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.