Nile 2010
Two members of The Lynch Cruise Club (Andrew & Gerry) had 50th Birthdays during October, so we decided to reprise a trip Andrew & I made back in 1992. But to share the celebration, we invited 18 other friends & family, most of whom had never been to Egypt and were also "first-time cruisers"!

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Itinerary- (provisional)
Monday 25th
- Fly Gatwick to Luxor
& board Nile Stephanie
Tuesday-(am) Luxor & Karnak Temples
(pm) cruise to Temple of Esna
Wednesday-(am) Temple of Edfu
(pm) cruise to Aswan
Thursday-(am) Aswan High Dam &
visit the Temple of Philae
(pm) Felucca sailing-trip
(evening) Nubian Show aboard
Friday-(am) Opt'nl tour to Abu Simbel
(pm) free time in Aswan
Saturday-(am) Temple of Kom Ombo
(pm) cruise back to Luxor
Sunday-(am) Valley of the Kings, etc
(evening) Belly Dancer Show
Monday 1st
-(am) Opt'nl Hot-air Balloon Flight
(pm) fly to the Gatwick, UK
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5-star cruise boat m/s Stephanie

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The spacious Main Reception aboard the m/s Stephanie

Visit the Stephanie Ship Gallery >>

The photographs below, and more of the places visited on this cruise can be viewed on my account at Captain Martini >>
You'll also find photos of our the various members of our Group enjoying themselves on this cruise by visiting the Rogues Gallery >>

Otherwise, for the full Log, read on.....and by the way, as expected, they re-arranged the itinerary! To quote the late Eric Morecombe, "All the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order!"

Monday 25th October
London Gatwick to Luxor
Assembling at an unseemly 5.15am at Gatwick Airport's South Terminal, check-in was surprisingly swift, though it wasn't without "issues"; Sandra & Malcolm were overweight (their luggage that is!) and Ron managed to get searched in Security, when they discovered that he had left all his shaving things in his hand-luggage! The perils of International Travel at 5am when you're only half-awake!

Everyone relaxed, however, in the No.1 Lounge, which we had the foresight to book. Nice loos, comfy seats, free drinks and warm bacon rolls were greatly appreciated!

Having had some nasty experiences of Monarch Airlines in the past, I was not looking forward to the flight but I was thankful that I was among the group of us who had reserved "Extra Legroom seats". However, much to my surprise, in-flight service wasn't at all bad - and we were on time too!

Luxor & transfer to m/s Stephanie
Greeted on arrival by our Reps from Orbital Travel, our cruise company, we were efficiently "processed" and were soon on our way to our 5-star cruise boat, moored just south of Luxor.

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Main Reception Gallery Bar Lounge Restaurant

Show Picture Full Size m/s Stephanie
With just 62 twin cabins, the boat was remarkably spacious and well-appointed, with a comfortable Bar Lounge and a large single-sitting Restaurant.

Cabins were also larger than average, with "Juliet" balconies, full-size beds and smart bathrooms with bath & shower. Photo >>
See a more extensive report on m/s Stephanie at the Stephanie Ship Gallery >>
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Although 19 of us travelled from the UK today, we now met up with Lynne & Clive, who arrived from Cairo, a little the worse for wear having already spent 2 days sightseeing there. Now we were 21!

That first evening, there was a helpful and informative Group Meeting in the Lounge, at which we were properly introduced to our Guides. Our Lynch Cruise Club formed nearly half the English group aboard and, no risks to be taken with such a significant group, we would be led by the senior Guide, Amro, who would be brilliant and prove to be one of Egypt's more recent treasures!

Tuesday 26th October
Monuments & Tombs of Western Thebes (The West Bank)
Show Map of Luxor
After a tiring day of travelling yesterday, it was a bit of a shock to have to get up at 4.30am, albeit for a decent breakfast, and to be ready for our tour at 6.00am - but we were!

By coach, we crossed the Nile over the "New Bridge", opened in 1997 about 10km south of Luxor, close to where our boat was moored. See Photo >> Previously, visitors had to cross the river by ferry.

Show Picture Full Size The Colossi of Amenhotep III (not Memnon!)
Once marking the entrance to a magnificent temple now totally lost, these enormous faceless statues were for years wrongly attributed to Memnon but the name still seems to have stuck! They are 59 ft (18m) high and date from about 1350 BC.
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The statue on the right was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 27 BC, following which, it was said that it issued forth a cry every day at dawn - the Cry of Memnon. The Greeks believed that this explained the myth of King Memnon, slain by Achilles at Troy and who Homer said reappeared as a statue at Thebes. Facing the east, his cry greeted his mother, the Goddess of the Dawn each day at sunrise. The Cry of Memnon was only silenced when the statue was restored around 200 AD.

Show Picture Full Size A Promise of Things to Come!
Viewed from the coach, the hot-air balloons were taking to the sky as we arrived. This was one of the optional excursions a number of us were already planning for our last day. So now we knew what time we were going to have to get up that day too!
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The Valley of the Queens
To the south of the Theban Hills, this was the burial site mainly for the Royal Brides of the Pharoahs, together with Princes and Court dignatories.

It was a little frustrating to be advised that "cameras are not permitted" here anymore but I guess it's because so many people, through carelessness or defiance, continue to ignore the "no flash" rule. All the pictures here have been scanned from books or taken off the Internet
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Around 80 tombs dating from the period of the New Kingdom ( circa 1550-1200 BC) were excavated by Ernesto Schiapparelli between 1903 and 1906. The most beautiful are those of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II, and prince Amun-her-khepshef, the son of Ramesses III who died in adolescence.

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The Tomb of Amun-her-Khepshef

The Tomb of Queen Nefertari

The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BC)
Hatshepsut was the wife of Thutmose II and she ruled in place of her step-son, Thutmose III, who was in any event too young at the time. However, rather than be treated as "Regent", she insisted on being treated as Pharoah and ruled for 21 years.

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Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
The great terraces were once enclosed courtyards and gardens
Stone sarcophagi
Temple Walls
The Falcon-God
Temple Plan

Standing like a theatrical back-drop, this unique temple lies beneath the cliffs of the Theban Hills at Deir Al-Bahari. Unlike any other in concept, it comprised a series of ramps and terraces, given over to courtyards and lush gardens, leading to an inner courtyard and simple sanctuary dedicated to the God Amun. At the foot of the first ramp are pits containing the 3500 year-old stumps of trees that flanked the processional path, once marked by an avenue of 100 sandstone sphinxes.

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The Upper Portico
Oseirion statues of Hatshepsut
Amun Sanctuary
& Inner Court
Shrine of Hathor The Processional Path
From the Upper Terrace

It was getting very hot by this time, so it was a welcome break to stop at an Alabaster Factory, although "Factory-Retail Outlet" would be more accurate! After an engaging presentation on the types of alabaster and how they work them, we were given our first "retail opportunity" before moving on to our final destination for this tour....

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The Valley of The Kings Show Map of the tombs
There are about 62 discovered tombs, 25 of which are royal tombs, but they recommend that you visit just 2 or 3 in the limited time normally allowed here. The most popular is, of course, that of King Tutankhamun but it is not the most elaborate or extensive. I chose Ramesses III which at 410 ft long (125m), is one of the largest; Ramesses IV, where the state of preservation is particularly good; and Ramesses IX, which is smaller but very colourful.

As in the Valley of the Queens, "cameras are not permitted" here anymore because too many people ignore the "no flash" rule. Exteriors were taken in 2007; these interior pictures are off the Internet.

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Entrance to the tomb of
Tutankhamun (KV62)
Detail from the tomb of
Ramesses III (KV11)
Tomb Plan & Section >>
Inside the tomb of
Ramesses IV (KV2)
Tomb Plan & Section >>
Corridor ceiling, tomb of
Ramesses IX (KV6)
Tomb Plan & Section >>

Some of the tombs descend great distances into the hillside, sometimes above or below each other. In fact, there are so many that it's amazing more of them didn't accidentally break into one another; indeed, in one or two cases, they did! In the Visitor Centre at the head of the Valley, opened in 2006, there is an impressive 3-D model showing the relationship of all the tunnels. From here, in the 110-degree heat, visitors are taken by little motorised trains to the ticket-booth.

Returning to the boat around 12.30 for lunch, we were due to sail around 2pm and we were all set to spend the afternoon cruising up the river. However, it got hotter and hotter and we didn't move until 4pm, by which time we were ready for "Afternoon Tea" in the cool sanctuary of the lounge!

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Cruising at last!
A Delayed Departure
Cruising the Nile The Sun Deck &
Plunge Pool
Afternoon Tea

Show Picture Full Size At another Group Meeting, our guide Amro went through the details of all the available optional excursions, after which, it was time for our "Formal Dinner" - though I didn't see any passengers in a tuxedo!
We tied up at Esna during dinner and awaited our "turn" to pass through the lock during the night. On deck, it was a perfect evening for coffee and drinks before turning-in!
(Left) Sunset over the Nile & (Right) Towel-sculpture in our cabins!
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Wednesday 27th October
Having passed through the Esna Lock in the early hours, we were still cruising at dawn and it was a more leisurely awakening this morning, with breakfast at a more respectable 7.30am!

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Approaching Edfu Dahabiya Lara
Traditional Sailboat Luxury
for 10 passengers
Sundeck at Sunrise
aboard m/s Stephanie
Approaching Edfu

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Arrival at Edfu General Map >> Show General Map
After some idyllic views of the Nile, we were abruptly brought back to earth on arrival at Edfu, discovering that we were just one of 70 boats here today!
(Left) The sight of 70 boats tied-up at Edfu gives a warning of the crowds to expect later!

The Temple of Horus at Edfu
A shuttle-bus took us the short ride through the town to the Temple, where it was extremely busy and crowded. Nevertheless, Amro succeeded in giving us a short guided tour and then left us to explore at our leisure - although "leisure" was hardly the right word!
By way of contrast, the pictures directly below were taken on Andrew & my visit in 1992, whereas the rest are from this visit.

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Temple Plan The First Pylon
260 ft wide & 118 ft high
The Great Court
& Hypostyle Hall
Granite statue of the
Falcon God Horus
The Great Court
facing the Main Pylon

The history of this Temple goes back more than 4,500 years but the present Temple was begun in 237 BC and is one of the best preserved in Egypt, dedicated to the falcon-god, Horus. However, part of the pylon of an earlier Temple (orientated east-west rather than north-south) can still be seen at the side of the "new" one. The 4 vertical niches in the main Pylon were for huge flag-poles erected during religious feasts; the square holes were for the wooden supporting brackets.

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The First Pylon The Main Portal
The winged-sun of Horus
The God Horus wears the crowns of Egypt Hypostyle Hall

The Falcon-headed God Horus is depicted in many forms: on the facade wearing the traditional double crowns of Upper & Lower Egypt; as a winged-sun and protector above the portals, and even as an actual falcon in granite! In the Ambulatory of the Temple, the carvings recount the Myths of Horus & Seth, and show Horus astride his boat on the Nile and slaying his evil uncle, who has taken the form of a Hippopotamus. Show Picture Full Size

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The Second
Hypostyle Hall
& Sacred Boat
The Great Court
& Hypostyle Hall
A Quiet Moment!
View from the Birth House

Show Picture Full Size The entrance to the temple from the car park is today strategically arranged so that visitors are made to pass in front of the host of shops and stalls that congregate here. But as the Group "ran the gauntlet" on the way back to the bus, I risked some haggling and bought a white head-scarfe! (Photo by Andrew)

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The procession of boats
Next stop, Kom Ombo!
Traditional Feluccas Locals
On the River
The Bar Lounge

Returning to the boat for lunch, we set off up river again and spent the afternoon following the long line of cruise-boats ahead of us! It was already dark by the time we tied-up at Kom-Ombo.

Temple of Horus & Sobek at Kom-Ombo
Situated on a hill directly facing the Nile, the Temple presents an imposing sight by day but this evening, it was dramatically illuminated by floodlights.

The most recent of all the temples on our tour, this Temple was begun around 180 BC under Ptolomy VI and it is unusual in that it is a "double temple" with parallel axes and two sactuaries, dedicated to Haroeris or Horus the Elder, the falcon-headed god, and the crocodile god, Sobek.

Mummified Crocodiles!
It used to be possible to see mummified crocodiles on display in glass cases in one of the chapels but Amro told me that these have been taken away for safety & preservation, while they build a new "Visitor Centre" where you will be able to see them again.

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Dedicated to 2 Gods, Horus the Elder & Sobek
The Temple of Kom-Ombo
Capital detail above
the twin portals
King Ptolemy XII
with Horus, Isis, Nut & Thoth

Show Temple Plan The artistic detail in some of the more recent reliefs is exquisite but this Temple is also famous for its Medical Reliefs on the back wall of the Ambulatory. These clearly show surgical instruments including tweezers, a scalpel, healing amulets and even a stethescope! Unfortunately, it was too dark and crowded for me to take a picture but these are off the Internet. Birthing Relief Photo 1 >> Man with Stethescope Photo 2 >>

Returning to the boat for dinner, we continued on towards Aswan while tonight was the Jellabiya or Fancy Dress Party. The crew dressed up as well and it was great to see how much trouble everyone had gone to with their outfits! After dinner, there were party games, of course!
See more photos of the fun, with our Group in Fancy Dress & in Party Mood at the Rogues Gallery >>
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Thursday 28th October
Aswan, Philae & the High Dam
Show Map of Aswan
The first dam was completed in 1902 above the first cataract, where the Nile falls naturally by 16ft in a raging cascade. But the dam proved inadequate to handle the annual flooding of the Nile, so it was raised in 1912 and 1933 but when it nearly overflowed again in 1946, a new dam was proposed.

Show Picture Full Size The Aswan High Dam was begun in 1960, 4 miles upstream and 364ft high. It was the completion of this dam in 1970 that created Lake Nasser, 340 miles long, displacing nearly 100,000 Nubian people and leading to some of the most controversial archaeological rescues in history.
(Left) The Lotus flower-shaped Egyptian-Russian Friendship Monument (1971)
(Right) Brenda, Ron & Sue engaged in some local trading on the boat to Philae
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After another early start, with breakfast at 6am and we must have been the only group taking their life-jackets for today's boat-rides; but such were the UK Health & Safety Regulation requirements!

Show Plan of the Temple The Island Temple of Isis (Philae)
Already partially flooded by the 1902 dam, the entire Temple complex was transferred from 1977-1980, block by block, to its new island site just 500m away, replicating its original island location.
Show Temple Plan

The Myth of Isis & Osiris
King of the gods Osiris was murdered by his jealous brother Set, who tricked him into climbing into a special casket that became his locked coffin. The coffin was thrown into the Nile and his wife Isis set out to look for him. However, before she could bring his coffin home, Set found it, cut-up the body into 14 pieces and scattered them throughout the land. In her devotion, the Goddess Isis searched for the pieces of his body, brought him back to life and gave birth to Horus, who would later go on to defeat Set in battle. One of the pieces of Osiris' body was believed to have been interred at Philae, so it was from ancient times a holy place.

The Temple was begun during the reign of Nectanebu I (380-362 BC) but most of the main buildings were built during the later Ptolemaic period; the Main Pylon shows Ptolemy XII defeating his foes and making offerings to the Gods. Beyond the Great Court and the 2nd Pylon, the Hypostyle Hall was a church in Christian times, while the Sanctuary beyond once held the Sacred Barque of Isis.

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The Temple of Isis
The Temple Court & Main Pylon
Double-capitals of the columns of the Birth House dedicated to Hathor-Isis The Great (Inner) Court
& Second Pylon

Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size It's only when you walk around the site that you appreciate the truly incredible exercise involved in re-assembling over 37,000 individual stone blocks to recreate this entire complex.
(far left) General view & (left) Trajan's Kiosk or "Pharoah's Bed"

Most of us would return the following evening for a wonderful "Interactive Sound & Light Show"!

After a short visit to top of the High Dam, where there isn't actually much to see, the tour called at the Granite Quarry to see the famous Unfinished Obelisk, dating from the 15th century BC, during the time of Queen Hatshepsut. Thought to weigh around 1168 tons, it would have stood 138ft tall (42m), if it hadn't split during the quarry process. It still lies embedded in the rock but its sides reveal valuable information about Egyptian building methods and techniques at the time.

The morning tour concluded with a visit to a Perfume Factory, which provided a welcome respite from the heat, as well as another "retail opportunity"!

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The Unfinished Obelisk
(Andrew's Photo)
Traditional Felucca Sail
to Kitchener Island and the Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens

In the afternoon, we donned our life-jackets again (or not, as the case may be!) for a leisurely sail aboard a Traditional Felucca, across the Nile to Kitchener Island and the Botanical Gardens, where we had some time to escape the crowds (not to mention the rather invasive video-cameraman from the boat!) beneath the shade of the luxuriant plants and trees.

Row, row, row the boat...
The serenity of our sail-boat ride was not without interruption, however, as we were "serenaded" by one of a number of young lads who, with the aid of a slab of polystyrene, swam persistently alongside us all the way. He was such a happy little soul but his multilingual skills extended to just one song; "Row, row, row the boat...." and one or two of us (including me!) ended up giving him money - for his trouble, of course, or was it to just leave us alone?!
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Returning to the boat, poor Lesley walked into one of the glass doors while stepping across from another boat, bashing her nose quite badly and giving herself a nasty shock. Fortunately, with a nurse, a hospital theatre technician and various others in our Group, she attracted plenty of attention and fortunately recovered, only a little the worse for her stumble.

By this time though, some of the other members of the Group were beginning to wilt from the heat and the change of diet and there were a few tummy upsets developing. Consequently, there was little enthusiasm for the after-dinner entertainment that evening, which included a "Belly Dancer". It was later reported, however, that Claire's rendition was considered better than the professional's!

Friday 29th October
The Temples at Abu Simbel
General Map >> Show Map
The call today was at 3.15am, for our coach departure at 4am! That said, the 3-hour, 180-mile journey was quite comfortable; the road was good and we enjoyed (well, those who were awake enjoyed!) the sunrise over the desert, while munching the contents of our breakfast bags!

Show Picture Full Size The Great Temple of Ramesses II
Of all the Nubian temples relocated by UNESCO in the 1960's, this is the most famous. The Great Temple was dedicated to 3 Gods; Amun, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah as well as to the deified Ramesses himself, while the Small Temple is dedicated to Hathor and Nefertari, his favourite consort.

Both temples were actually carved out of the mountain, making it all the more remarkable that from 1964-1968, they were systematically sawn-up into blocks and moved 213 ft above the river, where they originally stood, in order to avoid their loss to the rising waters of Lake Nasser, created by the Aswan High Dam. Show Temple Plan Full Size

Each temple is now encased in a concrete dome, covered by real rock - an artificial mountain! In 1992, when Andrew & I were here before, we were able to see inside one of the domes but unfortunately, today the risks of terrorism are such that this was no longer permitted.

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One of the 4 Statues of Rameses II
each one is 65ft high
Temple of Nefertari The "new" temple site
and artificial "mountains"

The facade of the main Temple is 114 ft wide and each of the 4 colossal statues of Ramesses II is 65 ft high. The statue to the left of the entrance is thought to have been damaged in an earthquake following its original construction in about 1265 BC and this is how it was relocated.

The main Temple was orientated so that twice a year, supposedly on the King's birthday and coronation day, the rising sun struck the rear wall of the sanctuary and the statue of Ramesses II. Now in its new position, the same thing occurs, but one day later than it was designed to!

We were given a good 2 hours here and surprisingly, even though this is south of the Tropic of Cancer, the temperature at 7.15 was quite pleasant. However, by the time we were ready to leave, it was getting much hotter - and much busier, with the arrival of many more coaches and crowds!

Aswan & the Temple of Philae
Returning to the boat in Aswan, Andrew finally joined the growing group of tummy upsets, while those remaining relaxed on deck, before the early-evening excursion to Philae, to experience the spectacular "Interactive" Sound & Light Show.

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Illuminated by Floodlight
The Island Temple of Philae
The Sanctuary
of Isis
A Spectacular
Sound & Light Performance

By "Interactive", they mean that the audience gets to move around the Temple precinct during the first part of the performance, pausing at various points for the dramatised narration and illuminations. I was a little concerned about the poor crowd-control and the possibility of losing my footing in the dark but it's all taken at a slow pace and in fact, everyone enjoyed it immensely!

Show Picture Full Size After dinner back on board later, we were treated to some local Nubian music and dancing, including a performance by a "Whirling Dervish".

As if that wasn't enough, I was greeted by the sight of a 6-legged elephant on the bed in our cabin - courtesy of our steward Adir!
(Left) The Nubian Show and the Whirling Dervish & (Right) A 6-legged Elephant on the bed!
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Saturday 30th October
A Day Cruising the Nile
General Map >> Show Map
Some of the Group were up early again today for an extra "Bird-watching" outing by sailboat, also visiting a Nubian Farm where there were some close encounters with baby alligators!

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with baby alligator!
The Nile at Aswan
Elephantine Island & the
Movenpick Hotel to the right
A Luxury Dahabiya Another Dahabiya
Nile Lily
Launched in 2010 (20 guests)

Everyone was back aboard by 9am and m/s Stephanie then sailed - or cruised - northwards again, returning down the Nile towards Luxor. I was surprised how many traditional "Dahabiyas" there appeared to be on the river; generally for very small groups of 10-20 passengers, today these traditional-style sail-cruise boats offer a high level of exclusive luxury - at a price, no doubt!

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Cruising the Nile & the Aswan Bridge
Opened in 2002 - central span 820ft (250m)
Temple of Horus & Sobek at Kom Ombo
stands impressively above the river

But there were no complaints aboard m/s Stephanie, as we relaxed on the spacious deck enjoying the view, as we passed beneath the Aswan Bridge, north of the city. Opened in 2002 by President Mubarak, the cable-stayed bridge is 3,205ft long (977m) and has a main span of 820ft (250m).

By 12 noon, we were tying-up at Kom-Ombo again, for the Italian Group aboard to do their visit. This time, it was much quieter ashore - and hotter; it was 110 degrees in the sun this afternoon!

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Stranded Donkey Disused Quarry
& evidence of tombs
Man v Nature? An everyday scene
along the banks of the Nile

Cruising-on down river throughout the afternoon, we tied-up again at Edfu after dark, again for the Italian Group, and then departed again for Esna around 7.30pm, just before dinner.

Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size This evening was "Party Night", so I gave our Group their special "Lynch Cruise Club" pens and arranged birthday cakes at Dinner for Andrew & Gerry, plus one for Sandra, who would also be celebrating shortly! Tonight, Adir had left us a crocodile on the bed!
(Left) "Happy Birthday" Cakes & (Right) There's a crocodile on the bed!
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Sunday 31st October (Morning)
The Temple of Khnum at Esna
Having tied-up during the night, it was wonderful to be able to get up early and just walk ashore through the deserted souk, to be the very first visitors of the day at this temple, situated 33 feet below street level in the middle of the town.

Excavated in 1860, the 1st century Hypostyle Hall is all you can see today of the original temple built by Ptolemy VI around 181 BC and dedicated to the ram-headed god, Khnum.

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situated 33ft below street level
The Temple of Knum at Esna
Restoration Work
(see the unrestored patch in the middle)
Inside the
Hypostyle Hall

Given the temple's subterranean position and its proximity to the Nile, the main problem today is "rising damp". The building was also used as a church by early Christians and the decorations suffered but restoration work is today revealing some of the clarity of the original colours. (A small patch in the picture above shows what the wall was like before restoration.)

Returning to the boat for breakfast (!) we then took our position to pass through the Esna Locks.

The Esna Locks
The original barrage at Esna was built by the British from 1906-08 and provided irrigation to the surrounding area. However, it did not have any capability to generate electricity and it only had one small lock, which regularly became congested with the boats queuing, sometimes for many hours.

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Passing through
The Old Lock

Passing through the New Esna Locks

The New Esna Dam was built from 1989-94 and included a hydro-electric plant, a larger lock and a road bridge which didn't have to close every time the lock was used. However, the lock was closed twice a year for maintenance and this caused renewed problems. Since 2010, however, a second lock now makes passage through the barrage possible all-year round, while the Old Esna Lock remains as a sort of "open gateway" at present.

Cruising on through the morning, we arrived back in Luxor about 1pm, to stay for our last 2 days.

Afternoon & Evening, Sunday 31st October
Karnak & Luxor
Show General Map Show Map of Luxor

Show Picture Full Size Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak
Ancient Egypt's greatest holy place for 2,000 years, Karnak grew to become the religious and political centre of an Empire; and at its heart was the Great Temple dedicated to Amun-Re, King of the Gods, the core of which dates from about 1520 BC and the reign of Amenhotep I.

With the joining of Upper & Lower Egypt, around 2037 BC the capital moved to Thebes (modern Luxor) and work began on the first temple at Karnak; over the next 1,600 years, successive Kings would alter and add to the complex, each leaving their own record of greatness. see Temple Plan >>

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Ram-headed Sphinx The Great Court &
Temple Axis
The Great Hypostyle Hall Hypostyle Hall
the columns are 82 ft high!
Column detail
Hypostyle Hall

At the entrance, you can see the remains of an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes but once inside the Great Court, which alone covers 8,000 sq m, you get a first glimpse of the great main axis. A single 69 ft (21m) column is all that remains of the 10 that formed the Kiosk of Taharqa, beyond which is the Great Hypostyle Hall, a "room" of 5,400 sq m and 134 columns. The 12 central columns supported a roof 82 ft (25m) above the floor, while the remaining 122 columns are a mere 46 ft (14m) high! Many of the reliefs and inscriptions on them are intact and you can even see the original colours on the underside of the roof beams - only about 3,200 years old!

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Statue of
Ramesses II
Temple of Ramesses III Festival Hall
and Sanctuary
Obelisk of Thutmose I
75ft (23m) tall & 143 tons
Obelisk of Thutmose I

The Temple of Ramesses III dates from about 1160 BC and leads off the Great Court while the Festival Hall was a temple added during the reign of Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC) and is at the other end of complex, beyond the Sanctuary.

At the centre of the site stand two Obelisks; the tallest was one of a pair erected by Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1457 BC), 97ft (29.6m) tall and carved from a single block of granite weighing 320 tons. The top of its sister lies nearby. The smaller obelisk is one of a pair erected by Thutmose I (1504-1492 BC); at 75ft (23m), it weighs only 143 tons! Other obelisks also stood in this Court but where they have not fallen down, they have been plundered to appear in various cities around the World.
(Right) The Obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut, 97ft tall & weighing 320 tons
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Our visit to Karnak took place in the hottest part of the day but it was also the quietest and we were able to meander freely without problems, although some of us took "time-out" for an ice-cream in the shade of a cafe within the ruins! By the time we left, it was getting busy and even hotter, so our visit to the air-conditioned Papyrus Factory was welcome. Here we had a demonstration of how they still make Papyrus - and another opportunity for some retail therapy!

Show Picture Full Size Temple of Luxor
Once linked to Karnak by a 3 km avenue of ram-headed sphinxes, this Temple was dedicated to the Theban trinity of gods, Amun, Mut & Khonsu and dates from around 1390 BC and the reign of Amenhotep III. See the Temple Plan >>
An 82 ft-high obelisk stands in front of the north-east Pylon but its twin now stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
(Right) Our Group "Horus"; time for one final Group Photo with our guide Amro
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The Temple was considerably enlarged during the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC) and the main Pylon is covered with reliefs depicting his great battles; especially his victory over the Hittites at the Battle of Qadesh in 1274 BC. Sadly, just two 51 ft-high seated figures of the King remain of the six such statues which once adorned the new Temple frontage.

Arriving just before sunset, the temple quickly became rather crowded but we had the added experience of seeing the floodlighting coming one, as the temple descended into darkness.

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The Obelisk
82ft (25m) high

The Collonade & Colossi of Ramesses II
The statues may actually be of Amenhotep III,
100 years earlier!

The Columned Court
& Collonade

Of the 11 statues and 2 seated figures around the Courtyard however, some are believed to have been "usurped" by Ramesses II as his own, because at least 6 of them were erected during the reign of Amenhotep III (1395-1353 BC). In the north-east corner is the Abu al-Haggag Mosque, built above the then-unexcavated temple ruins. Subsequently rebuilt many times, its minaret is 11th Century.

Amenhotep III also built the Collonade as part of his temple. It's 14 columns, each 52ft (16m) high, lead to the Columned Court, surrounded by papyrus-bundle columns. This in turn leads to a smaller columned hall, beyond which are the temple shrines and cult chambers.

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The floodlit Collonade &
Abu al-Haggag Mosque
Alexander the Great
before the "aroused" God Amun
Ramesses II
or Amenhotop III?
The Obelisk &
Main Pylon

One of the granite shrines is dedicated to Alexander the Great, who assumed the role of Pharoah when he conquered Egypt in 332 BC. Honoured more as liberator than conqueror, and was declared the "Son of the God Amun" and the various wall decorations show him making offerings to the Gods.

Luxor's Avenue of Sphinxes
One of the most important archaeological and religious paths in Luxor, the excavation and restoration of 650 out of an estimated 1350 sphinxes lining this route, 2700m long and 76m wide, is proving highly controversial. At a cost of 7.5m, half of which is allocated for compensation, work is proceeding at such a pace that many have criticised the apparent haste, which is resulting in the loss of many other fine buildings and ruins.
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We returned to the boat for dinner and to make our farewells to our guide Amro, who was leaving for Cairo that evening. After dinner, a number of us took the evening excursion back into Luxor, where we then took a "fleet" of horse-drawn carriages through the back-streets of the city!

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Horse-drawn carriage ride
through the hectic back-streets of Luxor
Angela & Stella
(Gerry's Photo)
In the cabin
Howler Monkey!

Our Horse-drawn Carriage Ride through the streets of Luxor proved to be quite an experience! We clattered down narrow streets thronged with people and brightly-lit shops, bars and clubs, witnessing scenes of everday night-life, including 2 weddings! Then, through the spice-market, our senses were assaulted by exotic aromas and perfumes. Once or twice, our carriages were approached by kids begging but they were quickly shoed-away by the drivers.

It was quite an experience and if that wasn't enough to frighten us, we had a howler-monkey hanging from the ceiling when we returned to our cabin!

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Monday 1st November
A Balloon flight across the Nile!
General Map >> Show Map of Luxor
The alarm-call was at 4.20am for those of us deciding to take this exciting treat on our last day.
(Left) Balloons are already ascending as we cross the Nile at dawn by boat (Andrew's photo)

Heading into Luxor by mini-bus, we then crossed the Nile by boat to the West Bank, as we received our safety-briefing from Sindbad Balloons and considered the terms & conditions! See Photo >>

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Balloons aloft!
As we head for the ascent site
Inflating our balloon The ascent site
Up & Away!

With a pilot and 24 passengers in each basket, we were then introduced to the "landing position" before we began our ascent, which was remarkably quiet, apart from the roaring sound of the gas-burner. As the balloon followed the wind, there was no breeze and little sensation of speed.

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Up & Away!
Below us: the Ramesseum, Queen Hatshepsut's Temple
& the Valleys of the Kings & Queens
Our Pilot
(Andrew's photo)
A premature landing!

But as we rapidly gained altitude, a spectacular view opened-up as we all gazed in awe from our lofty vantage-point. Drifting slowly towards the Nile, there were amazing views of temples and statues we all visited earlier in the week and as we rose above 2,000 ft, we crossed the river Nile just south of Luxor, with views of Karnak in the distance, and the Luxor Temple below.

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(Above) View from about 2,000 feet above the West Bank at Luxor; Queen Hatshepsut's Temple to the left and the Nile on the right

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Crossing the River Nile
Above Luxor, cruise boats moored beside the Luxor Temple
Looking south, the Nile Bridge & our own cruise boat mooring
Coming into Land!
As we descend, the pilot selects a suitable landing-site
and we come down in a sugar-cane field!

Show Picture Full Size One or two balloons were actually seen to come down (and tip over!) while still over the West Bank, but with our skilled pilot we travelled further than most (about 6 miles), eventually coming down in a sugar-cane field! He also managed to keep the balloon up and the basket upright, as we awaited the recovery crew!
To celebrate our safe landing and not being tipped-out by a deflating balloon, the ladies danced with the guys of the recovery team!
(Right) The Ground Crew & Passengers celebrate our safe landing with a group dance!
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Our actual flight was probably only about 45 minutes but it was all the most exhilarating experience, especially in such scenic and benevolent conditions! Our landing too, was quite close to where our boat was moored, so we were all back aboard for breakfast! Visit Sindbad >>

While Lynne & Clive had to leave early for their flight, for the rest of us it was a quiet unwinding day, as we packed and prepared to be taken to the airport at 3pm.

Monday 1st November (evening)
Luxor to London Gatwick

Check-in at Luxor Airport proved relatively painless and while our flight was a little delayed, we made up time on the journey, while enjoying a stiff drink and sausage & mash for dinner! But we were all tired and in something of a daze, as the group finally broke-up at Gatwick and went our separate ways, an amazing week of sights and memories for everyone.

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 224 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 145,860 n miles

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