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on 2 November 2014
There are two editions of this book:

the British Bloomsbury edition (ISBN 978-1408830093 hc) is set in Linotype Stemple Garamond font and the pages are finished with a cut edge;

the US Knopf edition (ISBN 978-0385351533 hc) is set in Adobe Garamond font and the pages are finished with a deckle edge.

I borrowed the Bloomsbury edition from my local library.

The 33 colour illustrations are the same in both editions. Those in the Bloomsbury edition are not as sharp as those shown on Amazon's "Look inside" for the Knopf edition. A few of the illustrations are credited as having been sourced from Werner Forman Archive and Corbis.

The illustrations, unfortunately, do not reflect the text. There are no photos of a dahabiya (pp. 14, 32), on which the author travelled from Aswan to Luxor; the Nilometer on Elephantine "one of the least impressive but most important monuments in all of Egypt" (pp. 43-44); "the majestic ruins of Kom Ombo" (pp. 64-67); the "extraordinary landscape" of the quarries at Gebel el-Silsila (pp. 69-70); nor the red quartzite statue of Amenhotep III "unearthed in 1989" which "takes pride of place in the Luxor Museum" (p. 101). Yet there's a photo of Abu Simbel which, although mentioned, is neither described nor visited (being beyond the scope of the book).

According to the author, the statue of Amenhotep III found in the Luxor Statue Cache "showed the king emerging into the solar court at Luxor, visibly younger, radiant as the sun, and undergoing transformation into a celestial falcon." This is a more than fanciful description of the statue of Amenhotep III in the Luxor Museum which is actually a statue of a statue of the king standing on a sledge.

Direct quotes are acknowledged in the Notes but there are pages and pages of historical information - both ancient and modern - without a single source being mentioned.

The author tells of the Luxor Massacre at the Temple of Deir el-Bahri on 17 November 1997 (pp. 148-149) and claims that "the gunmen were pursued and apprehended by the traders and other local inhabitants, aghast at the attack on their community and their livelihoods." This is pure fiction. The gunmen were not apprehended by anyone. After killing 58 foreign tourists and 4 Egyptians at the Temple the terrorists hijacked an Isis Tours bus with its driver in order to go to the Valley of the Kings (where they intended to kill more tourists). The driver, however, drove them to a checkpoint with armed Egyptian tourist police and military forces. One of the terrorists was killed in a shootout on the spot and the other 5 fled on foot into the hills where their bodies were later found in a cave, apparently having committed suicide together. All of this can be verified on Wikipedia which provides 6 accessible on-line references for the incident.

According to the author, at Philae, in order "to transfer the monuments to the nearby island of Agilqiyya" ... "the structures were cut up into forty thousand blocks" (p. 55). Not so. The author has confused Philae with Abu Simbel where the temples really were cut up for relocation. Such confusion - by `the foremost Egyptologist of his time' (Sunday Telegraph) - is disquieting. How many other mis-recollections are there in the book?

The author acknowledges "the crew and staff of the dahabiya Afandina". According to his travel article `Nile cruises: the river where time stands still' in the Telegraph (13 February 2014), he went on a "five-day journey downriver" from Aswan to Luxor on the Afandina.

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The much quoted Amelia Edwards, however, travelled all the way from Cairo to Wadi Halfa and return in a dahabiya in 1873-4.


"A Thousand Miles Up The Nile" by Amelia B. Edwards which is available in facsimile as a hardcover (1993) from Darf Publishers (ISBN 978-1850772279) and a paperback (2008) from Norton Creek Press (ISBN 978-0981928425). Beware of other editions which have been digitally scanned with many typos and even missing pages.
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on 11 July 2014
“Without the Nile, there would be no Egypt” according to Toby Wilkinson, paraphrasing the famous quote from Herodotus, as true today as in ancient times. In a country that is 95% desert, it is the great river that brings fertility and agricultural wealth, forming a “green thread” connecting isolated settlements in space and time.

Wilkinson sets out on a slow boat downriver, from the First Cataract to Cairo, on a journey through seven thousand years of history from the vantage of the Nile itself.

He begins his journey where the river enters Egypt, at Aswan, which the ancient Egyptian’s believed to be the source of the Nile. In spite of the current turmoil, he sees a timelessness to life on the banks of the river, watching people farming and fishing as they have done throughout history, although perhaps there are a few more satellite dishes now than in ancient times. Sailing northwards, he looks across to the banks of the Nile where “every age has left its trace” and deftly weaves in and out of different moments in history as he floats by.

Thus at Aswan he describes Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s amazement at witnessing the seemingly impossible task of dragging boats across the rapids (the Egyptians succeeding in spite of noise, chaos and confusion, which Wilkinson – wryly – describes as their modus operandi then and now). He describes the final stand of Ankhwennefer, last native pharaoh of Egypt, forced to submit to Ptolemaic rule in 186 BC and then comments on how a sudden spattering of rain in the modern town delights local drivers as a rare chance to use their windscreen wipers.

At El Kab, Wilkinson sees the scenes in the tombs there come to life in the modern village, with cattle grazing under a tree and children riding home by donkey, noting that as much time has elapsed between now and the building of the ancient wall of El Kab as separates that wall from the mudbrick construction of Khasekhemwy’s ‘fort’ on the opposite bank, which he believes is “one of the great unsung wonders of the ancient world”.

Reaching Luxor, he describes the scramble for obelisks by Nineteenth Century European powers, the “modern roadside excrescences” on the West Bank and he narrates the stories of the almost forgotten Intef II – the founder of Karnak Temple, the infamous Deir el-Medina foreman Paneb, and Montuemhat, the “architect of Thebes’ very survival, at its darkest hour”. Heading past Amarna, Tuna el-Gebel and Asyut, we meet Emperor Hadrian, Petosiris High Priest of Thoth and Nazeer Gayed Roufail, who in 1971 became Coptic Pope Shenouda III.

After a quick stop off in the Fayum, we finally reach Cairo, an “unbelievable press of humanity” and setting for the recent ‘Arab Spring’ uprising.

Just sit back, relax and explore some of the highlights of Egyptian history with your personal guide on a leisurely armchair cruise.
Reviewed by ancientegyptmagazine dot com
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on 21 March 2014
I found this to be a very easy to read and enjoyable book. The author is so good at painting a picture with words. It was interesting to learn how the remains of the ancient world sit, both physically and culturally within the modern world, and it helps to explain how we have arrived at the current situation within Egypt. I think this would be an ideal book for anyone embarking on a Nile adventure, or who wants to know more about this fascinating place.
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on 5 July 2014
Having sailed down the Nile from Cairo to Aswan it's brings back many memories of a trip you can no longer do as a tourist, with the added fascination of the fast history that has shaped the river and the banks f the Nile.
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on 15 June 2014
Rather stodgy. The information is all there but not very interestingly told.
For the avid Egyptologist rather than the casual reader.
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on 10 September 2015
Absolute fascinating! A million miles from the bog standard travel guide. The research quality and quantity which must have been undertaken is admirable. If you really want to 'be there' now and over the centuries past - this is the one for you. I have 6 guide books ready for my Nile trip in two weeks time but this is the one with the highlighted sections and list in the front which will take me to the right page to read again the section about where I am going next in order to feel it such much better than the guide books will.
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on 20 April 2015
Another very interesting book about Egypt
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on 3 April 2014
Bought as a present, liked
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on 19 April 2015
Great book
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