Ramadan Bassiouny has a simple plea to Australians considering a Nile cruise: “Come to Egypt. It’s safe and far from the troubles.”

The veteran Egyptologist has sailed the Nile for 30 years with river cruise line Uniworld. He has helped thousands of travellers – including hundreds of Australians – discover the amazing secrets of his country’s centuries-old culture.

Today, he is confused and bewildered. The record year the line had been hoping for on the Nile has turned to dust. And Ramadan and his colleagues fear they are the collateral damage of the Middle East conflict.

Egyptologist Ramadan from Uniworld
Egyptologist Ramadan from Uniworld

“Please tell your people they are will be welcomed and it is safe,” he tells Cruise Passenger on board Uniworld’s SS Sphinx.

“I would like to say thank you very much for visiting Egypt. We urgent urgently need to let the people know how safe our country is. We are far away from the troubles taking place in the Middle East.”

It’s easy to see why Ramadan is worried. Australians once account for 30 per cent of Uniworld’s two-ship fleet on the world’s longest river. That’s the biggest single group next to Americans. But that has slowed since October 7.

Uniworld’s owners, The Travel Corporation, say their other brands, Trafalgar and Insight, have seen even harsher cancellations. Australians made up to 50 per cent of their clientele and now those numbers have slowed to barely a trickle.

Egypt travellers say they feel safe

Uniworld SS Sphinx
Uniworld SS Sphinx

It’s a sad fact that headlines about the war have been applied with a broad brush, meaning Egypt – a relatively peaceful nation by Middle Eastern standards but desperate for tourism dollars – has been sorely hit.

The Egyptian Pound is in free fall, making everything from eating out to souvenirs cheap.

On board the SS Sphinx with us are four Australians and a mix of British and Americans. All have made the choice to be here and are glad they came. No-one felt threatened.

One told us his travel agent said:  “Of course it’s up to you – but I honestly don’t believe that a company like Uniworld would sail if they thought it was not safe.”

No one denies it’s a dilemma. Indeed, the Australian government’s warning to “reconsider” travel plans is equivocal.

Britain’s advice is more nuanced and forensic, telling its citizens not to travel near the northern eastern border with Israel, but that going to Cairo and Luxor is not a danger.

They have a map – reproduced here – with the areas it considers unsafe.

UK foreign office map

Ahmed, who has a horse and cart at the famous pyramids site of Giza, is desperate. The huge stone monuments – among the wonders of the world and on everyone’s bucket list – have barely a few hundred visitors.

But despite his plight, he is astonishingly polite and shows us how to take the famous Insta pictures pointing to the top of the pyramid.

Pyramids of Giza uniworld
Pyramids of Giza uniworld

All around the site, camels and horses are waiting for tourists that, so far, won’t be coming.

World’s largest museum

GEM museum Cairo
GEM museum Cairo

A few kilometres away, the world’s largest museum – the billion-dollar Gem (Grand Egyptian Museum) – is waiting to open after a decade of construction.  The official date has been under review since the troubles.

When the museum fully opens to the public, it will be the largest archaeological museum complex in the world and host to more than 100,000 artifacts. For the first time ever, King Tut’s entire treasure collection will be on display alongside artifacts from pre-historic times through Egypt’s many thousands of years of pharaonic civilization.

Uniworld has an arrangement which means we get access to this astonishing building ahead of anyone else. A highlight is the immersive Tutankhamun exhibit, where the Boy King’s life and death are brought to astonishing reality.

Cruising the Nile remains an extraordinarily, inspiring and peaceful experience which will reward anyone who decides to go.

Our journey from Luxor to some of the most historically significant sites on our planet was a joy. Our ship was cheered from the banks of the world’s longest river by locals, and our arrival at sites normally swarming with crowds was a relaxed and highly enjoyable experience.

Pyramids of Giza uniworld
Pyramids of Giza uniworld

Throughout it all, Ramadan kept up a commentary of stores about how his people, 3,300 years ago, had created wonders and feats of engineering that still, to this day defy explanation.

“On behalf of Egyptologists we welcome you – and ask that people come back to see this marvels,” he said.

The season will soon be over thanks to the summer heat. Ramadan hopes that by September, peace will have returned to the region and his country can look forward to that record tourism year that 2024 was supposed to be.

For more and special offers on Egypt see Uniworld’s website here