Sailing the Nile: Where Ancient Egypt Meets Modern Luxury

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standing in front of pyramid

From lost luggage in Cairo to a whirlwind shopping spree, my Egyptian adventure started with more than a little chaos. But when I finally boarded that propeller plane over shifting sands to Luxor, I knew the real voyage was about to unfold. Solo international flights and missing suitcases couldn’t dampen my spirits; after all, my husband and I were about to embark on an unforgettable cruise down the Nile aboard the luxurious Historia (not sponsored, I just absolutely, geniunely loved this experience).

So join me as we navigate through millennia of history, jaw-dropping landscapes, and a culinary tour de force. From lost luggage in Cairo to the mystic temples of Edfu and back to the indomitable Pyramids of Giza, this is the Egypt you’ve only dreamed of, as seen from the plush comfort of a world-class riverboat.

green nile river view

Welcome to our Nile odyssey, where each bend in the river reveals a new layer of Egypt’s endless wonders.

The Frustrations and Fortunes of First Impressions

A few weeks ago, I found myself boarding a plane to Egypt to meet my husband on one of his numerous business trips. This trip was special for me in many ways, primarily because it was my first experience flying internationally on my own.

empty plane seats

The journey kicked off without a hitch in Chicago, but somewhere along the line, one of the airlines misplaced my luggage. The moment I landed in Cairo, I was overwhelmed with the stress of navigating through customs, locating my husband, and tracking down my missing belongings (I’ll admit I’m a tiny bit of an anxious flyer at times).

Just when I was on the brink of tears, I spotted an enormous golden statue of a woman with open arms greeting me beyond the international gate. I took it as a sign—Cairo was embracing me, albeit in the midst of chaos.

golden statue in cairo airport

Time was not on our side that evening. We only had a few hours to eat a quick meal, make a trip to a mall for some emergency shopping, and catch a few hours of sleep before heading back to the airport the next morning.

luxor sign

Our next destination was Luxor, and it promised to be the place where the real magic would begin.

Aboard the Historia: Luxury Like No Other

We boarded a propellor plane for the second leg of our journey. It soared over Egypt’s timeless landscapes of desert and meandering sand rivers to deliver us to Luxor, the gateway to unparalleled ancient treasures and our home for the next few days aboard the cruise ship, the Historia.

historia cruise ship riverboat

This vessel is a marvel, setting new standards in luxury travel with its splendid Solaria deck, opulent lounges, and expansive suites. We got lucky; because the ship was not fully booked, we received a free upgrade to one of the suites upon our arrival.

solaria deck

But let me tell you, my primary reason for choosing this cruise ship was far from the plush linens or panoramic windows—it was the gastronomy.

historia gastronomy

Helmed by master chef Mahmoud Nabil, the Historia’s kitchen presented an unforgettable dining experience. Elaborate buffets and meticulously crafted multi-course menus awaited us at every meal. A particular highlight for me was their selection of fresh-baked bread, a culinary masterpiece that will linger in my memory for years to come.

The Wisdom of Atef: A Guide Like No Other

After a leisurely lunch, we spent some time observing locals swimming off the boat docks, a scene that hinted at the laid-back rhythms of life along the Nile. Soon, it was time to meet our guide for the off-ship excursions.

atef tour guide egypt

We had the privilege of touring with Atef, who is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable guides in Egypt. Atef’s understanding of Egyptian history is unparalleled, making each visit to temples, tombs, and museums a fascinating educational experience.

He can guide you whenever he’s not giving tours on the Historia – feel free to reach out to Atef about tours here!

A Walk Through Time: Karnak and Luxor Temples

temple of karnak columns

Our first port of call was the famed Karnak Temple, the second most visited ancient site in Egypt, next only to the pyramids of Giza. As we meandered through the temple’s monumental gates and towering columns, Atef recounted the history of the various pharaohs who contributed to Karnak’s construction and expansion.

columns in karnak temple

The temple, primarily dedicated to the god Amun-Ra, served as the religious epicenter of Thebes for over two millennia. The grand hypostyle hall is a highlight, featuring massive columns that once supported a ceiling towering above the temple’s occupants. The intricate chapels still boast well-preserved hieroglyphics that one can admire up close.

avenue of spinxes

We later moved to Luxor Temple, which is connected to Karnak by the Avenue of Sphinxes. Here, the desire of each ruling pharaoh to leave a legacy is palpable. They added obelisks, constructed pylons, and adorned the structures with vibrant hieroglyphs.

They also expanded the boundaries of the temple complex, ensuring their contributions would be immortalized. The sheer scale of these temples speaks volumes about the prowess of ancient Egyptian engineering and the civilization that harnessed it to construct such awe-inspiring structures.

An Evening to Remember: The Inaugural Dinner Aboard the Historia

After exploring Luxor, we returned to the Historia in high spirits and even higher expectations for the nighttime entertainment and dinner.

Oh, and let me assure you, the meal did not disappoint.

cold bites

For our starter, we enjoyed a medley of smoked salmon, shrimp, jalapeño, and grilled pineapple—a perfect combination of smoky, spicy, and sweet flavors. The cold course was a refreshing Historia salad featuring cold quinoa accompanied by avocado, sweet potato, and microgreens. As for the warm course, a single bite of foie gras coated in grapefruit chardonnay sauce and apple puree can only be described as transcendent.

For our main courses, Nick savored a well-prepared filet mignon accompanied by mashed peas, potato puree, and caramelized vegetables. I opted for an Egyptian-style roasted grouper, so tender it nearly melted in my mouth. The fish was cooked in wine and served atop a bed of artichokes, black lentils, and peas, garnished with an oriental sauce.

As if we weren’t already in gastronomic bliss, dessert featured a spread of traditional Egyptian sweets: a fresh fruit parfait, a mini strawberry-kiwi cheesecake, and authentic Egyptian baklava.

egyptian dessert plate

To say we looked forward to each subsequent meal on the Historia would be an understatement.

tombs of pharohs

Tombs, Temples, and Timelessness: A Morning in the Valley of the Kings

The next morning arrived, sunny and scorching. Crossing to the west side of the Nile, we took a cab to the Valley of the Kings. Here, we were awestruck by the best-preserved tombs open to the public, including those of Rameses I, III, and IV.

rameses tomb

The heat within these ancient chambers matched the searing outdoor temperatures, hitting around 100 degrees Fahrenheit even before noon.

tomb of tut ankh amun sign

The pinnacle of our tomb visits was the chance to enter King Tutankhamun’s resting place. Witnessing his mummy in person was not just an unforgettable experience; it was deeply moving. To see these ancient rulers and to step into their tombs—this was not just a tour, but an extraordinary leap through time.

stone bowl making

Crafting, Cruising, and Cultural Insights: An Afternoon on the Nile

After the Valley of the Kings, we visited a local stone mason shop. Here, we observed artisans at work, gaining firsthand insights into the techniques that have been passed down since ancient times.

hatsheput temple

Next, we ventured to Hatshepsut Temple, a magnificent structure carved into the mountain itself. These awe-inspiring sights were all visited before noon, prompting us to retreat to our suite for a quick nap as the Historia set sail down the Nile.

egyptian bread

We awoke to the irresistible aroma of bread, which lured us to the onboard restaurant for a buffet lunch. The spread offered a delectable range of salads, kebabs, fresh fruits, desserts, and traditional Egyptian dishes. The experience reaffirmed my earlier proclamation: the Historia does indeed serve the world’s best bread, and I say that as a connoisseur.

The afternoon unfolded gently as we watched life along the Nile. Cruising alongside other ships, we witnessed villagers waving at us from the riverbanks. It was an enlightening moment, offering brief but poignant glimpses into their lives, as we floated through their ancient homeland.

egyptian villages on nile river

Unique Vendors and a Sunset to Remember

During our afternoon tea, we were pampered with crepes, fresh fruit, and chocolate sauce, providing just the right touch of sweetness to an already wonderful day.

crepes with nutella

But what came next was wholly unexpected: shouts emanating from a small boat that had tied itself to the Historia. Soon, it was clear—vendors were onboard, albeit indirectly. They started tossing tapestries and woven goods onto our ship, aiming for potential buyers among us. Payment? A simple throw of a money bag back to the boat!

nile river vendors

This unconventional shopping experience was endearing and a true testament to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the local people. Several passengers, charmed by the experience, made purchases.

Crossing the Esna Lock: A Marvel of Modern Engineering

After our whirlwind of historical visits and indulgent meals, the Historia brought us to the Esna Lock. For those unfamiliar, this is a dam on the Nile used to raise and lower boats to different water levels on either side. The mechanism lifts your boat up by about 26 feet to match the higher water levels on the other side of the dam.

esna lock

It was captivating to observe this marvel of modern engineering—especially when juxtaposed with the ancient Egyptian ingenuity we’d been witnessing. One can only speculate about what the ancient Egyptians might have thought of such technology, given their own monumental achievements in architecture and engineering.

A Sunset Dinner on the Solaria Deck

As the day waned, we found ourselves once again enveloped by the sophisticated atmosphere of the Historia. This time, the setting for dinner was the ship’s Solaria Deck.

solaria deck appetizers

There’s something magical about dining alfresco while a fiery sunset unfurls across the horizon. As we enjoyed another selection of finely crafted dishes, the sun cast its last golden rays, giving us a sunset to remember. And let’s not forget the bread—the ship’s bakery continued to outdo itself.

nile river swimmers

From Desert Sands to Lush Landscapes

As the ship sailed through the night, a transformation occurred in our surroundings. By morning, the arid landscapes we’d become accustomed to had been replaced by vistas of lush greenery. The new scenery evoked memories of my time spent in Bali; it was a striking transition that highlighted the diverse ecosystems along the Nile.

An International Breakfast Spread

The morning greeted us with an expansive breakfast buffet that offered something for every palate. Alongside traditional English breakfast staples like sausage and baked beans were Egyptian delicacies, such as grilled potatoes and roasted chickpeas.

Not to be outdone, the kitchen staff showcased their flair for creativity. Upon request, they whipped up fresh omelettes tailored to individual tastes. As a special treat, I was served a bunny-shaped pancake drizzled in chocolate sauce, adding a whimsical touch to the first meal of the day.

breakfast pancakes

From modern engineering spectacles to culinary delights, from ancient tombs to lush greenery, our experience on the Historia and the Nile River has been nothing short of multifaceted. And as we continue on this unforgettable voyage, one can only anticipate the surprises that lie ahead.

Edfu’s Timeless Temple: Meeting the Falcon God Horus

temple of horus

Our day began with disembarking at Edfu, a city rich in ancient history. A horse-drawn carriage was our mode of transportation to the temple complex. Here, we met up with Atef, who introduced us to the Temple of Horus, which stands as one of Egypt’s best-preserved ancient structures. In contrast to other temples like Karnak, which have lost their roofs over time, this temple offers a sense of completeness. The intricate hieroglyphs and colossal statues nearly looked as if they had been carved yesterday, despite some damage from the Coptics and Romans.

A Midday Culinary Voyage: From Pomegranates to Kushari

Back on the Historia, we were greeted by another culinary masterpiece. The meal began with an invigorating pomegranate chicken salad and tabbouleh accompanied by an assortment of dips like moutabal, hummus, and tahini. The soup course featured Moroccan harira chicken soup with lentils and chickpeas for Nick, while I savored a delicate cream of asparagus soup tinged with tarragon and chives.

Then came a dish that stood out even among these high-caliber offerings: a warm bed of quinoa crowned with seared shrimp and scallops, lovingly drizzled with brown butter sauce. The main courses were no less impressive.

shrimp and quinoa

Nick opted for a veal medallion in a luxurious mushroom cream sauce, and I found myself enamored with Egypt’s national dish, kushari. The medley of rice, noodles, vermicelli, fried onion, lentils, and chickpeas was an absolute flavor bomb.

rack of lamb
kushari dish

From the Chef’s Table to the Hills of Silsila

Taking advantage of the time post-lunch, we lazed on the Solaria deck. Although still full, I couldn’t resist attending Chef Mahmoud Nabil’s cooking demo. He whipped up lentil soup and baba ganouj, staple dishes in Egyptian cuisine. Armed with recipe cards that I immediately added to my collection, I left the demo eager to replicate these flavors back home.

chef mahmoud nabil

As the Historia cut through the Nile, we sailed past the hills of Silsila. These ancient quarries supplied the stones that built the very temples we’d been visiting. Also found here is a rock-cut chapel dedicated to Amun, adding yet another layer of history to our journey.

Sunset and Mummies at Kom Ombo

kom ombo temple

Arriving at Kom Ombo just before sunset, we delved into the temple complex dedicated to two gods: Sobek, the crocodile deity, and Horus, the falcon-headed god. With the sun setting, the temple walls took on a warm, golden hue, amplifying the surreal feeling of walking in a place so infused with history.

temple of sun egypt

Post-sunset, we visited the crocodile museum within the temple grounds. Once a sanctuary for live crocodiles, the temple now features their mummified remains. Seeing these ancient creatures up close was as fascinating as it was eerie.

crocodile museum egypt

A Starlit Farewell Dinner

That night, perhaps the most enchanting dinner of our trip was set against the backdrop of the luminous Kom Ombo temple.

kom ombo at night

As stars dotted the sky, we were presented with a feast that seemed to include all the culinary highlights of Egypt—from the bread to the tagines. Our forks hardly paused as we relished the spread before us.

historia dinner buffet

As the boat prepared to leave the port, en route to our trip’s final destination, we took a moment to appreciate the serendipity and the grandeur of our Egyptian odyssey. We dined as the ancients might have—beneath a sky full of stars, in the shadow of temples, and with hearts full of gratitude for the experiences we’d garnered.

temple of philae

Temple of Philae: An Island Marvel

Leaving behind the giant stone, we embarked on a Nubian boat towards the majestic Temple of Philae. This island temple, which was painstakingly reconstructed after the Aswan Dam flooded its original site in the 1970s, is dedicated to the goddess Isis and marks the burial site of Osiris. With the Nile serving as a mesmerizing backdrop, Philae was undeniably one of the highlights of our journey.

nile river philae temple

Scented Sojourn and Navigational Adventures

A stop at one of Aswan’s many perfume shops allowed us to journey through time, as we experienced traditional Egyptian scents that have graced the land for millennia. Our intention to return to the Historia aboard a felucca was thwarted by an unpredictable wind, prompting an unexpected switch to a motorboat.

felucca boat

Flavors and Rhythms of the Nile

Ravenous from our adventures, we were greeted by yet another culinary feast aboard the Historia. An array of fresh fruit, hummus, skewered meats, and a selection of tantalizing desserts awaited us. The evening unfurled with traditional Nubian melodies and dance, adding a lively exclamation mark to our day.

lunch buffet

Our final dinner on the cruise was a culinary dream. A prelude of tender melon, Caesar salad, and baked lobster was followed by main courses of succulent rack of lamb and pan-seared salmon. A uniquely Egyptian take on the brownie baked Alaska proved to be the sweet ending to our voyage.

seared salmon
filet mignon

The next morning was an early departure, but the thoughtfulness of the Historia’s crew was evident as they handed us breakfast boxes for our journey to the airport.

breakfast to go

Cairo Chronicles

A flight from Aswan to Cairo marked the next phase of our journey. Retrieving my luggage, which had been MIA, was a welcomed relief. Cairo’s museum beckoned, a place where antiquities beckon from every corner. From Psusennes I’s surprisingly small face mask to King Tut’s imposing sarcophagus, the experience was surreal. Each artifact seemed even more poignant after visiting the Valley of the Kings.

Psusennes I

However, the climax of our Cairo excursion was the iconic pyramids. Towering majestically against the skyline, they seemed to oscillate between the urban hustle of Cairo on one side and the vast desert expanse on the other.

pyramids of giza

Their sheer magnitude and the nearby Sphinx, much larger than anticipated, are images that will remain etched in our memories forever.

The Voyage of a Lifetime: Final Reflections

There are trips you take that offer a simple break from everyday life, and then there are those that completely redefine your understanding of history, culture, and the incredible diversity of human experience. Our time in Egypt undeniably belongs to the latter category. From the rich tapestry of ancient temples and obelisks to the mesmerizing landscapes along the Nile, each moment was a living page in a grand historical narrative.

pyramids view

The Historia cruise served as the perfect vessel, both literally and metaphorically, to explore this fascinating land. The crew’s dedication to hospitality and the sheer depth of experiences they curated were the perfect accompaniments to Egypt’s natural grandeur and ancient marvels.

If the land of the Pharaohs is on your bucket list, don’t just visit—immerse yourself in it. Allow the stories of gods and kings to come alive as you stand in the places where history was written. Allow the flavors of the region to tell their own tales, and let the sunsets over ancient stones whisper secrets that have been kept for millennia.

The cruise on the Historia offered more than just a tour; it offered an immersive experience that resonated on both intellectual and emotional levels. If the opportunity ever presents itself for you to travel to Egypt, seize it—and consider the Historia as your guide through the annals of time. It’s an experience you won’t just remember; it’s one you’ll treasure forever.