Saturday, September 18, 2010

In Denial, On Da Nile (by Juli)

After the non-eventful short flight from Sharm to Luxor, we were met by a tour agent and taken to the MS Radamis II (a Nile cruiser run by a Swiss hotel brand). Todd was elated, mainly because our four days of beach time had made him lazy with respect to travel planning. I was apprehensive; I worried that we (especially Todd) would go stir crazy sitting on a boat all day and being part of a huge tour group. I figured that we could easily see the ruins and enjoy Upper Egypt on our own. Boy was I wrong. Luxor was CRAZY and organizing trips to each of the many temples would have been daunting and hot. So, we happily set sail on our "luxury" four night cruise (actually the method of our cruise was mid-range...the super-cheap version called a felucca only sails from Aswan; the high-end version called a dahabbiya would have cost us a few hundred dollars a night so that was a non-starter). You can see the picture of the boat below, the cruiser had about 75 rooms and approximately 125 guests.

Each day had a very basic schedule, about 4 hours of sightseeing and about 4 hours of the boat actually moving up the river, then docking each night (which was nice allowing us to get off the boat when we wanted to). It was kind of nice to have a guide with us to do lots of explaining about what we were seeing, even though we had read about several of these places in our books. Moving slowly with a tour group got old pretty fast though, and Todd usually dashed ahead on his own to get some pictures while the sun was still low in the sky.

Our cabin on the boat was surprisingly roomy and modern, so it made for a great hotel for the four nights. The food, while decent, left a bit to be desired; the best night was when they cooked Egpytian food but they only did that once :(. At least Todd was finally able to get some felafel, which we had been told was not available during Ramadan. Most of our time on the boat was spent on the sun deck either reading or watching the Nile pass by; though we were on a large boat it was pretty tranquil and sunsets were quite beatiful. This was by far the best part of the trip. The banks of the Nile are suprisingly lush and beautiful, we would sit and stare for hours. The 'cruising' was much more enjoyable than we expected and we would highly recommend it as a way of seeing Upper Egypt (Southern part of Egypt but denoted as 'upper' because the Nile runs North).

What really struck us though at every stop all the way down was the hassle of dealing with souvenir vendors, horse carriage drivers, and camel guides. They are persistent salesmen and we usually felt awkward completely ignoring their salutations (though probably 80% of the time they spoke to us in Spanish...once they heard we were from America the cash register probably starting ringing in their heads). But of course they are all selling the same merchandise and you have to walk through their store areas to get out of any monument, so we had to put on our "camel faces" quite a bit. Once we departed from a stop, we figured we were free of them, but what do you know here comes about 20 rowboats literally grabbing onto the ship so they could keep pace, and then the selling began all over again with the sellers throwing merchandise up to the top deck and having people throw money down. We got some good video of it but we had technical difficulty in posting it for'll have to check back later. Here's one we found on youtube that is similar (though many fewer boats):

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