Nile Cruise: River Cruises in Egypt onboard…
Nile cruises have long been a popular option for those looking to explore several of Egypt’s hotspots. With the new Death on the Nile movie now out, what does a Nile cruise look like?
For years, I wanted to sail the Nile. Not with hundreds of other passengers on a modern, glass-encased ship, but in style and with as few passengers as possible.
It was by reading an interview with the famous interior designer Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen, who descended the Nile with his wife for their 30th wedding anniversary, that I showed the way. I finally got the name of a ship that just might tick all the right boxes: the SS Sudan.
The search for the SS Sudan brought back memories of Agatha Christie’s book Death on the Nile, the later 1978 film version starring Peter Ustinov as Detective Hercule Poirot, and the 2004 television version starring David Suchet, which I loved it.
A new version of Death of Death on the Nile hit cinema screens this month, starring Kenneth Branagh as Poirot, catering to a hungry audience that loves a little sleep with an exotic and stylish setting.
The books and the three films have one thing in common: the Steamship Sudan. This is the ship Agatha Christie sailed on in 1933 and started her book, as all three films were shot aboard the SS Sudan, called SS Karnak in the book, and although the films took some liberties with achievement, it is easily recognizable.
Today, the ship still encompasses the glamor of 1930s travel, with wood-panelled staterooms opening onto wide teak verandahs, floating white canvas blinds, gleaming brass fittings, comfortable wicker armchairs and a ratio of 63 crew members for about 45 passengers.
The SS Sudan is one of two steamships that Thomas Cook used to transport wealthy travelers between Luxor and Aswan in the early 1900s, when archaeologists making spectacular discoveries of ancient Egyptian treasures along the Nile attracted wealthy tourists in Egypt on the so-called Grand Tour. , then in vogue.
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With the Old Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor and the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan and the SS Sudan in between, luxury could be assured every step of the way, forgoing most of the climatic and logistical challenges tourists potentially faced. in Egypt at that time.
After some gentle restorations and modernizations over the years, the SS Sudan remains the only true and original paddle steamer on the Nile and retains the glamor of the old world of travel throughout her journeys on the Nile.
Boarding the SS Sudan, now owned by a French travel agency, I got a first glimpse of my fellow travelers. I was joined by passengers from France, Switzerland, the UK and Spain.
There were few enough guests to allow for the feeling of exclusivity, but enough to make the trip worthwhile. A six-day, five-night voyage awaited us, with scheduled excursions, meals on board, even a screening of the film Death on the Nile on the itinerary, in the very bar used as the murder scene in the film.
The ship’s five suites and 18 staterooms are all on one level, above the restaurant and bar, and below the sundeck, with the superior suites at the bow and stern. The cabins are comfortable, with double or twin beds, armchairs, a minibar, wardrobes and en-suite bathrooms.
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Outside each cabin there is a wicker table and chairs, but the best view is from the sundeck, where wide armchairs and lounge chairs invite you to relax and watch life go by. the banks of the Nile.
Each day offers an excursion, from Qena, a little downstream from Luxor and home to the temples of Abydos and Dendera, to a return to Luxor for the night and a visit to the Valley of Kings, Queens, Nobles and artisans The next morning.
Other stops upstream are Edfu and the Temple of Kom Ombo, and Aswan, with a visit to the fantastic island temple of Philae. And while each day offers an excursion, each day brings a few hours of daylight sailing, allowing passengers to not only enjoy the weather on the ship and the views along the river, but also to see the spectacular sunsets over the west bank of the Nile.
Tours to ancient Egyptian temples are simply awesome, literally: stunning, historical, larger-than-life reminders of a mighty civilization. And, with a guide looking after each of the small groups brought together by their preferred language remaining on board throughout the trip and leading all the tours with your group, you learn an incredible amount.
But, although the wonders of ancient Egypt are the reason we’re all on board, I sometimes felt “tempted” enough, to coin a phrase. These peaceful hours of sailing provided a well-deserved respite from an avalanche of mind-blowing information and breathtaking views each day.
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It was the SS Sudan itself with its working steam chimney and ever-turning paddle wheel, the attention of the staff, the wonderful meals on board and the afternoon tea with delicacies freshly baked sweets that made sitting on decks while sailing such a treat.
The books I had brought, which I had imagined myself reading while sitting on the wicker chair outside my cabin, remained closed, instead I drank in the sights along the Nile and the life that happens there.
I lost count of the number of children I waved at, how many donkeys and water buffaloes I saw, how many egrets floated upright past on islands of tiny swimming grass, and how often I simply didn’t bother to take down the camera, but just kept clicking.
We’ve passed other cruise ships, with people splashing around in the onboard pool or even dancing in the onboard club. The SS Sudan had none of this equipment, and yet, dare I say it? I felt sorry for those passengers on the glassy, characterless ships.
Being on the SS Sudan was a bit like being in a time warp, being transported back to the great old days of travel, with comfort, style and understated luxury that made me prefer to sit on the sundeck with a gin and tonic in hand, watching the green banks dotted with fishermen and children playing, the houses with women hanging the laundry on the line, the small farms and some large communities passing by, and feeling completely comfortable.
The onboard Wi-Fi was too spotty to be useful, keeping me cocooned from the outside world. Which, after a hectic few hours initially, ultimately added to the allure.
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One evening we were all invited to the bar and watched David Suchet’s Poirot solve the diabolical murders that Agatha Christie had engineered on this very ship, probably on this very part of the Nile.
The ship’s director proudly told us that he was given a cameo role in Kenneth Branagh’s new 2022 release while filming on board, and I just can’t wait to see the movie and relive my Nile cruise .
They say time travel is not possible, but sailing on the last steamer on the Nile, surrounded by history that is quite overwhelming at times, watching a day-to-day life barely changed for hundreds of years. ‘years that take place next to an ancient river, I dare say it’s entirely possible. Even if only for six days.