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Cruising the Nile on the Zahra, Egypt

Gerald Eskenazi
Posted: March 4, 2009

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The dining and amenities are remarkable. On our second breakfast, the waiter asked if we wanted the same strong coffee we had the day before. And would we like our eggs the same way? The staff quickly knew our names.

The meals were spectacular, not surprising since chef Siddhartha Chowdhry, from the sophisticated and welcoming Oberoi hotels in India, has always enjoyed Middle Eastern cooking as well. Thus, on every menu at lunch and dinner, at least one Indian and one Egyptian dish were on offer. There were always at least four appetizer choices, at least two soups and five main courses, such as spiced chicken and fig dumplings, or sesame-crusted tuna. One night, the chef had an all-Indian dinner and on another there was an all—Middle Eastern. Of course, diners can opt for Western dishes as well.

One of the best aspects of the cruise, which can be taken from either Aswan to Luxor or vice versa, was the personal attention. Every day we went ashore, sightseeing with a private guide and just two other couples. This quickly made for a wonderful collegial atmosphere—six people getting to know, and enjoy, one another. We ate together, swam together, sipped wines together.

And those shore excursions! Being led into 4,500-year-old temples, examining the writings (we learned a bit about hieroglyphics), taking in the Valley of the Kings, standing under immense statues, their ancient stares peering out into infinity. We could take all the pictures we wanted in many of the temples too.

The experience was something unique in my travels, combining sightseeing with fine food, relaxation and camaraderie. I especially enjoyed those moments in late afternoon on the deck, sunning myself after swimming, looking at Nile life as it must have looked to sailors millennia back. I was not only witnessing history, I felt I was part of it.

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