Cruising the Nile in Style

Drifting through history on a luxury yacht with Ya’lla Tours

By: Riana Lagarde

Imagine serenely floating down the Nile on a full-service luxury yacht, drifting by tranquil farms where sacred cattle graze along the water’s edge, while tiny barges, overloaded with fresh-cut papyrus, make their way downstream. After a few moments, between the swaying palm trees on the horizon, you can make out ruins of the massive Temple of Horus at Edfu, dating from the reign of the Ptolemy Dynasty during the 4th century B.C.

This is exactly what you might experience when you take a Nile riverboat cruise between Aswan and Luxor one of many deluxe Egyptian packages available from Ya’lla Tours. I found myself aboard the Royal Lotus, a five-star luxury cruiser that had been recently acquired by Movenpick Resorts, a Swiss company with regional offices in Egypt and the Middle East.

Our days were spent docked along the banks, and visiting the many temples of Isis, Hathor and Horus, attempting to read hieroglyphics and absorbing the ancient history of the region from our very own Egyptologist, provided as a private guide by Ya’lla for all groups of 10 or more. We also had plenty of opportunity (and enthusiasm) for shopping in Aswan, where we visited a perfume manufacturer. Here, the essential oils of lotus and jasmine flowers are distilled to be used in the fragrances of famous French perfumeries. After retreating to the boat at night, we would feast on Arabic delights and belly dance until our feet hurt. Then we would sink into our downy beds to dream of the day’s adventures.

In our cabins, bowls of exotic fruit awaited us, along with towels folded into the shape of swans atop our comfy feather beds. An in-suite bathroom featured a full-size bathtub flanked by marble trim and elegant raised sinks made of glass. After a peaceful night’s sleep, I took a stroll along the top deck, where a pretty pool surrounded by lounge chairs seemed to call my name through the Egyptian heat.

The Royal Lotus is just one of the vessels offered by Ya’lla in their Diamond category. The opulent new yacht, christened the Sonesta Star Goddess, has become the jewel of the Nile. Accommodations aboard the cruiser consist of 33 large suites, each named after a classical composer, including Bach, Mozart and Chopin. All suites have been fitted with plasma TVs, wireless Internet and satellite service. Not far behind in grandeur sit the Nile Philae and the Alexander the Great. (Check scheduled sailing times at Ya’lla’s Web site.)

The months between October and April are the best for a low-key cruise down the Nile, with Christmastime being the busiest season. Itineraries generally span three to six days, and cruises usually depart or arrive in either Luxor or Aswan, depending on whether you prefer a sail up- or downstream. Stops include Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut’s Temple, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Aswan’s High Dam, the Unfinished Obelisk and the Temple of Philae. Private felucca boats (a wooden boat with a canvas sail) are also available for a trip to the islands to see Nubian villages up close.


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Note: Ya’lla recently announced the opening of Ya’lla Tours Egypt as a full-service ground operator in Egypt, offering accommodations, transportation and guiding.