incredibly disappointed. The Felucca trip was one of the main reasons I’d chosen this tour, and I thought I’d feel trapped and bored on a river cruise. It ended up being amazing. After the breakneck speed of the tour so far, It was so nice to relax in the sun with all-inclusive meals, a pool, and great new friends. Pro tip: A Nile Cruise is one of the places where it is appropriate to lounge in a bikini. Also, they’re not super formal so no need to bring fancy dinner clothes unless you want to.
We started the cruise at Kom Ombo because the Nile is currently too low for cruise ships to continue to Aswan. Entrance costs 80 EGP (40 EGP for students).
Kom Ombo Temple was built around 332 BC in the Greco-Roman style. It’s unique because it’s dedicated to two gods, Sobek and Horus. The entire temple is split in half, with each god having one holy side. The worship of Sobek (the crocodile god) resulted in this being called the crocodile temple, because many mummified crocodiles were found here!
The carvings and columns in this temple are striking! Like many remaining Egyptian sites, Kom Ombo temple was buried by mud for many years. This protected it from overzealous christians and locals looking for building materials!
After that, we cruised through the night to Edfu Temple, the best preserved and second largest temple in Egypt! To get to Edfu temple, you must take a horse cart to the complex. The drivers have a bit of a racket going on, because vehicles are prohibited from entering the complex. If you go to Edfu temple as a part of a tour, like I did, the cost of the cart will be covered but you do have to tip the driver. For your sanity (and their promptness), do this on the way back.
Sand swallowed (and protected) the temple until its rediscovery in the 1860s. It’s another Ptolemaic temple, and the design is similar to that of Philae temple in Aswan. It is primarily dedicated to Horus.
Honestly, this temple wasn’t my favorite. Nile Cruises are one of the most popular tourist activities and Egypt, which causes all of their stops to be very crowded. According to my guide, before the revolution this site used to be so crowded that you couldn’t walk inside. Luckily, it wasn’t that bad when we were there, but it’s still largely impossible to get pictures without people in them.
The temple’s large courtyard is a lovely combination of Egyptian and Greco-Roman influences. The corinthian columns are a dead giveaway of the Ptolemaic era of this structure. Prior to the arrival of Alexander the Great, Egyptians used undecorated or simple Lotus topped columns in temple construction.
I don’t have many pictures from inside the temple because of the crowds. Above, is the sanctuary of the temple that contains a replica of the sacred boat used at this site for religious rituals. During rituals, priests carried it on their shoulders, because they believed it was the home of Horus.
After our visit to Edfu temple, it was back to the boat to continue down the Nile towards Luxor! The gorgeous views continued, and I got to see my first sunset in Egypt. One tip: if you’re taking a Nile Cruise in the winter make sure to bring a sleeping bag so that you can enjoy the deck at night! It gets majorly cold with the wind of the boat.
Next stop: Luxor’s West Bank!