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Lord Carnarvon cruises the Nile, 100 years after his great-grandfather discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb

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Egypt was an enormous a part of my great grandfather’s life. The fifth Earl of Carnarvon used to come back here from the tip of December to the start of April from 1906 until 1922 – and now I’m visiting Egypt over again, although in the warmth of summer.

So, thank goodness for Viking Osiris’s superb air-con.

It has been an honour to be made godfather of Viking Osiris — the tradition is frequently for a lady to call a ship (my wife Fiona is godmother to 2 Viking ships) so it’s serendipitous because that is the centenary 12 months of the invention of Tutankhamun by my great-grandfather and the archaeologist Howard Carter.

Lord Carnarvon journeys down the Nile on the Viking Osiris (above), a ship he was recently made godfather of. Viking Osiris’s Pyramids and Pharaohs cruise along the Nile includes each the Pyramids of Giza and Tutankhamun’s tomb within the Valley of the Kings

Lord Carnarvon outside Tutankhamun's tomb during his latest trip to Egypt on a river cruise This year is the centenary year of the discovery of Tutankhamun by Lord Carnarvon's great-grandfather and the archaeologist Howard Carter

Lord Carnarvon (left) outside Tutankhamun’s tomb during his latest trip to Egypt on a river cruise. This 12 months is the centenary 12 months of the invention of Tutankhamun by his great-grandfather and the archaeologist Howard Carter (right)

Fiona and I are on board Viking Osiris’s Pyramids and Pharaohs cruise along the Nile, which incorporates each the Pyramids of Giza and Tutankhamun’s tomb within the Valley of the Kings.

The pandemic meant none of us has been capable of travel, so it’s such a joy to sail on the Nile through the guts of the country. It is especially poignant to be back within the Valley of the Kings since the fifth Earl’s find led to such an insight and interest into Ancient Egypt.

Improvements have been made to access the tomb of Tutankhamun. It makes a giant difference and I’m much impressed by the work of the Egyptian authorities.

Visitors now not need to clamber down the stone stairs to enter the burial chamber. The brand new Grand Egyptian Museum, which overlooks the Pyramids, is a continuation of the work to rejoice the one hundredth anniversary of the invention in November 1922.

It’s on account of open this November but until then Tutankhamun’s golden mask, jewellery and sarcophagi remain housed within the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It is a pleasure to hitch a night tour there with Viking, without the crowds.

Viking guests spend two nights in Cairo, so we’ve got enough time to witness life on this heaving capital of 20 million people. I never tire of seeing the Pyramids, the last Wonder of the Ancient World, product of 55 million tons of limestone.

Improvements have been made to access the tomb of Tutankhamun in Luxor (above), Lord Carnarvon says, adding: 'It makes a big difference and I'm much impressed by the work of the Egyptian authorities'

Improvements have been made to access the tomb of Tutankhamun in Luxor (above), Lord Carnarvon says, adding: ‘It makes a giant difference and I’m much impressed by the work of the Egyptian authorities’

Tutankhamun's golden mask, jewellery and sarcophagi remain housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Pictured above is the outer golden shrine of Tutankhamun's burial chamber, on display in the museum

Tutankhamun’s golden mask, jewellery and sarcophagi remain housed within the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Pictured above is the outer golden shrine of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, on display within the museum

Luxor is our next stop and that is where we board the ship. Here, the river is sort of a film set — quiet, clean and wide, fringed with green islets and palm trees with water taxis being the one other vessels on the river.

The ship has its own private berth so there is no such thing as a double mooring where passengers get up to search out one other ship blocking their view of the Nile. That makes an enormous difference, too.

Before boarding, Fiona and I even have a special dinner on the Winter Palace in Luxor, where my great-grandfather used to entertain and throw parties. The hotel has not lost its touch.

As with all Viking cruises, we’re offered a choice of complimentary tours and take a water taxi from the East to the West Bank to go to the Valley of the Kings.

I even have been here repeatedly and, as we drive along in an air-conditioned coach for the four-mile drive to the valley, I cannot imagine what it was like for my great-grandfather, riding a donkey to the excavation site.

No wonder he finally bought a Ford automotive in 1922.

Lord and Lady Carnarvon on their Nile cruise - outside their home away from home

Lord and Lady Carnarvon on their Nile cruise – outside their home away from home

The Carnarvons enjoy a special dinner at the Winter Palace in Luxor during their trip, where Lord Carnarvon's great-grandfather used to entertain and throw parties. He commented: 'The hotel has not lost its touch'

The Carnarvons enjoy a special dinner on the Winter Palace in Luxor during their trip, where Lord Carnarvon’s great-grandfather used to entertain and throw parties. He commented: ‘The hotel has not lost its touch’

It has been not less than ten years since my last balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings — it was something of a bumpy landing the primary time as we ended up in an unhappy farmer’s field. 

This time, the flight is beautifully orchestrated.

My alarm goes off at 3am and the sun rises. Shortly afterwards, I’m a passenger in one in all greater than a dozen vibrant balloons floating over the golden sand cliffs and green cultivated fields, with a bird’s eye view of past and current archaeological excavations.

During their trip, Lord and Lady Carnarvon go on a 'beautifully orchestrated' balloon ride

During their trip, Lord and Lady Carnarvon go on a ‘beautifully orchestrated’ balloon ride

I return to the cool ship where light pours in through the glass-roofed three-deck atrium and the vast windows in all public spaces. I love the pared-back Scandi design and partitions dotted with photographs from our archive.

Fiona found 160 black and white photos taken by the fifth Earl and so they capture every day life in Egypt within the early twentieth century, from the sun rising over the Nile, traditional feluccas with giant sails, street scenes and family groups on the tombs.

What a rare country that is. I even have been revisiting my favourite places, too, from the 62-acre Karnak Temple with 134 pillars that defy gravity and the enormous Luxor Temple with 2.7km Avenue of Sphinxes. 

On the 62-acre Karnak Temple site, Lord Carnarvon says you might be met by 134 pillars that ‘defy gravity’

The entrance to Luxor Temple, with its '2.7km Avenue of Sphinxes'. 'What a special country Egypt is,' says Lord Carnarvon

The doorway to Luxor Temple, with its ‘2.7km Avenue of Sphinxes’. ‘What a special country Egypt is,’ says Lord Carnarvon

Poignant: The Colossi of Memnon near Luxor, where the Carnarvons boarded their ship

Poignant: The Colossi of Memnon near Luxor, where the Carnarvons boarded their ship

It’s, nevertheless, the smaller, Dendera Temple, in Qena, that brings me pure delight. It’s unexpectedly breathtaking.

It the primary time I even have seen this temple and the experience is so positive. Good for Viking for organising trips to lesser known sites of antiquity. 

Dedicated to Hathor, the goddess of joy and music, the Dendera Temple is top-of-the-line preserved temples in Egypt. It’s unusually on two levels and the one temple with a figure of Queen Cleopatra carved on the partitions.

Dendera Temple (above) - 'one of the best preserved in Egypt' - gives Lord Carnarvon 'pure delight'

Dendera Temple (above) – ‘top-of-the-line preserved in Egypt’ – gives Lord Carnarvon ‘pure delight’

For hundreds of years, the inside was covered in black soot from fires, but within the last five years its ornate columns and the ceiling have been revealed to indicate decorations of vultures, winged discs, astrological signs and the union between Hathor and Horus.

I simply can’t imagine the wonderful, original colors and detailing. I’m also fascinated to see the birth house where statues were carried out of the darkness once every 12 months and into the daylight to be rejuvenated. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the rays of the sun were life-giving. I also love the best way conservationists have left some patches of black soot to indicate how the temple looked before their work began.

We’re learning on a regular basis on this Nile cruise and I hope that Fiona and I even have also brought a level of information and anecdotes to passengers on ‘my ship’.

TRAVEL FACTS

Twelve-day Pharaohs & Pyramids cruises depart January to May and August to December 2023-24, from £4,550 pp including flights, hotel accommodation, all onboard meals, including wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner. Excursions, wifi, suggestions, evening entertainment and enrichment talks are also included. Book by December 31 for a £750 pp saving and free drinks package (vikingrivercruises.co.uk, 0800 319 6660).

Highclere’s celebrations to mark the centenary 12 months of the Tutankhamun discovery can be held on October 8 and 9, with castle tours and journeys through the cellars to follow the trail which led to the tomb of Tutankhamun. £45pp (highclerecastleshop.co.uk).

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