The portion of the Nile River between Cairo and Luxor reopened this week to allow cruises to sail all the way from Cairo to Aswan.
Reports vary as to when this 465-mile stretch of the river was last open to overnight passenger ships. Some operators say it has been 15 years, and the Egyptian Tourist Authority said it has been closed since sometime in the 1980s.
The route was closed to cruises due in part to security concerns along this stretch of the Nile Valley and in part to unpredictable water levels.
“Now, after lengthy irrigation projects and a consensus that it is safe, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism has reopened this route, offering access to an unprecedented array of Egypt's ancient wonders,” a spokesperson for Abercrombie & Kent wrote in an email.
A&K plans to offer the entire 600-mile river cruise in 2013.
Prior to this stretch of the Nile reopening, most Egypt itineraries that include cruise began in Cairo. Then passengers usually took a one-hour flight to Luxor, where they began a 140-mile sailing to Aswan, visiting ancient sites along the way. Many operators add the option to fly or drive to Abu Simbel.
A&K’s current Egypt itineraries range between eight and 14 days. The new itinerary, with the much longer river cruise along the Nile, will be 16 days and will include several new stops between Cairo and Luxor.
The stops include Beni Hassan, where tombs were carved into the limestone cliffs on the east bank of the Nile dating back to the Middle Kingdom; Amarna, an ancient capital site built by King Akhenaten around 1350 B.C.; Sohag's Red & White Coptic Monasteries; and Abydos, a holy city center dedicated to the god Osiris and a burial place for kings and pharaohs dating back to the fourth millennium B.C.
Other Egypt operators are considering new itineraries.
“We were, in fact, informed by our local partners in Egypt that this stretch of the river is being reopened,” Guy Young, president of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, wrote in an email. Uniworld operates the 82-passenger River Tosca on the Nile.
“Based on this development, we have had some very preliminary discussions about creating an itinerary to Cairo, but nothing formalized as of yet.” Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.