Lake Nasser Cruise Holidays
Lake Nasser was formed when the High Dam was built above Aswan on the Nile. Built between 1960 and 1972 by Russian engineers, the High Dam has meant the end of Egypt's dependence on the annual flooding of the Nile, but has brought its own problems. The most pressing of these at the time of construction was the flooding of the Nile Valley in Nubia, which would cover both modern villages and many ancient Egyptian sites in deep water.
Several important Nubian and Ancient Egyptian archaeological sites, most spectacularly the temples at Abu Simbel, were dismantled block by block and moved to higher ground. The Sudanese river port and railway terminal of Wadi Halfa was lost beneath the waters and Egypt's entire Nubian community from the upper reaches of the Nile saw their villages disappear and were forced to relocate. Named in honour of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the second President of Egypt who led the bloodless coup that toppled the monarchy of King Farouk, Lake Nasser is a now a vast reservoir straddling southern Egypt and northern Sudan.
Strictly speaking, “Lake Nasser" refers only to the 83% of the man-made lake that is in Egyptian territory. The Sudanese prefer to call their smaller body of water Lake Nubia. Sport fishing among tourists, especially for Nile Perch, has become increasingly popular on the lake both on the shore and from boats. Very few Nile cruise companies cruise the lake itself, but Travcotels offer a choice of two ships: the Five-star Deluxe Jaz Omar El Khayam and the more intimate, four-star Tania.
Lake Nasser Cruise Ships
The Five-star Deluxe Jaz Omar El Khayam is one of the finest, most spacious and modern vessels in Travcotels’ impressive fleet. Dedicated to cruising Lake Nasser, it features 80 cabins all spacious and luxuriously furnished and equipped with the latest in entertainment systems. The ship’s main restaurant can accommodate all passengers at a single sitting, serving gourmet class cuisine. The Jaz Omar El Khayam has lots of facilities onboard including a billiard room, a large Sundeck with pool, Jacuzzi and the Cleopatra Spa. The Jaz Omar El Khayam is among the few ships operating on Lake Nasser with an itinerary that includes a four-night trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel and a three-night trip from Abu Simbel back to Aswan. There’s no better way to experience the sights and scenery of ancient Upper Egypt and indulge in 21st century luxury than a voyage aboard the Omar El Khayam.
The Tania is the second ship operating on Lake Nasser with an itinerary that includes a four-night trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel and a three-night trip from Abu Simbel back to Aswan. She is the smallest of the Travcotels fleet, measuring approximately 60 metres in length, and is the only vessel that carries a Four-star rating. Split over three levels, Tania offers a lake Nasser cruise with a highly personalised touch. Tastefully decorated, she carries an ambiance of warmth and comfort, yet still provides excellent service.
Lake Nasser and the Temples of Abu Simbel
The magnificent temples at Abu Simbel are impressive enough, but their greater fame probably stems from the fact that between January 1966 and September 1968 restoration workers carved the temples into over a thousand pieces with some of the blocks weighing as much as 30 tons each. The pieces were reassembled 200 feet further up the cliff face on an artificial hill above the reach of Lake Nasser.
The Two temples at Abu Simbel were originally carved out of the living rock during the reign of Rameses II as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Fought between the Egyptians and the Hittites, most scholars agree that Kadesh was hardly a victory but was probably the biggest chariot battle ever seen with over 6,000 war chariots used.
If you can visit Aswan and Abu Simbel in February or October, you may be lucky enough to witness the incredible sunrise over the temples. Built on a precise east – west axis, the temples are oriented so that the rays of the morning sun go straight through the heart of the Great Temple to the innermost sanctuary at dawn, illuminating the statues of Amun, Ramses II and Ra-Horakhty twice a year on February 22nd and October 22nd. Known as the “Perpendicular of the Sun on Abu Simbel”, this spectacular effect lasts for about 20 minutes.
The Great Temple
The Great Temple at Abu Simbel took about twenty years to build and was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah as well as elevating Rameses to being a god in his own right. All the statues represent Rameses II in some guise seated on a throne or appearing as the god Osiris and being worshipped himself by the god Set. Other statues show Nefertari, Rameses's chief wife, the queen mother, his two sons and his six daughters, but all these statues are much smaller and could not be allowed to be higher than the Pharaoh.
The Small Temple
The temple of Hathor and Nefertari is also known as the Small Temple and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Rameses II's wife, Nefertari. This was only the second temple in all Egyptian history to be dedicated to a queen (the only other example being Akhenaten’s temple to his royal wife, Nefertiti). What is equally unusual is the fact that the statues of the king and queen are equal in size. Traditionally, statues of queens always stood next to the Pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. This exception to such an established convention probably indicates the special importance attached to Nefertari by Rameses. The inside of the temple shows Nefertari participating in the same divine rituals as her husband with a statue of the goddess Hathor represented as a cow.
Aswan High Dam
Lake Nasser is the creation of the famous High Dam, which was considered an impressive, if controversial, engineering feat when it was built in the 1960s. It contains around 18 times the volume of material used in the construction of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Almost two miles long and 364 feet tall, it provides irrigation and electricity for the whole of Egypt. Together with the old Aswan Dam built by the British between 1898 and 1902, it also affords visitors magnificent views across the 500 miles of Lake Nasser to Kalabsha temple in the south and the huge power station to the north.
The High Dam increased viable farmland in Egypt and raised the water table for the Sahara as far away as Algeria. The electricity producing capability of the Dam doubled Egypt's available supply virtually overnight. There remain some issues about the environmental impact of the Dam and it is true that peoples and whole communities were ruthlessly uprooted during its construction. The relocation of the temples at Abu Simbel was another consequence of building the High Dam.
The High Dam has unquestionably brought tremendous benefits to Egypt. Before the Dam was built, the River Nile flooded each year during summer. These floods brought nutrients and minerals that enriched the fertile soil along the river and made the Nile valley ideal for farming. However, in high water years, those flood waters could also wipe out an entire year’s crop, so the need to protect farmland and the economically important cotton fields became far greater. In low-water years widespread drought and famine regularly occurred with equally disastrous effects. The reservoir storage provided by the Dam and Lake Nasser allows the cycle of flooding and drought to be controlled and mitigated. The hydroelectric power generation of the Aswan High Dam virtually doubled Egypt’s available electricity supply and has allowed many villages to use electricity for the first time.