Lake Nasser cruises – everyone’s first thought when it comes to spending time on the water in Egypt is to get on the Nile and explore the area around Luxor and Aswan, which takes in some true treasures of antiquity.
But it is not the only option.
South of Aswan lies Lake Nasser, the world’s largest man-made lake, backed up by the Aswan Dam. It is a remarkable construction, which prevents the Nile from flooding annually and provides Egypt’s power supply.
It threatened to come at huge cost, however. The water level south of Aswan would rise sharply, and the temples on low-lying land would be submerged and lost forever.
In the 1960s that sparked a remarkable worldwide initiative to salvage these treasures for future generations – several temples remain today, and it is these that you see on a Lake Nasser cruise.
For me, that’s one of the big attractions of taking a cruise journey south. It’s not just the way that the likes of the Valley of the Lions or the Kiosk of Kertassi look today; it’s the lengths that restoration teams went to keep them – be it rebuilding them piece by piece on higher ground, or even, in one case, moving the whole structure upwards on rail lines.
The other great advantage is the tranquility. The Nile is many wondrous things, but with so many people keen to explore them, quiet is often not one of them. Lake Nasser is underexplored, and your boat tends to spend the days alone, in peace on the still waters.
But none of this can compare to the moment that your journey culminates. Abu Simbel’s temples appear on the horizon. They are just as they were millennia ago. There is a mere smattering of people there. No experience in Egypt quite matches it.