A Nile cruise is an essential part of any Egypt luxury vacation, and so important, in fact, that the cruise should join the entire vacation. Egypt is nothing without the Nile, and the ancient Egyptians even had a god devoted only to the Nile: Hapi.
Until the Aswan high dam was completed in July, 1970, the Egyptians depended on the annual 'inundation' for the water to irrigate their fields and provide them with the vital crops needed for survival in a country that was all desert other than the occasional oasis , and the fertile land each side of the Nile. The inundation occurred from June to September and came from summer floods in the highlands of Ethiopia. The Nile would break its banks and flood, leaving behind a rich dark silt essential for agriculture.
The inundation was a sign that Hapi had come, and the ancient Egyptians were very happy to see Hapi (sorry!). During the inundation the farmers had nothing to do, and in order to avoid paying taxes when they had no income they would work for the pharaohs by building pyramids: they were not built by slaves as popularly believed.
The whole of Egypt's civilization was developed along the Nile, and a good Nile cruise should enable you to get a perspective on how the ancient Egyptians lived, in addition to how today's population of this part of Egypt still remains on this vast river – the longest in the world, greater even than the mighty Amazon.
You should start at Cairo, not only the capital city of Egypt, but also one of the most populous in the world. This was not the important city it now is in the ancient days, but it is a magnet for Egyptologists from all over the world. The pyramids of Giza are close by, and this is the permanent site of the Tutankhamun exhibition. However, there is more to modern Cairo than just ancient Egypt, and five thousand years of culture can be seen and visited here, including the great Mohammed Mosque and the Citadel of Sala Al-Din, commonly known as Saladin. The citadel dates from the time of the crusades, when Europe fostered the Muslims to reclaim Jerusalem and the Holy Land for the Christians.
As mentioned above, Cairo was not the capital of ancient Egypt – that was Memphis, and not the Memphis that you know. This Memphis beat a different tune, and ruled the world as the Egyptians knew it for almost 600 years. You must visit the Saqqara, where the royals were laid to rest for the last time through the eras of the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman periods. The Egyptian Pharonic dynasties lasted much longer than either of these other two, largely due to its means of success although the Egyptians were not without their scheming and murdering for power.
'Must visits' are the Great Pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx lying beside them, and also St. Louis. Sergius church where Jesus and his parents stayed after leaving Jerusalem. The you should head off for Luxor (ancient Thebes) where the pharaohs stayed during the winter months. Try to book into the Winter Palace Hotel, and check up on the guest book. Here you will find Howard Carter, who discovered Tutenkhamun's tomb, Agatha Christie while she was researching 'Death on the Nile', Henry Kissinger, Sir Winston Churchill, King Farouk, George Clemenceau and many, many more.
No Egyptian vacations are complete without a visit to the Valley of the Kings, just over the river from Luxor, or Thebes as the pharaohs knew it. It was here that the kings and nobles of the 18th through 20th dynasties were buried, from the 16th to the 11th centuries BC; a thousand years after the pyramids were built. The most famous temple here is the Temple of Karnak, built over many generations and that must be visited during your Nile cruise. The same is true of the Temple of the Goddess Hathor at Luxor. Hathor was depicted with a cow's head, and was the goddess of family love, pleasure and beauty, sometimes associated with the Greek Aphrodite.
There are many, many more places to visit and sights to see on a Nile cruise, and most Egypt vacations will likely be unable to show you them all. The Aswan High Dam, which stopped the inundations and allowed more regular irrigation, is one of them. Abu Simbel is another, where two examples were physically moved to avoid flooding when the dam was built, one of these being identified by Rameses II.
Without a doubt, Egypt vacations that include a Nile cruise rank right up there with the best vacations possible. You are visiting the longest river on earth, and one that a whole civilization depended upon for its survival for thousands of years. Not only that, but a civilization that was greater than the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations combined, although it has not been given the credit it describes.