Once you leave Cairo and travel south to the cities of Aswan and Luxor, plus everything in between, you will get a different taste of Egypt. The major destination cities are all along the Nile River, and the best way to visit them is by taking a cruise.
My friends and I had flown down to Aswan from Cairo where we spent the night. The next day we boarded our cruise ship and headed up the Nile until we landed in Luxor. In those four days, we visited many different temples, and had amazing experiences.
This part of our trip, Aswan to Luxor, was very special when it came to what we ate and drank. My long time friends and I spent long afternoons at a couple of historic luxury hotels and had cocktails, afternoon tea, and dinner. They were enchanting and luxurious experiences to remember!
Dinner and Cocktails at the Old Cataract Hotel – Aswan
The Old Cataract Hotel has an impressive history dating back to 1899 when it was built by Thomas Cook. It was constructed as a Luxury Five Star Hotel, and has hosted notable travelers as Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, Tsar Nicholas II, Former President Jimmy Carter, and Queen Noor. As well as the brilliant Agatha Christie who set her novel Death on the Nile at this hotel. There is also a small library inside that is dedicated to Agatha Christie, and is a reading room with many of her beloved novels.
For my complete blog and review 👩🏻💻➡ An evening at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt
Once the sun went down it was time for our superb dinner. If you decide to have dinner at the Old Cataract Hotel or are staying here, make sure that you time your dinner after sunset. Cocktails before dinner have always been a standard for myself and my friends. Although having cocktails in this setting before dinner was one for the ‘Trixie Books’!
On to dinner and desserts!
- Grilled sea bass with Thai coconut cream – Coriander – Basmati rice with dill
- Sea bass fillet steamed with lemongrass, asparagus and mushroom – Sauce vierge with ginger
- Penne pasta with tomato sauce and chicken
- Chocolate brownie – Chocolate sauce – Caramel Peanut
- Vanilla Crème Brulee – Fresh fruit
- Vanilla Vacherin ice cream – Red fruit coulis – Lemon juice
For more information 👩🏻💻➡ An evening at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt
Breakfasts at Philae Hotel – Aswan
I would say that our breakfasts and the sweet lady who made them were much nicer than our stay at this hotel. It was not a bad hotel, there were just some hiccups at check-in. Oh, also the towels were rough and crisp like sandpaper. If you want to know more, you can read my review on Booking.com.
We had two breakfasts here and one was served when we arrived, which was very nice of them to prepare special for us. The older lady who made our breakfasts was very kind, and almost treated us like we were her family. Maybe I am reading into this, but that is how my friend’s and I felt about her.
On our second morning at the hotel, she made us chocolate and banana crepes. We were very surprised, and she seemed very happy that we were happy.
For breakfasts we were also given morning vegetables, of cucumbers and tomatoes, which are common throughout the Middle East and Europe. Additionally, there were crisps and fresh falafel on the table.
Breakfasts here were a mix of traditional and international, which were quite good. It was a great way to start off our very adventure filled days in Aswan. Many thanks to the kind lady who prepared and brought out our breakfasts in the morning. I still say, that I know we were her favorite guests during our stay!
Cruising the Nile River
One of our big experiences that we did in Egypt was a four day cruise, up the river that started in Aswan and finished in Luxor. It was quite a rigorous four days of waking up early, and meeting our private guides for a tour of whatever temple was at our port of call. It was a great and educational four days though. We did have cruising time, where we lounged on the sun deck, had drinks, and met new people. It was an unforgettable four days.
As with every cruise there was a lot of food, but I did not photograph our full meals, since they were buffets. The food was international, it was good but quite boring. Although I did take several food photos that may seem ordinary to most, but they triggered very special and fun memories.
— Wine Trick —
During our first lunch on board, our server decided to give us a little show, which was a fun balancing act of forks on the cork. When he was finished, and about to walk away with the half empty bottle of wine, I asked him if we could have the wine inside. I said to him that he could have the bottle to keep doing the tricks at other tables, but no need to waste the wine.
As you can see, he gave us the wine! I felt like an alcohol beggar, although I did ask politely and with decorum. I thanked him and we headed upstairs to the sun deck, with a glass of free wine in hand, and a view of the Nile River- Bon Voyage!
— Smuggled Hot Sauce —
You know how it is on a cruise, sometimes you have interesting table mates that sit with you at every meal. We were sharing our table with a small group from Thailand who were wandering around Egypt just like us. Although, unlike us they brought on their own condiments.
As soon as they sat down with their first plate from the buffet, one gentleman reached into his murse (man’s purse), and pulled out this bottle- Mae Ploy Green Spicy Seafood Sauce. I am familiar with Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce as that is what Filipinos use with lumpia. He let us try it and it was very good, that I took a picture of it, so I could remember it.
— Pastries, Coffee and the Girl in Red —
We had just finished a morning tour with a horse and carriage ride to the Edfu Temple, and were being brought back to the ship. We saw a young girl in red, who was mute and looked disheveled. She was selling tissue, and around her were the men who were exploiting her. I do not remember if we gave her money at that time, but we quickly walked down the stairs and on to our ship. There were many people selling things, and we did not want to get caught up in the chaos with our wallets out.
As soon as we got on board, there was coffee and an assortment of pastries for our morning snack. We thought it would be nice to bring it up to the sun deck, and take in the views of the Nile River and Edfu. My friend and I could not help but watch the young girl in red, speaking with her hands, and trying to sell tissue. Harshini, my friend, who has the biggest heart wanted to help her but we resisted giving her money. We knew it would go to her tissue pimp, and she would never see it.
So we went down to the dining room to stash some pastries and give them to her. Unfortunately, the kitchen staff had already taken away all of the pastries but they were nice enough to give us a pile of sweet bread slices. We walked outside, up the stairs, and called to the girl in red. Her tissue pimps were already asking if we wanted to take a picture with her for money, but we handed her the cake instead. She gave my friend a big hug, something that I am sure that young girl does not get enough of. Once the boat started to leave, we saw her walking away after handing something to a man. I was hoping it was not the bread slices.
— RUM Filled Pina Colada —
Considering Egypt is non-alcohol country, I figured that was why we tasted no rum in our drinks. My friend and I ordered Pina Coladas while on the sun deck, as we were cruising down the Nile River. Once we took a sip, we looked at each other with that “Do you taste that? No alcohol!” look.
We motioned to the server and told him that there was not any alcohol inside. Well, he fixed that alright! He came over with a bottle of rum, and poured in as much as he could without a spill over. It was so great that I put my hat on it, and then ordered another one.
— Crisp Dilemma —
I had actually taken a video of my friends and I opening up these bags of chips, and posted it on Instagram. I started off by saying “So, this is our crisp dilemma!” That dilemma was opening up a bag of air and like five chips. I thought that this couldn’t be right, but everyone’s bag had the same amount of air and chips.
I asked the server on deck if we could have ten of them, and he smirked at me. I do not think we saw for the rest of the evening.
— Pizza Craving —
On our last night on the ship and after our buffet dinner, my friend said that she was craving a pizza. It looked as if they had everything to make a pizza on their buffet spread, so we walked into the kitchen and as asked if they could make us one. Sure enough they made us one and charged us for it! We understood since it was not part of the meal plan, and they did take time to make it.
I had a slice and it was pretty good considering they used the items from their buffet spread, and made the pizza dough from scratch. The funny thing was that we were so full from dinner and now this pizza, that we ate only half of it. We did not want to waste it, so we gave the other half to the store owner who gave Nicole the Snickers bar (see below).
— Nicole’s Food Radar —
I swear this girl has radar for food! If you want to know where the American junk food is in the middle of Egypt, bring Nicole on a trip. Within thirty minutes, she landed a Snickers bar and a plate of French fries, while on the cruise.
She landed the Snickers bar in a very random fashion, while we were browsing through the shops on the ship. The owner of one the shops and Nicole started to talk, and that was when I walked away. All of a sudden, she comes walking out and thanking the man because he gave her a Snickers Bar from his private stash! He did not charge for it because he understood what it was like to have chocolate cravings. I was tempted to ask if he had any marzipan, but I figured that would be pushing it.
As for the fries, we were sitting on the sun deck and I had just taken that photo of her with the Snickers Bar. Out of nowhere, she stands up and walks to a loud table of Americans because she spotted plates of french fries. They told her to go to the kitchen, ask for fries, and they will bring it up to her. I had not seen her walk that fast in a very long time!
— We Found the Americans —
We loved these loud drunk Americans! It was Nicole who first approached them when she spotted their plates of fries. They also had their drink package included, so several of them were pretty lit. We sang songs, swatted flies, and spoke about traveling. They were a very lively group.
One of several group shots that we took with our new American friends. Don’t you love meeting new people while traveling?
Twinkies and Instant Coffee
I have not eaten a Twinkie in a very long time, actually I think I may eaten about four in my lifetime. I just do not like them, and find them very processed tasting and unpalatable. So for me to see Twinkies laid out on a table with instant coffee was bizarre. Let me add that it was not even 5:00 AM, we were on small boats to take us across the Nile, so we could watch the sun rise in hot air balloons.
I let my curiosity get the best of me though. I thought that I would try a Twinkie again, and see if it tasted different in Egypt. It could not be any worse than the instant coffee that I was about to down. Nope, my mistake it was worse. I should have just left it because now I had to eat the whole thing as not to be rude. I really hate Twinkies.
Coffee, Tea, and Shopping
As part of many day tours, you may be brought shopping for merchandise that is special to the region. Some people on the tours do not like it but others do. You do not have to purchase anything, but it gives you the chance to shop safely without being harassed. Plus nicely laid out stores do offer you a beverage while you listen to their sales pitch.
On this day, we were in Luxor and our guide brought us into an alabaster store which to me was great. I wanted to purchase quality alabaster items that were locally crafted. It is known that in many of the souvenir shops, a lot of items are made in China. Plus there is a story of the local government, an archeological dig, and people loosing their homes as another reason to purchase alabaster in Luxor.
So after one Turkish coffee and one hibiscus tea, I walked out with over $125 in Alabaster products. I think it was closer to $185 though!
Lunch by the Luxor Temple
Me: “Oh my God. I think this is lamb.”
We were on the mini-bus when our guide was taking our lunch orders, so he could call them into a local restaurant. He mentioned there was fish and chips, a chicken dish, and a traditional stew with meat. Since I like to try traditional food, I chose the stew with the meat. I must have been tired because I did not question what type of meat, but the meat was lamb. I am not against people eating lamb, and I occasionally eat it mixed in with a dish like gyro. I personally do not eat anything that is a baby or cute, but that is just me.
I was not rude and did not ask to return my dish. Instead I ate around the lamb, and watched my friends polish off their crispy fish and chips. I did like the rice, pita bread, salad, and hummus though.
A Very Posh Afternoon at Winter Palace – Luxor
Since I am obsessed with afternoon tea and historical places, it was no wonder that I wanted to go that extra mile and spend the afternoon at Winter Palace. The history of this Luxury Five Star Hotel dates back to the British Colonial era, and was inaugurated in 1907. The Old Winter Palace had seen its share of events and notables in the over one hundred years that it has been standing. Many European Royals have stayed here, as well as the author, Agatha Christie. This is where she wrote her famous book, ‘Death on the Nile’.
The Royal Bar inside the Old Winter Palace is just that, a very royal bar. Since we were the only ones there, we had these luxurious rooms to ourselves. Well, the bartender and server were also there, and they were incredible hosts to us ladies looking for a drink.
The tea service was elegant, but I was not expecting anything less. Placed along the classic styled coffee table were delicate embroidered napkins, fine linen, and monogramed china. It was very beautiful, and I know all of us ladies felt special to have tea here.
One of my favorite savories of this afternoon tea were the little canapes topped with cucumber and kofta, which is Egyptian minced meat.
Cocktails, afternoon tea, a colorful sunset, and walking through the Royal Garden- I would say that our day at Winter Palace was extraordinary, and an afternoon well spent.
For more information 👩🏻💻➡ Cocktails, Afternoon Tea and a Sunset at Winter Palace in Luxor, Egypt
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property- Trixie Navarre
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