In tandem with the news that the U.S. State Department lifted its travel alert last week (see report, below), Egypt unveiled another big development for its tourism prospects: The portion of Egypt's Lower Nile River between Cairo and Luxor, which has been off-limits to overnight passenger vessels for some 20 years or more, reopened last week to allow river cruises to sail all the way from Cairo to Aswan.
Reports vary as to when this 465-mile stretch of the river was closed to overnight passenger ships, due to security concerns and unpredictable water levels. Some operators say it has been 15 years, and the Egyptian Tourist Authority said it was sometime in the 1980s.
"Now, after lengthy irrigation projects and a consensus that it is safe, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism has reopened this route," an Abercrombie & Kent representative wrote in an email. A&K plans to offer the entire 600-mile river cruise starting in 2013.
Most Egypt itineraries that include a Nile River cruise begin in Cairo, and passengers then take a one-hour flight to Luxor, where they set off for a 140-mile cruise to Aswan. Many companies also offer optional visits to the archaeological site of Abu Simbel.
Many operators likely will continue to simply offer this itinerary: the cruise from Cairo all the way to Aswan more than quadruples the length of the cruise from Luxor to Aswan, and not everyone has the time or energy for that much Nile cruising.
But for those who do, Abercrombie & Kent is among the operators already offering the longer cruise as part of a 16-day Egypt itinerary for 2013 and notes the new ports that will now be included on the extended cruise.
They include Beni Hasan, where tombs were carved into the limestone cliffs on the east bank of the Nile during the Middle Kingdom; Amarna, an ancient capital built by King Akhenaten around 1350 B.C.; Sohag's Red and White Coptic Monasteries; and Abydos, a holy city center dedicated to the god Osiris dating to the fourth millennium B.C.