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The river Nile immediately conjures up images of the Pyramids of Giza, and making the distinct journey across the sands of Egypt towards one of the world’s most revered and respected historical landmarks.

But the world’s longest river stretches far beyond Egypt, meandering through Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda, before finding itself at the beginning of the great Lake Victoria.

This guide will show you that there are plenty of artefacts and architecture to be found beyond the Great Sphinx.

Top Must See Sights on the River Nile

#1 The Karnack Temple Complex

Egypt Karnack Temple RF

Where: Luxor, Egypt

A natural starting point for many Nile tours, Luxor is home to the impressively intricate Karnack Temple complex, and is eerily intact with detailed hieroglyphic carvings – its golden-brown stone pillars reflect the midday sun gloriously.

The complex is one of the largest religious buildings ever constructed; it’s a whole precinct of temples that covers more than 100 hectares, all built over 2,000 years ago.

In ancient times, the centrepiece of the complex was understood to be the original home of Amun-Re, the Egyptian sun god. Now most of the temples are in ruins (excavated in the 20th century), but you can easily imagine how awe inspiring it must have been in its day.

If you find yourself heading up or down the river Nile in search of amazing sights, make sure you catch a glimpse of this outstanding collection of pillars, columns and obelisks.

#2 The Ancient Site of Beni Hasan

BeniHasanTombs2

Where: Middle Egypt

The Beni Hasan archaeological site lies on the eastern bank of the Nile, south of Cairo. With enough history to satisfy even the most intrepid, Beni Hasan boasts 39 tombs, dating back to the 11th and 12th dynasties (2125–1795 BC).

It is said that British Archaeologist John Garstang discovered even earlier tombs here, dating back to the 6th and 7th dynasties. To offer some perspective on just how old this is, the date range could go back as far as 2345 BC (so 4,300 years).

When visiting the ancient site you’ll find the Tomb of Khety and Amenmehat, and dwindling away the hours marvelling at these historical artefacts is the easiest and most satisfying pastime. These are rock-cut tombs, which means they’ve been cut directly into the existing limestone cliff face.

While there are 39 tombs, only four are actually open to the public. Visiting means you can see ancient rock art / wall paintings that were ‎common in the Middle Kingdom. This artwork depicts fascinating scenes of domestic life and political tensions (military battles) from the period.

Image: Roland Unger [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

#3 Murchison Falls National Park

African elephant RF

Where: Uganda

Murchison Falls National Park is a natural beauty that simply can’t be put into words … but we’ll do our best to give it a go!

The area became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952. Large, powerful cliff faces surround either side of the Nile as it crashes through an 8 meter wide gorge. Stunning greenery climbs up the rocks towards safer land above.

Murchison Falls is the highlight of the park; also its namesake. The Nile plunges 45m over a remnant rift valley wall, creating a dramatic waterfall that flows into 80km of rapids. And because of this guaranteed water source, 76 species of African mammals are regular visitors to the riverbanks.

The park is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, and with a vast, palm-dotted savanna, you’ll be surrounded by African bush elephants, Ugandan kob, Rothschild’s giraffes and buffalos. Hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents of the river.

Spending time in Uganda at Murchison Falls National Park is an easy way to remind yourself that the Nile’s endless beauty can be found all across its distance, not just in the North.

#4 Meroë Royal City

Nubian Pyramids, Meroe, Sudan

Where: Sudan

Meroë is an ancient city, perched on the Nile’s eastern bank, and it’s here where you can see more pyramids per square mile than anywhere else (including Egypt).

A short drive away from Shendi, Sudan, Meroë was once the capital of the Kingdom of Kush, situated in ancient Nubia. The Kingdom collapsed in the 4th Century AD, due to conflict, rebellion and unrest, though their impressive archaeology still stands today.

Although much smaller in scale than that of the Pyramids of Giza, the surviving detail and intricate nuances of the architectural structures remains striking. You’ll be able to explore pyramids, temples, palaces, and areas that shaped the political, religious, and technological scene of this region for more than 1000 years.

The best part? Unlike the Pyramids of Giza, Meroë Royal City is largely off the beaten path, and experiences very little tourism. You’ll actually feel like an intrepid explorer; without barriers stopping you from touching the ruins, it’s a very authentic experience, with almost no commercialism.

Image: Nina R [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

#5 Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings Egypt

Where: Luxor, Egypt

For the final stop on our tour, we recommend the Valley of the Kings, which brings us full circle to Luxor in Egypt.

Valley of the Kings is a spectacular area, where, for almost half a millennium, tombs were dug out for deceased pharaohs and nobles of the day. The valley was in use from the 16th to the 11th century BC, which was Egypt’s New Kingdom.

It is most famous as the final resting place for pharaohs such as Tutankhamun, Seti I and Ramses II. The mummification preservation process was carried out in order to keep the body in good condition for the afterlife, allowing the deceased’s soul to live on forever.

When the high and mighty figures of Egyptian history were buried here, they were buried along with their riches, treasures, food and wine. These were thought to see them through into the afterlife.

Some pharaohs even had their favorite pets buried with them, which at the time, could’ve included anything from cats and dogs to baboons. As you can imagine, unearthing these tombs for the first time would have been quite a phenomenal find!

The Valley is not to be missed if you’re travelling on a Nile river cruise, and more recent discoveries, such as the excavation of KV 63, mean the site holds just as much mystery today as it ever has.

Image: Hatty321 (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

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