The Nile Valley
The River Nile is the longest river in the world, flowing some 6650km from its southernmost source in the highlands of Burundi to the northern waters of the Mediterranean. It runs through or along the borders of more than 10 countries in Africa, with Egypt the last one on its course. Over many millions of years the meandering waters of the Nile cut a deep passageway through the deserts of Egypt, known as the Nile Valley. A lush, green ribbon of land bordered by high tablelands to the east and west the Nile Valley is rarely more than 30km across at any point and it is within its narrow margins almost the entirety of Egypt's 100 million people live today. Humanity began to settle in the Nile Valley from early ages and it was in its fertile heartlands the legendary kingdoms of the Pharaohs began to blossom some 5000 years ago, becoming one of the most advanced civilisations of their times and re-shaping the world with revolutionary innovations and ways of thinking that laid the foundations for the societies in which most of us live today. Whilst life in the Nile Valley looks different in modern times, the ongoing cultivation of the land has endured through every age from the Pharaohs and remains an important pillar of life for communities throughout the region today. A realm of green fields, countryside villages and bustling modern towns, the Nile Valley is reached at the end of an intercontinental passage on the Bedouin Trail. Arriving after a long desert approach feels all the more striking and hikers can traverse the Nile Valley region independently, taking any line between Qena and Luxor. The Nile Valley section of the Bedouin Trail involves crossing the old divide between the nomadic and settled worlds, showing something of their contrast and telling a story of how humanity came to be where it is today.
Between the RSMT & Qena
The Nile Valley stretch of the Bedouin Trail is completed at the end of the thru hike and is a 200km route with three separate sections; a 70km desert stretch between the Red Sea Mountain Trail and the upper parts of Wadi Qena; a 50km stretch down the lower parts of Wadi Qena to the modern town of Qena and an 80km passage through the Nile Valley itself, between Qena and Luxor. After following the northern half of the Red Sea Mountain Trail around to Wadi Ghuza in the west, the Bedouin Trail exits to traverse the vast, sweeping plains of Egypt's Eastern Desert to the upper parts of Wadi Qena. This part of the Eastern Desert is lined with Roman roads along which quarried stone was once pulled on large wagons to the River Nile and the Bedouin Trail aligns with one that passes an ancient fortified waystation known as Deir Ghuza. This section will be completed by most hikers within three days and it represents last true wilderness section of the Bedouin Trail. From the upper parts of Wadi Qena a tarmac road is followed 50km south down the wadi the town of Qena on the River Nile. Other routes of great beauty exist through Egypt's Eastern Desert, but officials mark most of it off limits, making the tarmac road in Wadi Qena the only viable option at present. Bedouin support for the Eastern Desert section must be organised through the Maaza Bedouin of the Red Sea Mountain Trail, who can also fix transportation for the road down to Qena.
Nile Valley: a quick overview
The Nile Valley section of the Bedouin Trail runs 80km between the towns of Qena and Luxor and is a part of the route best viewed as a travelling passage rather than an actual hiking trail. The Bedouin Trail does not have a fixed route in this region; the Nile Valley is simply followed south the whole way along and any line can be taken through it. Whilst walking is possible it can be equally rewarding to traverse it in other ways and tuktuks, taxis, minibuses, buses and trains all run widely, offering many options for travelling through. The East Bank has more transport connections than the West Bank, including both trains and buses. The West Bank is generally a little quieter. Points of interest are found on both banks, including early burial sites, the relics of small step pyramids, ancient temples, monasteries, mosques and the tombs of Islamic holy men and it is possible to traverse either bank or both. Hikers who continue to Luxor on the West Bank will end the Bedouin Trail near the Valley of the Kings. Those who walk the final part on the East Bank will finish at the Temple of Karnak, where an extra option exists for continuing along a recently restored ancient walkway called Tareeg el Kibaash to Luxor Temple. A walk through Upper Egypt is a unique kind of journey; it is a place with a vibrant culture and a proud sense of its own identity and one whose people are rightly famed across Egypt for their welcoming approach to visitors.
A few things to see
One stand-out attraction is the spectacular Temple of Dendera, a few kilometres outside Qena on the West Bank. Dedicated to the Goddess Hathor, to whom another temple is also found at Serabit el Khadem on the Sinai Trail, it dates mostly from the first century BC. Around 35km south on the West Bank is Naqadah; a small town with a mostly Christian community, near which the ruins of an early-era settlement, burial ground and a small, step pyramid known as the Pyramid of Nubt or Naqadah are found. Several working monasteries dot the West Bank between Naqadah and Luxor and it is possible to continue this way, ending the Bedouin Trail at Luxor's Valley of the Kings: the final resting place for some of history's most celebrated Pharaohs. Around 20km south of Qena on the East Bank is Qift; a town founded in the first Pharaonic eras that became a centre of early Christianity, later growing as a hub for caravans traversing the historic passageway of Wadi Hammamat through the Eastern Desert. Qus is another East Bank town of ancient origins, around 15km south of Qift and almost directly opposite the West Bank's Naqadah. A bridge runs between Qus and Naqadah and is the best place to cross from one bank to the other. Going south along the East Bank from Qus a pretty stretch of the River Nile is passed near the village of Khozam. Luxor stands around 15km south and those traversing the East Bank can end at the Temple of Karnak or a little further on at Luxor Temple.
Walking is one of several ways this part of the Bedouin Trail can be traversed and is suitable for those who want to move through it in the slowest, most self-reliant way. Whilst Luxor is a well-established tourism hub, with a few people visiting Qena, Qift and Qus too, everybody considering walking must be aware that outside these towns there is a near complete lack of any tourism infrastructure, including hotels. With the tradition of hospitality strong in this area, Upper Egyptians will almost invariably welcome walkers and may show them quiet places to pitch their tents, sometimes also offering a sleeping spot in a designated village area for guests, but this cannot be guaranteed. Walking between Qena and Luxor on the most direct route will take around three days and those who do not want to go the whole way by foot can use transport to accelerate at least parts of it into a two day passage, with an overnight break in Qus. One option is to cycle, with bicycles available for hire and drop-off in Qena by rental outlets in Luxor. Village-hopping between small settlements using local transport such as tuk tuks, minibuses and taxis, all of which can be easily flagged down, is another option. Trains and buses run between bigger towns and motorboats can be used to travel up the River Nile too. Hikers who want to accelerate the Nile Valley section can even go between Qena and Luxor in little over an hour taking a train or bus but to do so would be to miss the best of what it has to offer.
NILE VALLEY: QUICK GLANCE
The Nile Valley is a unique stretch of the Bedouin Trail that can be traversed on different routes. Everywhere has its own charms but the best option is to start at the Temple of Dendera on the West Bank, travelling south to Naqadah, where two choices exist: continuing on the West Bank to the Valley of the Kings or crossing into Qus to take the East Bank, ending at the Temple of Karnak or Luxor Temple.
QENA - The first town reached in the Nile Valley. The Temple of Dendera is 10km out of Qena on the West Bank. Qena has simple hotels, regular trains to nearby towns & a direct GO BUS service to Luxor. Taxis & tuktuks go to Dendera & nearby villages.
DENDERA - One of the most spectacular, best-preserved temples in Egypt. Dating from Ptolemaic Egypt, but built on the ruins of much older buildings from early eras of the Pharaohs. Taxis, tuktuks & minibuses can be used to go further south on the West Bank.
NAQADAH - A small West Bank town, with several old ruins, a few nearby monasteries & a large community of Christians. A bridge runs over the Nile between Naqadah & Qus, giving the best crossing point for travellers who will continue on the East Bank. Tuktuks, minibuses & taxis cross the bridge to Qus. Hikers can also continue onwards through the quieter West Bank to Luxor.
QUS - An East Bank town, about 15km south of Qift. For anybody traversing the Nile Valley in two days it offers a half way house in with simple guesthouses. Trains run from Qus to Luxor. Tuktuks, taxis & minibuses go to nearby villages like Jarajus & Khozam.
KHOZAM - A small East Bank village with a pretty view of the palm fringed banks of the River Nile, 15km north of Luxor.
LUXOR - Travellers can continue to Luxor from Naqadah on the West Bank, ending at the Valley of the Kings. On the East Bank the journey will end at the Temple of Karnak or Luxor Temple.