This week’s dream
Sailing the Nile toward the Valley of the Kings
“I’d been obsessed with Egypt since childhood, but it took a cadre of female adventurers to get me there,” said Michelle Green in The New York Times. After reading the anthology Women Travelers on the Nile, I felt so inspired by the book’s Victorian voyagers that I decided to finally see the spine of Egypt myself. Dozens of traditional, two-masted dahabiyas ply the Nile, and I chose the humble Orient, a 10-passenger boat that sails between Aswan and Luxor. Quickly I settled into the cushioned seats on the upper deck and watched storks skim the water. “The scenery slipping past was everything the guidebooks had promised: tall sandbanks, curved palms, and the mutable, gray-green river.”
On the first afternoon, we disembarked near the town of Kom Ombo, where a temple from the Ptolemaic period rises majestically above a river bend. Our guide “served up far more history than I could absorb,” but I learned that the temple was devoted to Horus, the falcon god, and Sobek, the crocodile god, each receiving a pillared hall covered in stunning reliefs: “Here was a Ptolemaic king receiving a sword; there, a second being crowned.” Farther downriver stands the Temple of Edfu, “an ode to power” with a 118-foot-tall entrance that leads to a central courtyard and soaring sandstone halls. “Feeling infinitesimal, I focused on details: a carving of a royal bee, an image of the goddess Hathor, a painting of the sky goddess Nut.”
Tourism is rebounding in Egypt after a terrorist attack on an airliner that killed 224 people in 2015. Though the violence hasn’t vanished, the country is now rated moderately risky, and I was glad to see tourists at all the temples (except perhaps the guy in Giza who was Facetiming a friend right in front of the Sphinx). Contemplative moments were still easily found, though, even in the Valley of the Kings. Descending alone into the tomb of Seti I, the deepest in the necropolis, I beheld astonishing reliefs, some of which depicted scenes from the Book of the Dead. “The silence was profound.”
Nile Dahabiya Boats (nile-dahabiya.com) offers three-day cruises starting at $630 per person, double occupancy.
Maria Mavropoulou/The New York Times, David van Driessche ■