Is a Nile cruise worth your time and money? See for yourself! Here’s a sneak peek into our dahabiya cruise activities. A dahabiya is a small, traditional river cruise ship that will give you a sense of how Nile cruisers traveled 100 years ago, without skimping on present-day luxuries.
Because they’re smaller and carry fewer people (only 10-14 passengers, instead of up to 300), dahabiya cruisers get to see more of the ancient Egyptian sites you came thousands of miles to see. It was a major highlight of our trip, and an experience I would go back and have again. Check it out and start planning your trip on the Nile!
Kom Ombo and the Temple of Sobek and Horus
Our trip down the Nile left from Aswan, so the first stop we made was Kom Ombo. Here, we toured the Temple of Sobek and Horus. This temple is unique for a few different reasons. First, it’s a temple to two gods: Sobek, depicted as a man with a crocodile head; and Horus, depicted as a man with a falcon head.
The other interesting thing about this temple involved some of the hieroglyphics. This was a temple of healing, so our guide, Salah, pointed out the medical carvings in the back! You’ll also find an Egyptian calendar here, a well where they used to keep a crocodile god, and some original color from around 180 B.C.
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The Crocodile Museum
Why did the ancient Egyptians have a temple to a crocodile-headed deity? For one, Nile crocodiles are the largest in the world, and the second-most dangerous animal in the Nile during ancient times (hippo was number one). The crocodile also predicted the extent of the Nile floods each year, which indicated how much tax Egyptians would have to pay.
How did the crocs predict the floods? They would lay their eggs above the flood level, indicating the level where the Nile would rise. Because the ancient Egyptians revered them so much, they would mummify the crocodile they kept as a god at the Temple of Sobek. You can see several mummified Nile crocodiles at the Crocodile Museum next to the temple!
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Gebel El-Silsilah and the Temple of Horemheb
This is one of the sites that only dahabiya boats can visit by virtue of their smaller size. It’s a small temple, but it shares some secrets with its visitors. This temple has carvings from two at least different rulers, and in fact, two different dynasties. The ancient Egyptians reused existing temples! This one was possibly for Queen Hatshepsut at one time (around 1440 B.C.), who was all but erased from history by her step-son.
However, some of the carvings inside reference Ramses III. And yet, the person this temple is named for is Horemheb, from 1330 B.C. He brought back the belief in many gods, instead of one, and he is the one who re-opened the nearby quarry to start building temples to those gods in Egypt again.
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The Sandstone Quarry
The second site on day two of our cruise may seem a little less interesting than the temples we saw during the trip, but let me tell you, it was well worth the visit. This was a true highlight of our trip, because without it, the temples and tombs throughout Egypt’s New Kingdom wouldn’t exist!
Here, you’ll see some giraffe petroglyphs, some homes for the quarry workers, and most interestingly, the sandstone quarry itself! You can still see markings where they carved out the huge blocks that made their way up- or downriver to build the temples you’ll undoubtedly visit on your Egyptian trip.
Most interesting to me is that we have no idea how big the sandstone mountain used to be! We know they started carving off the top and worked their way down, but we don’t know how high it used to stand. It also made me think, how many mountains did they take down thousands of years ago that we don’t even know about, because they’re not even there anymore?
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Explore a Local Village
This is another experience only for dahabiya cruisers! We got to spend some time in a more traditional local village, which was vastly different, in so many ways, from any of the cities we visited on our trip. Having grown up on a farm myself, it was fun to see the similarities and differences across continents and cultures!
It was interesting to see how the local farmers share an irrigation system with water from the Nile, and to see what they grow: Cabbage, herbs, and lots of bananas were in season for us in January! We also got to meet some locals, including donkeys, dogs, cows, and water buffalo like the little ones below!
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Edfu and the Temple of Hathor and Horus
Day three of our trip was a two-temple day, starting with the Temple of Hathor and Horus at Edfu. This temple dates back to 237 B.C., and it has so much hieroglyphic writing on every surface, it’s been called a “stone library.” You can see the massive carvings on the front of the temple, and inside, you’ll find the “god of wifi.” The ancient Egyptians had all of our modern conveniences.
Kidding! Our tour guide, Salah, pointed out a carving of a man holding animal ribs, but it looks like our modern-day wifi signal. I’ve included a photo below!
This temple has a bit of a controversial history, too. It was an important religious site to the ancient Egyptians because this is where Horus fought and killed his Uncle Seth (symbolized as a hippo), who had killed Horus’s father. To celebrate the event every year, the King and other participants would kill hippos from the Nile. It was only one day per year, but now there are no hippos in the Nile.
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Esna and the Temple of Khnum
Egypt is fascinating because it’s a work in progress for the people of today. The ancient Egyptians were so advanced that we still don’t know how they did all the things they did. We still haven’t found where all the kings and pharaohs are buried. Archaeologists are still finding new things almost every day, and Egyptologist researchers are always learning something new!
Case in point: The Temple of Khnum at Esna. This was the last temple to be built by the ancient Egyptians, but over thousands of years, it became buried under sand and silt. In fact, the town of Esna was built over top of and all around it! It was “rediscovered” in the 19th century, but it was only a few years ago that a team of Germans and Egyptians began uncovering the brilliant colors inside on the columns and the ceilings. They’re cleaning off soot and silt with toothbrushes, y’all.
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I never got tired of looking at the date palms along the Nile. I found it very calming and relaxing, which is so not my usual state! We did enough temple exploring each day so that the time never became monotonous, but I truly enjoyed hanging out on deck, working on the blog, sipping on hibiscus tea. Every once in a while, a fishing boat would sail or row on by. We both enjoyed it!
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Note: We cruised from Aswan to Esna (just south of Luxor), which gave up three nights aboard the boat. You will see the same sites in reverse order, and have four nights aboard, if you choose to travel from Esna to Aswan. Cruises leave from Aswan on Fridays, and from Esna on Mondays. Book with Egypt Elite to have the best trip in Egypt!
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