Upper Egypt’s legendary sites always fascinated me. How have they been built? How did Egyptians have such a technical knowledge?
Whether you visit one of the 130 pyramids or you get lost in the colourful markets. Whether you sail its long river or you admire its beautiful sunsets. The chances to step into a remain of one of the greatest civilisations on earth are countless. In Upper Egypt – a name that, against expectations, defines the southern part of the Country – there are so many archaeological sites that you will feel like a modern Indiana Jones.
Our adventure in Upper Egypt
A few years ago we decided to stop wondering about this mysterious civilisation, get there and see it with our own eyes. The result was mind blowing. To explore the Country we joined a safari cruise down the Nile, the longest river in the World (6,695 km – 4,160 miles). The plan was to visit Upper Egypt’s main sites in 5 days, then fly north to visit the capital, Cairo, on our last two days of vacation.
Upper Egypt’s temples and cruise
Starting point: Luxor, world’s greatest open-air museum. With its 500.000 residents, the city has been built on the ruins of the old Egyptian city of Thebes. Here, you cannot miss the ruins of the temples of Luxor and Karnak. On the other bank of the river Nile, lie the temples and tombs of a big Necropolis which includes the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
Sailing south we arrived in Esna, our second destination. Here, in the middle of the modern town and nine meters below the surrounding grounds, lies the Ptolemaic-Roman Temple of Khnum, crocodile-headed god of the source of the Nile River. The next day we crossed the lively town of Edfu to pay a visit to one of the most preserved sites in Egypt, the Temple of Horus, god of war. That night our local guide surprised us with a night trip to the temple of Kom Ombo. It was magical! Evocative lights were highlighting hieroglyphics and columns, making this architecture look even more mystic.
The morning after we continued our trip towards to the beautiful Aswan. The view of its blue water together with the white sails standing out on the desert background was jaw-dropping. A relaxed trip on a Felucca – the traditional wooden sailing boat – gave us the opportunity to take some amazing photos at sunset. Get your camera ready!
From Aswan, a short boat trip led us to the rocky island of Philae, once a main centre of ivory trade, and beautifully located in the middle of the river.
After returning to Aswan we took a short flight to Abu Simbel, the most interesting of all ancient Egyptian temples. Located near the southern border with Sudan – 280 km south of Aswan – these two majestic rock-cut temples have been built during the reign of King Ramses II (1290-1223 BC). A must see!
Egypt’s capital: Cairo
Last stop the capital, Cairo. A mixture of ancient and modern with internet cafes and pyramids sitting side by side. We couldn’t miss a quick visit to the famous Pyramids of Giza (circa 2550 B.C) and their Sphinx. When we stepped in front of them we couldn’t believe their size. Huge! Although, this was the only site to let us down due to the amount of people and lack of care taken to preserve this beautiful site.
Tips to visit Upper Egypt
The best time to visit is between December and February (high season) when it’s hot, but not so humid. Travel in March/April or October/early November means quieter hotels and fewer queues at popular sites.
When you visit Egypt, you soon find out that its sunsets are among the world’s best. Its red light changes everything, giving the scenery an indescribable magnificence. The best time to visit ancient Egyptian monuments are early morning and sunset time. If you do so, you will enjoy cooler temperatures, fewer tourists and – of course – you will take better shots. The effort will be worth it!
In spite of the political changes and sporadic violence that have caused the tourism decline, Upper Egypt has lost none of its allure. Pros of visiting the country nowadays: fewer crowds and lower prices. Staying informed on national security issues is a must, although Upper Egypt is usually trouble-free. (You can check the foreign office website for the latest information and travel advice, especially about Cairo).