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Cruising down the Nile

It has been a while since I was in Cairo visiting the Pyramids and the Sphinx, a tour of Egypt’s ancient wonders which was cut short by the 2011 and subsequent revolutions and unrest. But with Egypt now considered safe again, I made a vow to see the Valley of the Kings. A leisurely cruise on board a luxurious boat seemed like the ideal way to make the trip, and so I set sail on MS Mayfair which took me on a voyage of discovery from Luxor to Aswan.

This is a lovely boat, built in Egypt six years ago with some lovely French inspired furnishings and sumptuous spaces. There is a relaxed and elegant ambience to Mayfair, from the lounge filled with books and velvet sofas to the fabulous sundeck with its loungers and Jacuzzi, pretty perfect for enjoying a spot of Egyptian sun while escaping the British winter.

But the main reason to cruise the Nile is to see the amazing sites of the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the temples at Luxor, Karnak, Kom Ombo and Philae.

From Luxor to Aswan would take three hours by car, but takes MS Mayfair three heavenly days. The excursions are guided by an English-speaking Egyptologist who brings the stories of deities and pharaohs to life with detailed and intelligent descriptions of the sites. The high spot – or should that be low spot as I bend double to get in – is creeping down into the tomb of Tutankhamen (This is a replica, of course, the real treasures that were found by Howard Carter in 1922 are safely in the Egyptian museum in Cairo) The brightly coloured walls and inscriptions capture my imagination and this trip also includes a peek inside the house Carter inhabited when he was here, with his gramophone player and typewriter still in place.

An evening tour of the Kom Ombo temple is an atmospheric experience – the temple, which is dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god, looks spectacular bathed in warm light. The next day we visit the Philae temple which is accessible by boat near the famous Aswan Dam.

Of course there are the usual vendors plying their wares, but on the whole they are harmless and I found myself quite tempted by some of their offerings – jewellery and inexpensive cotton shirts being the best souvenirs.

Back on board there is nightly fun and games with a fancy dress evening and a Nubian music show. Food on the Mayfair is good and plentiful and the restaurant is relaxed yet elegant.

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