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An insider's guide to the River Nile

18 August 2015

Boat on the River Nile

It is arguably the most famous river in the world and often regarded as a great natural wonder. The River Nile should be on the top of anyone's bucket list.

Acting as a lifeblood for northeastern Africa, the Nile is the longest river on planet earth stretching over 4,200 miles. Starting at the Mediterranean Sea near to Egypt and passing through nations such as Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Eritrea before ending in Tanzania, the river provides both a historic and spiritual adventure.

With a river cruise you can discover the beauty of the Nile as it guides you around Egypt. These trips will allow you to visit the likes of Luxor, Aswan, Kom Ombo and Edfu but, more importantly, give you the experience of sailing on the Nile.

So what is there to know about this magnificent waterway? Read on for our insider guide.


The Nile is often regarded as one of the key reasons why Egypt became such a unique civilisation. Without this huge expanse of water the country may not have been able to develop into this extraordinary landscape. Egypt relies heavily on agricultural wealth, which makes the Nile an integral part of its day-to-day life.

Tracing its history back to pre-historic times, it wasn't until 3100 BC that the Nile Valley and Delta had merged into a single entity allowing Egyptian life to blossom and creating the first recognisable nation state. As the population grew, it became hugely important to harness the resources of the Nile but there needed to be provisions made to prevent flooding.

This was because the Nile flooded, or was inundated, with regularity during the First Intermediate Period (c. 2125-1975 BC). While the floodplain was very fertile and benefited when the river burst its banks, a major inundation could destroy crops, spread disease and create many other hazards. The people of the region have been using artificial water-lifting devices to combat this issue since 1500 BC, right up to the modern day.

Myths and beliefs

One of the most special aspects of the Nile is the spiritual attachment associated by the Egyptian people. It is a river which is the subject of myths and tales, the most prominent being that of the god Osiris. Usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead, Osiris, as legend has it, was betrayed and murdered by his brother-god Set.

Fuelled by jealousy, Set lured Osiris to lay down in an sarcophagus pretending it was a gift, but slammed the lid down and threw him into the Nile. Osiris' wife, Isis, went in search of the god to provide a proper burial and was only able to retrieve him after being told of his whereabouts by a group of children.

Thanks to this story, there is a long-standing ancient Egyptian belief that children possess the gift of divination, as they allowed her to find the god. Osiris' journey into the Nile has been referenced as making the river a life giver for the inhabitants on its banks.

Myths such as these made the Nile a beacon for locals as it was considered a major part of the lives of the gods. The Nile was also thought to be a representation of the Milky Way on earth and was believed the sun god Ra drove his ship across it. The sheer amount of myths and tales which are attributed to the river highlight why it is such a spiritual place for Egyptians.

What to see on a Nile cruise

Nile River, Africa

It may seem a little difficult to experience 2,000 years of history in a week-long river cruise of the Nile, but there are some must-see sights along the way that will make your trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With a day or two to spare in Luxor, why not organise a sunrise balloon trip?

Float serenely overhead as a city wakes from its slumber. You'll be able to gaze upon numerous temples from the skies and then explore the Valley of the Kings on foot, once you've landed of course. Try and beat the tourist traps and visit Edfu's Temples of Horus after 6pm. This will ensure you get the place to yourself as you explore a memorial to the falcon god.

Many cruises will stop off at the southern city of Aswan, home to the temples of Philae and Elephantine Island. Kick back with a delicious cocktail as you watch the sun go down bringing your time in the city to an end and heading back to the Nile.

A cruise along the Nile is something that you won't be forgetting in a hurry and one you will be telling your friends about for months on end.

There are numerous options to look into when planning your Nile expedition, though one of the most popular and easiest ways of cruising this magnificent river is by river cruise. Discover Egypt are leading experts in designing the perfect voyage that ensures you get the most out of the journey, thanks to knowledgable Egyptologists and years of experience. Browse our Nile cruise deals and start looking forward to the holiday of a lifetime!

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