A Nile cruise is one of those journeys you feel it imperative to take, at least once in a lifetime. Easy to say, but how to choose among some 240 riverboats said to ply these waters, nearly all of them in just the 124-mile stretch between Luxor and Aswan? Trips generally run for three, five, or eight days, with long periods spent tied up at night or at the ports of Luxor and Aswan, as well as at one or more of the most important temples lying between those cities.
Stops for Sightseeing
The itineraries of the vast majority of ships are the same, including these stops, whether southbound or northbound: Luxor, Edfu, Kom-Ombo, Dendera, and Aswan. Then there’s a side trip to Abu-Simbel, south of Aswan and beyond the High Dam there, so not on the same boat or, perhaps, on any boat, but by plane or bus. I have dealt with Aswan and Luxor in separate articles but will touch on Edfu and Kom-Ombo here, as they are almost as important as the major destinations in any case.
The Temple of Edfu is dedicated to the falcon-headed god Horus and is said to be the best preserved of all Pharaonic ruins. Its foundation laid in 237 BCE, the buildings taking 200 years to complete. Note the two giant Horus falcons (about 12 feet tall) at the entrance of the main temple. Inside are several depictions of festivals, including a mock battle and the wedding visit of the god Hathor from down river. Be sure to check out the Sun Boat, too.
At the Temple of Kom Ombo, dedicated to the gods Sobek (the crocodile god) and Haroeris (the winged god of medicine), note the wall reliefs showing ancient surgical and dental tools. Look for one of the “Hearing Ear” shrines here, with depictions of human ears through which prayers could be heard. This temple is about 215 miles north of Aswan and has twin sanctuaries, one for each god.
Note the frequent repetition of the Egyptian ankh, the symbol of life, representing the heart, often held in the hands of supplicants as well as pharaohs. Many of the reliefs here were carved during the reign of Ptolemy XII (between 80 and 50 BCE). There is an awful exhibit of mummified crocodiles in a chapel built under the Roman Emperor Domitian that you can easily avoid.