Death on the Nile
We ended up seeing many of the sites of Upper Egypt from a cruise boat. I can't say that I had ever imagined that I would find myself on a Nile Cruise . . . but the husband and son agreed that we should give it a go, if only for the Agatha Christie experience.
The fact is that Nile cruising is not quite what it was. Because of security restrictions, you can no longer get on the boat at Cairo and chugg along to Aswan; you can only travel from Luxor to Aswan. It doesn't take long to realise that it is actually faintly silly to take four days to travel on a boat a distance you could drive in not much more than three hours. (Unlike a sea cruise, you do most of the 'sailing' in waking hours to maximise the illusion of distance.)
That said, there were some very good sides to the whole thing. We had picked on a boat called the Philae (owned by the Oberoi hotel chain), partly because it looked romantic and partly because every room has a balcony onto the river (why go on a Nile cruise if you cant gawp at the river whenever you want to?). We had also splashed out on a bigger room, which turned out to be well worth it, as there was bags of space to swing a cat or two.
The views were stupendous (I thought that I was immune to that kind of thing...
but I kept burbling all the time about how stunningly beautiful it all was) and the food a treat (Oberoi is an Indian chain and the curries were to die for . . . and the chef was so proud of his kitchen that he let you wander round it). As for cultural experiences, the high point was not a great monument of Egyptian antiquity, but going through the Nile lock at Essna where, in an engaging variant of squeezy merchants at traffic lights, a host of little rowing boats crowded around us throwing up all sorts of merchandise for inspection and possible purchase. In the transaction, half of the stuff fell into the river (most of it in plastic bags... and most of it, but not all was rescued). Was this private enterprise? Or a nice side show organised by the Oberoi, I found myself wondering?
All the same I am not wholly sure that I am quite cut out to be a passenger on a cruise boat.
For a start you have to surrender yourself to the whole enterprise and just let yourself be taken over and organised. That could be OK, but our particular guide was not a safe pair of hands. To be fair he tried very hard, and our group cant have been an easy assignment for any one. But the incessant stream of half truths (at best) about Egyptian culture was enough to send you screaming for another gin and tonic (of which there were many on the boat). The son was the most charitable in observing that we were witnessing the failures of the Egyptian education system. If so, it is something like the Greek education system, writ large . . everything started in Egypt (which was the USA of the ancient world); ancient Egyptian religion offered a unique form of spirituality, which was inherited by Christianity (Isis being a forerunner of the Virgin Mary). The Ptolemies and the Romans didnt get much of a look in, despite the fact that almost every monument we visited was largely post-Pharaonic (like the pic of the Roman emperor making his offering on the right). In fact our guide was very wobbly even about the date of the Romans.
There is sociality to be surrendered to as well. The sticking point for us was the 'Galibaya party' on the penultimate night. I'm never a great fan of fancy dress. But the idea of a group of well heeled Brits (and others) travelling in style through an ex-piece of colonial territory, and then dressing up as ex-colonial "natives" was really too much to take. It reeks too much of Prince Harry's birthday. (Unless, of course, you think of it as the final revenge of the colonised on the colonisers.)
On this occasion we needn't have worried too much. About half the boat were refuseniks (including all the middle aged academics ... of which there were quite a few).