As many times as Luxor and Aswan have been visited as one of the most famous tourist destinations in Egypt, they are still some of the richest places to explore in a trip to Egypt, with more things to discover every time you visit.
The last time I went to the magical south of Egypt for the signature visit of all the temples and museums, I decided I wanted to get a different taste of the south this time and so I made Nuba my main destination after a quick tour of the main attractions of Luxor and Aswan and it was the best decision I made this year.
We arrived at Luxor by train at dawn and took the ferry to the other side of town where our Airbnb was located.
To arrive at such a beautiful place when it was still sleeping was breathtaking. The sunrise from the ferry was so magical it felt like a dream.
Luxor is known all over the world as one of Egypt’s most important ancient cities as it is home to countless numbers of Egyptian monuments. Among its highlights are the valley of queens, the valley of kings and the 3,400-year-old Karnak and Luxor temples.
Luxor’s temples are a tale on its own, and it is easy to get lost between all these pillars with ancient stories carved on them, but try seeing them from the sky. After
going for a walking tour of some of these colossal structures, we had the amazing experience of riding a hot air balloon above the city. Hot air balloon rides are one of the most fun things to do in Luxor and they are very easy to arrange. It happens at dawn and you get to see the whole process from how the balloons are made ready to being airborne above some of the oldest monuments of the world.
Aswan is known for its beautiful Nile Valley scenery and it is where we go for a sense of peace because it is more idyllic than other cities in Egypt, or even in the south itself.
Aswan used to be the main source of ancient Egypt’s finest granite, which was used to make obelisks, temples and statues. Today in Aswan, you can enjoy a visit to the rare plants island, take a tour in its colourful and bustling local markets selling handmade textiles, jewelry and pottery, or visit the Nubian Museum.
Aswan’s charming atmosphere is maximized by taking the Nile Cruise from Luxor to Aswan which is basically four days of gliding by the Nile, enjoying the view of the many small Nubian villages and rock islands along the shore.
In the very south of Aswan, sharing the borders and the Nile with Sudan, lies the charming land of Nubia or, as it is called in Arabic, “El Nuba”. El Nuba is a string of small islands by the Nile, inhabited by Nubians whose history and language are as rich and as old as the land itself.
Nubians speak their own language as well as Arabic, English, some French and Italian and whatever other languages picked up from their being longtime hosts of tourists from all over the world. If you are staying in a Nubian village, local houses are open for you to visit and share a home cooked meal or some afternoon tea.
To visit upper Egypt in general is to be transported to such an old time while having its own monuments stand witness all around you telling you first hand of the grandeur of this ancient time. But my favourite part was staying in a Nubian village and experiencing the originality and the warmth of these indigenous people of El Nuba, who despite their plight have opened their homes and their hearts to welcome the world to their tiny portion of it and share its beauty and its peacefulness.
Read more about Egypt here in Dispatches’ archives.