Jaz Royale Postcard #12 – Luxor & Karnak Temples

I was awake early this morning, I just can’t seem to sleep past 5:00 at the moment. The bed was really comfortable but I still found myself not being able to sleep on.
The room had to be vacated by noon and because this deadline could potentially happen while we were out everything was repacked and stored in the luggage room.

Our guide Eslam, arrived dead on time complete with driver and we were soon on our way to Karnak Temple. The site itself is vast and there are many impressive areas that we were shown round. Because there was just the two of us we were able to cover ground much quicker and our visit lasted for just over 1½ hours. I am again going to resort to selecting several photos rather than waffle on about things.


A 10 minute drive south brought us to our second stop, the Temple of Luxor which although not as big had plenty of things to keep us occupied for another 1½ hours. On the way in, we passed one end of the 3km Avenue of Sphinx’s which links up with Karnak and when full restored and open will be amazing.

Notably there are artefacts there not only of ancient Egyptian origin but Greek, Roman, Coptic Christian and even a mosque built on top of some of the ruins which is in use.
There is even an Alabaster statue of Tutankhamun and his wife, the first I have seen outside any of the museums.
On the way in there is currently one of the large statue’s in the process of being restored. It looks impressive now and will look even more so when completed.
We made it back in time to go and get changed into our swimming attire using the room then with the exception of a lunch break spent the last few hours out by the pool. Our transfer to the airport arrived at 4:10 with the journey taking around 20 minutes. Another 30 minutes to get through security and then a one hour wait for our flight back to Cairo which turned into 1 hour and 20 minutes. Our flight managed to claw back 10 minutes which was then wiped out with another 10 minute taxi to the terminal. The same Discover Egypt rep was there waiting to guide us to the hotel where check in was swiftly dealt with.


Our third bedroom in 3 nights at Le Meridian, Cairo Airport before we start our journey home tomorrow morning. It’s been a great trip that has inspired us to come back and see more. Luxor to Aswan & Lake Nasser along with the Grand Egyptian Museum when it eventually gets finished.

Jaz Royale Postcard #11 – Luxor & Westbank

This morning was the earliest start we have needed to make for tours, the set off time was 6:30 and it was done that way so we would avoid the heat later on. Our first item on the itinerary was a 10 minutes photo stop to see The Colossi of Memnon which are two huge statues that were part of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple.

A very short drive from there took us to the Valley of the Queens where we visited two tombs and with a photo permit costing LE300 I decided that just a visit would be enough on this occasion so no pictures.
No permit was required at the next stop so I took plenty. The Temple of Hatshepsut which has been restored is a breathtaking panorama. Built for the only female Pharaoh is set under a large rock face and does look spectacular on the approach to it. Our tour included the upper and lower terraces where we were able to view some really good coloured murals in the Chapel of Anubis. After seeing a program about this 2 weeks ago on the TV it was great to see it all in real life.

Unfortunately as is the norm with these types of tours the next stop was an Alabaster workshop where we were given a demonstration in the art of working the stone before a guided tour of the shop.
Not willing to part with any of my money I returned to wait on the bus while some of our party succumbed to the sales pitch. Our final stop was the eagerly anticipated Valley of the King’s where our ticket allowed for access to 3 of 6 open tombs and the photography permit wasn’t even given a second thought at this venue.  Because they rotate the ones that are open, today we visited the following, Rameses IV, Rameses III and Merneptah. All of which were absolutely fascinating and each quite different with their own unique key features. Probably best once again to show you some photos.

No sooner had we started our tour it felt like it was over and we were on our way back to the boat for our last lunch onboard. The boat has a completely different feel now there are a lot more people. In a way I glad we are getting off when we are but pleased the crew are now going to be nice a busy again.

Tonight we disembarked at around 9:30 and transferred to the Sonesta St. George in Luxor for one night. The drive took 10 minutes and we were accompanied by a Discover Egypt rep who took care of the check in and gave us our timetable for the next day. In that short time we missed the Jaz Royale sailing past on its way to Aswan which is a shame as it would have been nice to see it sail away and get a photo from the bank.

On first impressions the Sonesta St. George is really lovely hotel and it’s just a shame we won’t be there longer.

Tomorrow we have a 9:00 start for our tour of Karnak and Luxor temples.

Jaz Royale Postcard #10 – A River Day to Luxor

One of the joys of this cruise for me has been seeing all the small children shouting and waving as we have passed by. Many of them will not have seen that many foreign people in their life time because of the recent security worries, so to see our pale faces floating down the river on a boat must be quite a spectacle for them. Back in Cairo, we were asked by youngsters on many occasions if we would mind having our photo taken with them on their mobile phones, a bit daunting at first and you immediately think they are after your money but it’s totally not the case, if you stop and consider the younger ones will not have come into contact with many foreign people in their life time it all sort of makes sense. Tourism seems to be on the increase here again so eventually the novelty will probably die off but for now it’s quite heart warming to get the attention and then see the happiness it generates.

So back to today, after passing through the swing bridge we tied up until around 4:00. We then started our journey to Luxor, I know it was around 4:00 because Mosque’s had all started their first daily call to prayer. I am saying nothing more on the subject!
After managing to drop back off to sleep I eventually came around at 6:30 and finished yesterday’s post.
The rest of the morning after breakfast was spent up on the top deck in the sun making the most of our last section of the cruise. Once we reach Luxor the boat will not move until we get off, it will continue on up to Aswan which is something we would like to come back and do another time.

The rest of the group disembarked at Karnak and we continued on to tie up just outside the Winter Palace Hotel. They were doing the temple tours today while we will be doing it on Monday morning.
Our afternoon consisted of a short walk and a Caleche ride round the town. I know we paid over the odds but it was rather fun and didn’t break the bank.

We have 36 Spanish passengers joining us today so it will be very interesting to see how it feels with more people onboard.
Tomorrow we have a much earlier start time of 6:30 for our tour to the West bank. It’s going to be a long day.

Jaz Royale Postcard #9 – Abydos & Denderah

After giving us the indication we would be taking an early bus from Sohag for today’s tours while at the same time they move the boat down river later without us onboard so to make things work a little swifter, I was surprised to see and hear it set off from Sohag at just after 4:00 this morning. Yet more lack of communication by all concerned! By all accounts we had to wait to go through a swing bridge which didn’t open until 4:00. This then impacted our tour timing and we didn’t actually get off the boat until we reached Al Balyana at 10:00.

We were very quickly on the road to the Temple at Abydos which took around 40 minutes. Once again we are accompanied by armed security and police all the while we were travelling and I am beginning to think is way over the top and more for show. Everyone we see just stops what they are doing and wave and smile, they all look as threatening as a gold fish!

The Temple at Abydos is quite simply amazing, lots of amazing preservation and colours, so rather than trying to explain I will just show a selection of photos.

Once we had finished our tour it was back on the road, this time to Dendara and another temple, the journey being somewhat longer at 1¾ hours across the desert highway. It was this one that I had been waiting to see from our middle section of the cruise and I wasn’t disappointed. The outside is amazing but the inside is out of this world with the quality of colours and preservation outstanding. Many areas of the inside have been cleaned and the colours are absolutely incredible, the ceiling being the stand out item. Rather than trying to explain once again I think photos will say more.


It has been a very memorable day even with more road time than we have done so far, as a result we eventually arrived back to the boat at 6:00 which evidently had still moved anyway to Nagaa Hammadi. So after a swift beer, it was then a quick shower before dinner. The trouble with busy days is it then doesn’t allow me much time to make a decent post.

We didn’t sail until gone 11:00 having to wait for another swing bridge to open and allow us through.

Jaz Royale Postcard #8 – A River Day to Sohag

Last night around 11:30 we passed through the new Assiut Barrage, there are 2 locks on this recently opened project on the River Nile. The transfer from one side to the other took less than ½ hour, we then continued for about another hour before stopping for the evening in Assiut itself.
The following photos show our progress through the lock.

It wasn’t a long overnight stop as we were back on our way again at 4:30 continuing on our way to Sohag.

Also yesterday evening just before dinner we found out from our onboard Egyptologist that as a result of recent itinerary adjustments, we were now set to be disembarking in Edfu and not Luxor on Monday 15th.
The new plan is for us to then drive 110km back to Luxor to catch our flight back to Cairo. We are not happy and do not want to spend the last day of our holiday doing something we do not want to do nor expected to be doing.

The itinerary has been continuously changing all cruise and until now we have gone along with the amendments. It was our belief that things were being adjusted so that more time could be made available at Luxor but now we have found out that this is not the case. Last night I sent an email to Discover Egypt and also Ian Warren in a bid to try and resolve our issues.

We are not very happy that the itinerary has evolved after we had already boarded. I think it is mightily unfair to do this without any real apparent reason to do so. Some were only minor changes but we could never really find out further than a day ahead how proceedings were being affected further into the cruise.
The boat and crew have been amazing but Travco’s organisational skills leave a lot to be desired. Other English speaking guests who are onboard are also very dissatisfied with the proceedings.

I am very happy to say that Discover Egypt have responded positively with the following revised arrangements for us:

I am sorry that you had to write to us about the change in sailing time from Luxor even before we were informed. Therefore, we will make the following change:

Saturday, 13 April

At leisure on board. (You will not visit the Temples of Karnak and Luxor this day.)

Sunday, 14 April

Excursion to the West Bank of the Nile as per itinerary.

Afternoon at leisure in Luxor.

Dinner on board and then transfer to the Sonesta St George Hotel

(The boat is sailing at approx. 10pm)

Monday, 15 April

After breakfast in hotel, our local guide will escort you on excursion to Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. (exact pick up time will be advised locally)

Lunch at Sonesta Hotel.

Afternoon at leisure.

Transfer to Luxor airport for flight to Cairo.(exact pick up time will be advised locally)

A great result from a company that cares!

Back to today, we arrived at Sohag just after 2:00 and we have tied up alongside another boat which has been converted into a floating hotel and bar. I suspect tonight is going to be noisy as they seem to be setting up for a party on the top deck.

Jaz Royale Postcard #7 – Tel El Amarna

We arrived at our next destination of Tel El Amarna just before sunset. There was another boat there and instead of tieing up side by side we tucked in behind. This place is much quieter and I’m really not sure of the reasons for the swift departure of Minya other than maybe a security issue. I am told it is easier to move on to our next stop from here even though we have to double back by road to view our historical sites today. As this is a new itinerary for this boat it seems that the itinerary is a work in progress.

Today, as with most tours it was an early start, we were again on the road just after 8:00 this morning and on our way to stop number one. It was around a 40 minute drive to get to Ashmunein where we had a 45 minute walking tour around the remains of the old city which included a brief photo stop at the 2 Baboon statues.

The ruins themselves were absolutely littered with ancient pottery and we found it quite disturbing to be walking and damaging all these artifacts while in contrast with Stonehenge you can’t get within 50 feet of the stones!

From there it was a short trip to Tuna Al Gebel to see 3 tombs, one of which housed a mummified baboon. We were there maybe for an hour and a half before hitting the road to the tomb of Akhenaten.

To get to it you come off the main road and drive for about 1½ miles before going into a valley and driving a similar distance to reach the tomb entrance itself. Absolutely miles away from anything and I felt it was a very privileged opportunity we were being given. Not a big tomb but cut very deep into the rock of the valley side and it is the location for me that made the trip worthwhile.

Next and last stop were 3 of 4 Northern Tombs of the Nobles at El Amarna. All of them are situated at the top of an escarpment, we visited the best of the 3 first which belonged to Meryra who was a high priest. The tomb had lots of scenes depicting the Arten Temple and were in a very good state of preservation. A horse and chariot being one of the stand out items.

We were back to the boat at 2:10 and it was swiftly on the way to our next stop where we are due to pass through a lock some time around midnight.

After lunch it was time for some relaxation and Nile life observations up on the sun deck. All the small children come running out to wave as we pass by, I have no idea what they are shouting but they are smiling so I’m sure it’s something positive.

Jaz Royale Postcard #6 – Minya & Bani Hassan Tombs

I start today by picking up from last night’s walk in Minya. I am not sure who is making the decisions about security but yesterday evening has to be one of the most bizarre walks I have ever taken in my life.  After asking if we could leave the boat for a walk we were told it isn’t really safe to do so. However during the course of the day it was arranged for us to go to a coffee shop in one group. There was a pre arranged meeting point of 8:45 in the reception after which we then walked out through the other boat up the steps into one of the craziest scenes I have ever seen, not only on a cruise, but in life generally.
At the top of the steps waiting for the 13 of us was the following assembly, 12 armed men who were a mixture of security guards, tourist police, standard police some of which wore black masks on their faces. Don’t let me stop there though, in addition we had a police car and motorcycle outrider periodically stopping the traffic when we needed to cross the road, I’m not quite finished yet, to complete the defence force there was also a large green van with a armed guard posted above the cab with a machine gun, it just made me think of Jones the butcher’s van in Dad’s Army complete with its round holes in the back section for a guns to be poked through. This small army escorted us for maybe a mile along the side of the river to pre-booked cafe (Si El-Said Café) where we stopped for some liquid refreshments, the whole time our small army sat outside on guard. The return journey was exactly the same, just over two dozen of us slowly strolling along the road to get back to the ship. We were met with some really strange looks from the locals but on the whole there were a lot of people who came up and said hello or welcome. I have no idea if it was all totally necessary but it did make for the most interesting evening. Unfortunately when asked, we were told no photos so I have nothing to show you how it looked, you will just have to take my word for it.


Today it was another early start for our morning excursion to Bani Hassan Tombs. Although it was only 20km away it took a good 45 minutes to get there because of the roads. We were again given a police escort but nowhere near the scale of last night. The route itself took us through some really rural villages and it was a very interesting to witness it first hand.

Upon arrival our tickets were purchased along with photography permits for those wanting to take photos inside the tombs. We then had a bit of a climb to reach the tombs themselves. We were shown around 4 tombs all very similar but each with their own history. Some of the paintings were in really good condition with many aspects of daily life being portrayed.

The journey back to the ship followed the same route and as soon as we were all onboard we set off for our next stop which has been brought forward.
After lunch we spent the afternoon up on deck once again enjoying the Nile River views and glorious sunshine.Being as there are a couple of Liverpool fans onboard and there is a Champions League game on tonight against Porto, when we got back from our trip last night we asked one of the bar staff if there was any chance of getting a TV in the bar to watch it. He told us he would have a word with his manager. Since then our Egyptologist and the Maitre D have both come forward claiming that they have arranged for this to happen. The fact that the TV was already in place when we arrived back from our morning excursion speaks volumes so we have just gone on and allowed them their moment of glory but we know who really pulled the strings.

Jaz Royale Postcard #5 – A River Day to Minya

In the evening we open the sliding doors but keep the fly mesh screens closed, the downside is you hear everything that is going on outside. So it was a big surprise to hear us depart from Beni Suef this morning around 3:00 when it was still pretty much dark outside. The itinerary said overnight and I had assumed we would depart around the same time as we did from Cairo.
Our stop at Beni Suef was a strange one, our guide told us that there was little there of interest but if we wanted to get off for a wander then there was all sorts of paper work that needed to be signed and a tourist police escort arranged. In the event we stayed onboard and entertained ourselves in lounge bar, nothing being provided by the boat on this occasion. I wonder if with a little planning they could have found a few musicians in Beni Suef to come onboard for an hour or so? Maybe it just wasn’t the best place to organise something like that hence our earlier departure.

This morning we had an hour long talk with our Egyptologist who gave us a little bit of insight to the up and coming few days. The timing worked well as the weather was a bit overcast first thing and as if by magic when we had finished the skies started to clear.

It’s fascinating just watching everything that is going on along the banks of the river, not just people and wildlife but the scenery as well. While you can’t take a photo of everything you see I have been looking for things that have some sort of visual impact.
Hopefully the next set of pictures will give some idea.

Another thing we have experienced on this cruise is our steward has taken the towel animal on the bed to another level. We didn’t take much notice the first night with our two swans but the next night a large peacock did catch our attention. But this morning after breakfast we arrived back from breakfast to find a large crocodile with a small child in its mouth. One wonders how he is going to top that.

One of the other men in our group also had the invitation to go and view the bridge this morning and meet the captain. Again it was a true experience to see what goes on behind the scenes. There are about 6 crew all living, working and sleeping in a small contained space. No navigation aids and just a knowledge of where to steer the boat to avoid any shallow areas. Much of the know-how has been handed down from generation to generation.

At 5:00 we arrived at Minya where we are to spend the next two nights. We pulled up alongside another boat called Nile Saray so we will need to walk through their reception to get off.
Tonight we have a cocktail party before dinner then hopefully a walk around Minya afterwards.

Jaz Royale Postcard #4 – A River Day to Beni Suef

This morning we eventually set off on our trip to Luxor having spent the last two days in Cairo. As there will be no tours to tell you about I will spend some time telling you about the boat, our fellow passengers and our onboard experience so far.
On arrival we were allocated cabin 205 which is at the front and right next to reception. It’s a good sized cabin and really comfortable. It has all the usual amenities you would expect to find in a sea going version and we have a Juliet balcony which is accessed by a pair of sliding doors, there is also a separate pair of fly mesh screens which can be pulled close so that you leave the doors open at night without the worry of being nibbled to death by mosquitoes.

There is ample storage for clothing and free use of a mini safe. We are very pleased with it all because there was always a worry that it might not be as good as it was being depicted.
The most surprising thing is that the boat is far from full, there are 11 Brit’s, 5 German’s and 2 American’s on board. The latter two joining the boat yesterday so didn’t come with us on any of our tours. The crew easily outnumber the passengers by at least 1½ to 1 if not more and are being really attentive. Being as our English speaking group have spent 2 days touring Cairo we have all got to know each other fairly well and I can say with confidence that I know the name of at least 60% of our fellow passengers.

All meals are buffet style and the selection and quality of the food has been really good. Because Nicole is Vegan they are making special meals for her and the Maitre D has pretty much been asking Nicole what she wants the next day, it even arrives plated up for her. She is more than happy with the arrangement. There is a bar service during meal times and the prices are very reasonable, a large bottle of Stella (Egyptian beer) is about £4 and a the wine works out on average at about £15 a bottle. A 1.5 litre bottle of water is about £1 although much cheaper if you buy off the boat.
Public areas of the boat are really well maintained and because there are only 18 of us there are no space issues anywhere. It almost feels like we have the boat to ourselves at times.

There is a large lounge and bar area where last night we went to a display of Egyptian song and dance. It started with 2 guys playing some folk music on a lute and drum which for me went on far too long. This was followed by a whirling dervish who was really quite impressive, at the end of his performance he selected 3 people to have a go at it. Nicole being one of those and I have to say she was easily the best out of the three.
More traditional dancing followed and again some audience participation at the end when nearly all the ladies were invited up to copy lots of the dance moves. It turned out to be quite a fun evening but to-date it has been the only entertainment on offer.
The top deck has a small pool and about 60 or so sunbeds. I don’t think we are going to have any problems with the Germans bagging all beds on this cruise. One deck lower is where the lounge bar is but behind that is a covered outside area with tables and chairs where afternoon tea is served at 4:00.

Rafik, who is the onboard Egyptologist for the entire cruise has been absolutely fantastic. He pretty much takes care of everything for us, from sorting out the tips for the drivers to providing detailed information at all the sites we have visited.
He prefers to address us all as ‘your excellencies’ which we have found really endearing. He is a sub contractor and has no ties with the company that own the boat or agents and is our go between should we have any problems or issues with anything.

Ever since we have left Cairo we have been constantly accompanied by additional boats carrying armed tourist police. They have been doing it in relay handing over at different stages and along the river. We are currently on our third boat. The first one spent much of morning tied up to the back of our boat.

So back to today, despite having the chance to lie in we were awake not long after we started sailing. For an hour or so we just laid in bed with the windows open and watched our transit out of Cairo. It was really sad to see all the all cruise boats laid up and going rusty.
We went for breakfast at 7:45 thinking we would be on our own but there were in fact 10 of there just enjoying watching and eating breakfast.
The rest of the morning we spent up on the top deck enjoying the views and weather. A lovely lunch at 1:30 with some more relaxing up on top until we arrived at Beni Suef around 4:00. We are here overnight and will have a similar day tomorrow.

We are tied up directly outside the tourist police station where we stay until tomorrow morning when we will continue on to Minya.

Jaz Royale Postcard #3 – Cairo

After a slightly longer sleep than the previous night, we were again on the move at 8:00am for our second day in Cairo. Our first stop being Saladin Citadel on Mokattam hill where we were provided with a great view of the city.

We then moved on to the Mosque of Muhammad Ali which is also located within the Citadel walls.

We were there for about 2 hours before moving onto the Cairo Museum in the centre of the city. For today’s tour we had an additional member of the team, on top of the usual three we were joined by a plain closed armed police officer. It doesn’t look like they are prepared to take any chances with our security.

After getting our entrance tickets and an additional photography permit we passed through two separate sets of scanners on our way into the museum. If Egyptian relic’s are your thing then this has to be the place to visit.

Our guide walked us round many of the must see items before giving us an hour of free time to see some of the other items. Tutankhamen’s treasures being one area we wanted to see as this was left from the proper tour. Unfortunately this is one of the areas of the museum where photography is not permitted so we just have to be happy with being able to see it for ourselves. There are too many artifacts to list individually so I have put together a collage so that you can get some idea of what we saw.

The building is looking very dated and the new Grand Egyptian Museum which is currently under construction will eventually take its place with all the items moving over when it is completed. This is scheduled to be in 2020 so we may come back once it’s done. We saw the outside yesterday while in Giza and it looks a very impressive building already.
We were back onboard for lunch at 1:30 which was followed by some well deserved R&R.