Cruising refers to one of two things. It’s either a verb that connotes sleazy unattractive businessmen looking for someone they can take to a hotel to provide the bodily warmth that their money can’t buy them or it refers to the act of taking a cruise. Y’know, on a boat on some water somewhere. I suppose, in rare circumstances, you might find someone who goes about their daily life thinking they’re a cocktail maker, a pilot or a secret agent, in which case you might say they were Tom Cruising. But as much as writing about the other two things sounds like it’d be hilarious, we’re dealing with the water-based cruise here. Specifically, a cruise on the River Nile in Egypt, from Luxor to Aswan.
I was but a fresh-faced sixth form teenager with no particular desire to go exploring the world, but my dad suggested we go on a Nile cruise together and, as he was paying, it sounded like a great idea. I even skipped a few days of class for it. So we left grey old England for the heat-stroke-inducing temperatures of Egypt’s Luxor.
I’d gone through an ‘Egypt’ phase a few years earlier where I’d read a bunch of Christian Jacq books about the place. I loved the wars, particularly the Battle of Kadesh, which involved “perhaps 5,000-6,000 chariots” according to Wikipedia. I was less interested in the religious side of things but it was still great to get up early and see the hieroglyphs on a bunch of temple walls. I know that sounds like the most sarcastic thing ever, but it actually was worth it. Plus there’s fuck all else to do.
Here’s a few more atrocious photos of parts of temples:
In the afternoons it was sunbathing on the roof (sorry, deck) of the boat or, if you were my dad, taking a nap in the cabin to catch up on sleep after an early start. We also played cards and discussed the travesty that was the pricing of 60p supermarket-quality beer at £4. The other passengers on all-inclusive packages lauded it over everyone else by buying half a dozen beers at once.
The evenings were awkward. I don’t know if you’ve even been on a cruise but everyone is old and middle-class enough to pick interest rates and vitamin pills as suitable topics for conversation. My dad and I, well, we didn’t fit in, so much so that one night we were even barred access from the restaurant because we refused to change out of shorts. And don’t get me started on the “dinner by candlelight” night: neither of us fancied the psychological trauma that would’ve come from acting like we were married to the other so we had a few cereal bar snacks in our room and persuaded the barman to rustle us up a bowl of chips later that night.
One thing that wasn’t included in the original price was a trip to Abu Simbel once we got to the Aswan Dam. It cost £60 each extra but it was something we just had to do.
Now that you’ve seen the photo there’s really not much point me describing it. I can tell you it’s “rocky” and “big” and “old” if you want, but that’d be more pointless than a health food shop in Glasgow. Instead I’ll tell you about getting there.
We got up at 3 a.m., sleepy-eyed and grumpy, and piled onto a coach. Now, if 60 people were to head from London to Southampton on a bus, one vehicle would go. Same deal from New York to Washington D.C. Same for whatever bus journey it is you make regularly. But from Aswan down to Abu Simbel, we all fit into one coach all right, but we were escorted by armed, err, escorts. Jeeps with trained soldiers tailed and guided us across desert landscape in those pre-dawn hours. I know there was a good reason for the escort, what with all the political unrest in the country in recent years, but I was drifting in and out of sleep and I was dreaming that we were being protected from a chariot army.
If you’re old, middle-class or you love the company of boring people, cruises are ideal. For anyone else, cruises can be a viable travel option because they’re a good platform on which to see sights. You’re not stuck in one hotel in one city, you’re going down a river or seeing a bunch of places on one body of water. It’s comfortable and its safe, at least it is as long as you don’t choose the tours that involve armed escorts under cover of darkness.