The mighty Nile has been the lifeblood of Egypt since the beginning of civilization. Along its fertile banks surrounded by the sands of the desert ancient Egypt prospered. Thousands of years lure visitors in with the remains of breathtaking monuments, a rugged coastline teeming coral life, and a culture that has evolved over millennia. In late 2019 we traveled to this Northern Africa nation to see if the magic still exists.
Egypt is the gift of the Nile so there is no better way to explore than a cruise down the river. It’s tough to find a boat more fitting for a cruise than SS Sudan. It is the only steamship that still sails the Nile and has played host to Agatha Christie and the King of Egypt. The wooden steamer dates back over a century and will transport you back in time to the ancient wonders of Edfu, Dendara, and The Valley of The Kings.
The Steam Ship Sudan still ferries guests back and forth from Luxor to Aswan. It is a magical trip and one of our favorites in years.
Cruising the Nile River on the SS Steam Ship Sudan
I can’t quite remember what brought me to the Steam Ship Sudan website. Always in search of something unique I’m certain it was a Google search that went something like this, “Unique ways to cruise the Nile River.”
As soon as I saw photos of the Steam Ship Sudan I knew it was the ship we would experience Egypt on.
This ship is over 100 years old, and between 1922 and 1935 it enjoyed the “golden age” of Nile River cruising. In 1933, Agatha Christie embarked on an archaeological mission and was inspired to write Death on the Nile, with people she met on the cruise becoming real-life characters in the book.
When the Second World War started the SS Sudan was docked for more than 50 years, and between 2000 and 2011 The Voyageurs Collection completely modernized and renovated it, offering luxury sailing trips up and down the Nile.
Now it sits as one of the last reminders of the golden era in Egypt. It’s easily the most beautiful ship on the Nile, and only battles a few for the title of most luxurious Nile river cruise.
SS Sudan Nile River Cruise Itinerary
Most Nile River cruises start in Luxor and cruise to Aswan or vice versa. We had no preference, but due to the ship’s scheduling boarded in Luxor and cruised for six nights/five days to Aswan. Along the way, we stopped at many famous ancient Egyptian sites.
Every day was filled with something new and amazing. Abdul, our English speaking guide joined us each day to share tales about Ancient Egyptian life. All itineraries will go something like this.
Board Ship in Luxor
Passengers begin to board the Steam Ship Sudan from 10 am onward. Lunch is served on board and then it’s time to explore the famous Karnak Temple. This is one of the most famous sacred sites in the world!
Karnak is a huge site and really starts any Egypt trip off with a bang. You’ll have a few hours to explore Karnak Temple before returning to the Steam Ship Sudan and sailing to Qena. This was our first time truly sailing the Nile and admiring the banks of the Nile River with the sun setting.
Explore Abydos and Dendara
Once in Qena, we found ourselves waking up well before sunrise to head to Abydos. Abydos is a two-hour drive from the port and one of the less-visited sites in Egypt. We actually needed police escorts for this day as it truly is off the beaten path.
Abydos is a holy city, it was a site of pilgrimage and is one of the oldest Ancient Egyptian sites. From a religious point of view, Abydos is the main place of worship of Osiris, the most popular of the funerary gods. Visitors need a good three hours to explore here.
On the way back we stopped at the Temple of Dendara. Dendara is the spot of the temple of Hathor, Goddess of Love and Joy. It remains my favorite stop on our entire Egyptian trip. It’s not on the well visited path either and is truly different than any other ancient Egyptian site we visited. Great for all our lady readers to enjoy as it’s pretty much all about womanly love.
Valley of the Kings and Queens/ Luxor Temple
Another early morning start brought us to the Valley of the Kings. Near Luxor, this is a valley in Egypt where, between the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were excavated for the pharaohs and other nobles.
Nearby is the Valley of the Queens, where the wives of pharaohs were buried in ancient times. The most famous and most expensive site to visit here is Tomb of Queen Nefertari. It’s inside this tomb that the hieroglyphics and paintings really come alive.
The descriptions are the most beautiful and colorful we saw in all of Egypt. Visitor time inside the tomb is limited and no cameras are allowed (besides phones). I would highly recommend paying the price to see this tomb, but on the Steam Ship Sudan cruise it is actually included in the tour. A pleasant surprise!
The day is not over quite yet as you’ll now head back to Luxor to see Luxor Temple before lunch and enjoying evening on board.
Temple of Edfu and Kom Ombo
One of the most preserved ancient buildings in Ancient Egypt is the Temple of Edfu located in the modern city of Edfu. Part of this temple is dedicated to Horus and Hathor.
I loved getting to this stop early with the ship as we were the first to arrive and have the site all to ourself. After the Temple of Edfu we finally had some free time to enjoy the beauty of the ship and completely relax.
As we continued our journey to Aswan we stopped off at one more temple on the way. Kom Ombo is dedicated to the Falcon God and Crocodile God. We were able to venture into this temple at night and even see mummified crocodiles!
Temple of Philae
Our last full day saw us sailing to Aswan. After enjoying morning on board the SS Sudan we docked in Aswan to explore the Temple of Philae. Home to Isis, the Goddess of marriage and fertility, motherhood, and magic this is easily one of the most important and most visited temples in Egypt.
Aswan and the Old Cataract Hotel
Sadly, the time had come where we had to depart the SS Sudan. We were transferred by Felucca to the Old Cataract Hotel so that we could enjoy and explore Aswan. The SS Sudan works in conjunction with the Sofitel Old Cataract, and almost half the passengers on board the SS Sudan continued to the Old Cataract for a few days.
The Old Cataract is the most iconic hotel in all of Egypt. It to, is over 100 years old and has had many notable guests included Tsar Nicholas II, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, Princess Diana, and Agatha Christie. It’s a dreamy place to stay and the perfect spot to start or end your Nile River Cruise.
Note that this itinerary is sometimes reversed as the cruise sails both from Aswan to Luxor and Luxor to Aswan
The Steam Ship Sudan Interior
The SS Sudan has five suites and 18 cabins. We stayed in the beautiful Aida suite in the stern. The suites are luxurious and provide unparalleled views of the Nile.
On the SS Sudan, you will also find a beautiful dining room and 1930s style bar. This is also where you will find limited WiFi. At the top of the ship is another bar, loungers, and an all-around relaxation point. It’s the perfect spot for reading a book and watching the sunset on the Nile.
The SS Sudan Staff
Most, if not all, the staff on board the SS Sudan are Egyptian. They are all lovely and go out of their way to make your stay onboard more comfortable.
Without them, the ship wouldn’t even be half as fun. Don’t forget to ask the captain or engine guys to show you the fully operational engine room down below deck!
Amir, the ship’s manager speaks excellent English, French, and Arabic and is the perfect smiling face to the Sudan as a whole. Thank you!
Onshore guides are mainly freelancers hired out by the SS Sudan many times. They are all among some of the best in the business. The passengers on our cruise were divided between English and French speakers and each group had their own guide. However, if you speak another language let them know during the booking as they have guides for all languages.
Abdul, our English speaking Nubian guide was excellent and provided enthusiasm and knowledge that kept our group excited at all times!
Should You Cruise the Nile on the SS Sudan?
We adjusted our entire Egyptian itinerary to make a Nile River Cruise on the Steam Ship Sudan happen and were not disappointed. We were looking for something totally unique, different, and beautiful to make this iconic journey and found it with the SS Sudan and her crew. Here is to another 100 years with this steamer on the Nile!
Plan and Pack for a Nile River Cruise
Get a Travel Credit Card
How do we travel so much and avoid going broke? Well, we actually have many travel rewards credit cards. How many? Over 20 to be exact. If you’re a responsible credit card user I highly recommend looking at these travel rewards credit cards and earning points and airmiles for your purchases.
I love wearing a relaxed pant when we travel. The Women’s Mantra pants are made out of hemp and recycled polyester while offering 50+ UPF protection. They are perfect for Egypt as they’re comfortable and conservative.
These pants are lightweight and weigh nothing in a carry-on bag. I could literally live in these pants if it were acceptable to wear them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner out. Cameron has now found his favorite pair of pants in the men’s version which is the Vaha Pant.
It’s best to bring a pair of breathable shoes to walk around Egypt The hear in Northern Africa and Egypt is intense. This means if you don’t want your feet to always feel sweaty and stinky wear cool and comfortable shoes.
I love the Allbird Tree Runners for their breathability in situations like this. I’ve been going strong in them for two years! Check out my other recommendations on women’s shoes, and the best men’s travel shoes.
Just throwing this into your bag is going to make packing for Egypt a breeze. A Shemagh is the perfect travel accessory for both the men and the women travelers out there. This can be worn for just about anything. It will keep you warm, cover your face, protect valuables in your backpack, and even double as an eye mask the shemagh has tons of different uses.
It’s perfect for anyone heading into the Sahara wanting to keep the sand out of their face. I would personally recommend buying this before you land because once you travel to the desert there will plenty of touts willing to sell you a cheap one at an exorbitant price.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Egypt. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
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