The Nile is one of the most stunning and important bodies of water on the planet. Spanning 1,293,000 square miles, Africa’s longest river has culturally influenced several of the major cities in Egypt. It has been revered since ancient times for its life-giving properties in contrast to its surrounding terrain. The Nile’s lush green shores and vibrant waters make it an oasis in the Sahara Desert—so breathtaking, it could easily be mistaken as a mirage.
Taking a trip to Egypt is a once-in-a-lifetime experience on its own, but seeing the country’s iconic sites while cruising the Nile takes the tour to another awe-inspiring level. “The Nile carries the footprint of Egyptian history (and world history!) Cruising through it is part of discovering and experiencing the country,” said staffer Samantha. So journey with us as we explore the best cities in Egypt that you can stop and visit when cruising on the Nile. First stop: Cairo!
Cairo offers a glimpse into modern-day Egypt alongside plenty of the country’s signature archaeological treasures. It’s the ideal place to board a boat and cruise on the Nile toward even more Egyptian cities and adventures.
Cairo hits a lot of notes on a tour of Egypt. It’s not only the largest city in Egypt, it’s the country’s capital, which makes it one of the major cities in Egypt. Cairo has existed since ancient Egyptian times, and has a neighborhood called Old Cairo, which contains structures that pre-date the city. (That means they were built pre-2,000 BCE—yeah, let that sink in a little.)
Today, Cairo is bustling and modern with a population of a whopping 21,750,000 people. It’s home to some can’t-miss sites for the history buffs that cities in Egypt attract. The oldest archaeological museum in the Middle East for example, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, resides in Cairo. It exhibits vestiges of Ancient Egypt like the complete burial collection of Psusennes I and relics from King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Cairo is also known for art galleries, mosques, and charming cafes serving the kind of Turkish coffee you can only dream about.
“Traveling along the Nile is one of the most popular ways to see Egypt and when I was there I could see why! Many of the famous sites are right along the river making it easy to get from place to place. Plus, it was really nice to be able to relax on the cruise and admire the scenery we traveled to the next destination,” said staffer Morgan.
Our next stop on this Egypt trip is Luxor—one of the cities of Ancient Egypt. It is situated south of Cairo and north of Aswan. This is one of the best cities in Egypt to see historical relics and archaeological discoveries. In fact, Luxor is called “the world’s greatest open-air museum” because of the multitude of ancient temples and sites like the Luxor Temple, the Valley of Kings, the Valley of Queens, and the Karnak Temple.
“Luxor is simply incredible! On the East Bank, you’ll wander through the most dramatic and awe-inspiring temples, Karnak and Luxor. And on the West Bank, you’ll explore the famous tombs in the Valley of the Kings,” staffer Abby said.
So why visit this Egyptian city via a Nile River cruise, instead, of say, by car or bus? “Ancient Egyptian civilization depended on the Nile and so all the historical sites are situated on or a stones throw from the river. It’s the quickest and easiest way to see all the best sites! Plus, life on the river is paradise,” said staffer Abby.
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Continuing south on our cruise down the Nile, we arrive in another one of the major cities in Egypt, Aswan. Like Luxor and Cairo, Aswan is one of the cities in Ancient Egypt that is still booming today. It’s famous for a few things like its souks, or open-air markets, ancient sites like the Temple of Kom Ombo and Abu Simbel, and Lake Nasser, the largest manmade lake in the world.
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“Aswan was my favorite stop. From our cruise ship we could see ancient temples and I enjoyed watching all of the feluccas sailing throughout the day. There are also pretty rock formations in the Nile– Elephantine Island for example, has rocks that resemble several elephants in the water,” said staffer Morgan.
One of the best things to do here while on a tour of Egypt is stay at the Mövenpick hotel, which was built in the middle of the Nile. That means if you stay here, you get to sail the Nile—if ever so briefly—every time you want to leave and return to your hotel room. We stay at this hotel on our A Week in Egypt: Giza, Nile River Cruise & Cairo tour, just in case you’re looking for another reason to book it!
4. Nubian villages
Finally, we reach the Nubian villages. Get ready to take in their colorful splendor. While none of these villages or islands are major cities in Egypt, they are absolutely a must-see for anyone cruising the Nile and taking in the sights on a guided tour of Egypt.
The buildings on these islands and in the towns that pepper the coastline of the Nile are painted with bright colors and adorned with vivid mosaics. Stepping off a boat and into a Nubian village is like being transported to a surreal world from a fairytale. Plus, the culture’s entirely different from that of all the other Egyptian cities you’ve just visited.
“We got the opportunity to drink tea and sing along to Nubian songs on our boat ride, as well as dip our feet in the one and only Nile River I grew up learning about,” staffer Samantha said.
Interested in dipping your toes in the Nile? Book your Egypt tour with us today.