Herodotus wrote that ‘Egypt is the gift of the Nile’, and visitors to that spectacular country immediately understand why. More than 90% of Egypt’s inhabitants live in less than 5% of the total land area – on or beside the Nile flood plain. In such a parched land, this mighty waterway is as life-giving and essential as it was in ancient times, providing irrigation, drinking water and transportation. As a result of its overwhelming importance, most of Egypt’s major attractions past and present are located beside or within a short distance of the River Nile.
The capital city, Cairo, towers over its broadening waters; the pyramids of the Giza Plateau were constructed with stones floated upriver on barges; the great temples and tombs of Upper Egypt are still defined by their position on the East or West Bank; and Nile-side daily life outside the cities is a sight to behold in its own right, as traditional white-sailed feluccas sail between peaceful rural villages where little seems to have changed since the time of the pharaohs. Though the Nile actually stretches from two sources in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa some 6,600km to a Mediterranean delta, the most dramatic section to cruise lies between the ‘open-air museum’ of Luxor and the laid-back Nubian town of Aswan, where the river tumbles across a series of picturesque cataracts.