Spaced Out in Egypt – Temples, Tombs and Pyramids All to Yourself
By Rupert Parker
Tourists are staying away from Egypt because of the recent upheavals in the Middle East, but get there now to enjoy the ancient monuments in complete peace and quiet. Tourism here is big business and is one of the country’s main sources of income. Numbers are way down – normally around 300 cruise boats ply the Nile but there are less than 30 running, most of them docked at Luxor. Coach parks are empty and even the camel drivers are having a hard time.
My Nile cruise takes me from Luxor to Aswan, visiting the Valley of the Kings, Karnak and Luxor temples, before sailing down an almost completely empty river Nile. We overnight at the temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo and then arrive in Aswan. Everywhere the story is the same – deserted magnificent monuments which you get all to yourself, no queues and the chance to linger and think about ancient times. It’s the quality of this experience which makes it special and I shudder to think of high season when hundreds of boats race down the river and disgorge their thousands of passengers into the temples. Now all is quiet and all the better for it.
Of course people are staying away because they’re concerned about safety but, in reality, I saw nothing to worry about. There’s the odd military vehicle and regular check points on the roads, but these have been in place since the terrorist attacks in 1995. Rather the Egyptians seem pleased to welcome you and share the joy of their January revolution. The only danger comes when you try to cross the roads in Cairo but, even there, locals will grasp your hand and steer you safely to the other side.
In the Egyptian Museum, the story is the same. I get as long as I want in front of the solid gold death mask of Tutankhamun before moving on to stare into the eyes of the mummified Pharaohs. Even the Sphinx is left standing on her lonesome, but the real thrill is in the interior of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Imagine having a private view of the only remaining wonder of the world, and that’s what I get. I can’t help feeling slightly nervous as I climb the steep narrow passage to the burial chamber and suddenly there I am, just me and the huge granite sarcophagus, deep in the heart of ancient Egypt. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Discover Egypt delivers excellent Nile Cruises with optional stopovers in Cairo.
Egypt Air flies daily from London to Cairo and direct to Luxor once a week.
Egypt Travel is the official tourism website and has information about everything Egyptian.
The Ramses Hilton Hotel is right next to Tahrir Square and has great views over the Nile.