The only other hotel we stayed in during our journey was the Steigenberger Nile Palace in Luxor for one night. The Steigenberger was even better than the Fairmont in Cairo. We had a superb room with a balcony overlooking the Nile. However, the restaurants and bars at the Fairmont were better.
It was a little strange being on the cruise ships because both boats could accommodate about 120 passengers and there were only 20-30 on board. In fact, as I understand it, the 2016-17 season was the first season in four years that cruising had resumed on Lake Nasser.
The Prince Abbas, our boat on Lake Nasser, is an older boat built in 1998 and renovated in 2007, but it needs redecorating. However, having said that, we were very comfortable with an upgraded large room, an excellent bed and a small but quite adequate bathroom. The Royal Lily, our boat on the Nile, is 10 years newer than the Prince Abbas with much more modern facilities. Both ships are managed by Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts, a Swiss owned company.
In all cases whether on land or water, quite lavish breakfast buffets came with our rooms. There were a few evenings when we were on our own for dinner, but in those cases, the hotels had several reasonable food options. Overall, the food was terrific. Basically, it is bean, grain, fruit and vegetable based with some fish and a smattering of meat. I couldn’t get enough of the various iterations of falafel. The bread in particular is fabulous, often cooked in clay ovens. The fruit juices and concoctions are also wonderful.
There were two meals that were especially outstanding. As I wrote earlier, our guide Hassan is an avid fisherman. On our last night on Lake Nasser he went fishing at some painfully early hour with a couple of friends and caught three large lake perch. He had them carefully packed in ice and transported them to the chef aboard our Nile River boat. The next day the chef prepared them three ways – fried, baked and grilled – for us to consume for lunch. The meal was magnificent.
The other outstanding meal was the lunch we had in Luxor at a farmer’s home on the west bank of the Nile. Ahmed and his family have lived on their 4-6 acre farm for 50 years since the family was displaced by the building of the dam in Aswan. His mother and her daughters-in-law do all of the cooking and Ahmed and his brothers raise most of the ingredients on the farm. They really waste nothing, including the palm fronds and banana leaves from the trees surrounding their house. They make both baskets and furniture from these materials. They even recycle egg cartons that they get from the Nile tourist boats to make the molds for their fabulous rye bread, a grain they also grow on their farm. I managed to buy a beautiful large basket from them. I think they were more than a little surprised that I wanted it. If I were still running my gallery, I would have purchased a dozen.