I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

Abu Simbel

Our final stop on our Egypt TV shoot was the dramatic Temple of Abu Simbel: the southern-most point of our travels, a half-hour flight south of Aswan. Being here, you marvel at how the temple was relocated to save it from being submerged and lost forever with the damming of the Nile at Aswan in 1968. You also are reminded how the United Nations (through UNESCO in this case) takes on projects — even expensive ones like this — that matter to all of humanity when no other organization can or will.

Cruising the Nile

Paging through the “Best of Egypt” photo books in a tourist gift shop, I noticed we have visited and filmed about 80% of the featured attractions here — and incorporated them into our upcoming hour-long Egypt TV special. It’s pretty predictable: Cairo with its great museum and pyramids, Alexandria with its sweeping Art Deco harbor-front, Luxor with its tombs and temples, Aswan with Abu Simbel, and cruises along the Nile. For safety reasons, there’s almost no tourism on the Nile north of Luxor. But the stretch of Nile between Luxor south (upstream) to Aswan is a busy parade of touristic river boats. Typically, tourists take a multi-day cruise from Luxor — as we did in our shoot.

The riverboats are all basically the same. They have all the features of a big cruise ship, in miniature: about 60 comfortable staterooms with wonderful plumbing, a bar for culture shows, a single dining room where everyone sits at the same table for each meal (three meals a day are served, and you feel stuffed all the time), and a top deck for relaxing (with a bar, little pool, lounge chairs and people standing by to rub your feet). The boats are blocky — like a four-story hotel sitting on a barge. Looking at a boat sailing toward you, the captain — who stands at the wheel looking out a simple window — looks like he’s piloting a subway train under the streets of Paris.

For me, the highlights were enjoying a drink on the deck at magic hour (that peaceful last hour before sunset when colors are warm and even the herons and cows seem relaxed), as we glide past timeless scenes of the sparsely populated riverbank. Here are a few thoughts from my top-deck perch… sailing south, up the Nile at sunset.

$1,000,000 for Bread for the World

We did it! Rick Steves’ Europe travelers have met our goal of raising one million dollars to help empower Bread for the World to combat structural poverty and hunger.

2,536 of you gave $100 or more each, totaling $362,050. As promised, I matched your donations 2-to-1 with $700,000 — and together, we raised $1,062,050. All this money (100% of it) was given to Bread for the World to advocate in our halls of government for policies that help the hungry both at home and abroad.

Rick Steves jumping, "We met our goal! $1,000,000 for bread for the world"

Good Americans, surrounded by a sea of abundance (and in the midst of what I see as a political storm of greed), struggle to simply feed their children. Our initiative will result in legislation that will help shape a world where struggling people, both at home and abroad, can work hard to raise healthy, well-nourished children and have reason for hope rather than despair. There are a lot of prayers out there, and this is how prayers are answered. The more you understand the work of Bread, the more you see that this is smart compassion in action.

Now let’s see if we can go even further! You can still elevate your holiday season and join in with a $100 donation — and when you do, I’ll send you my European Christmas gift pack or my 20-Year Anthology DVD Box Set as a thank you gift.

Giving in partnership with caring travelers like you makes my work even more gratifying. Thanks, happy holidays, and Merry Christmas to all.

The Grand Egyptian Museum

The big news for tourism in Egypt is the massive new “Grand Egyptian Museum” being built in Giza at the great pyramids. The GEM, as it’s already called, will open in the next year. It’s far bigger than any museum I’ve ever seen and my Egyptian friends assure me there’s more than enough ancient artifacts to fill it. Any tourist coming to Egypt in 2021 will likely go here, see all the statues, and then hop a shuttle train to the great pyramids at Giza. Judging by the immensity of this construction site, I’d say the pharaohs would approve.

Filming on the Nile: Join Me in Egypt!

Rick Steves at Abu Simbel

To spice up my holiday season, I’ve been in Egypt with my crew making a TV special. I scouted this shoot a few years ago but things got too tense politically to recommend travel there, so I put the shoot on hold. Things feel more stable now and tourism seems to be kicking back into gear, so we’re filming!

Egypt lends itself more to organized tourism rather than independent travel; it can be pretty intense and challenging. While it may not be for everybody, I love traveling here and am excited to share our adventures as we make a great TV special. If you’ve been to Egypt recently, how was your experience? What were the challenges? The rewards? Did you travel on your own or with a group?