The Nile: Egypt’s Great River with Bettany Hughes Series 1
The historian explores the land that inspired her passion for the past by embarking upon a 900-mile journey along the river Nile and examining how it shaped ancient Egypt.
On board a timeless dahabiya cruise boat, the historian sets off on a 900-mile adventure up the Nile to Egypt’s southern border, seeing the country as the ancient Egyptians once did. She arrives at Egypt’s gateway to the world – the Nile’s mouth – then meets the crew that will guide her upstream. A visit to the Cairo Museum and its collection of Egyptian mummies follows, before Bettany braves the underground tunnels of a collapsed pyramid.
A hundred miles south of Cairo a stretch of the Nile was once considered Egypt’s main highway, used by Cleopatra to travel the country. More than 2,000 years after her, Bettany visits a vast desert catacomb where tens of thousands of mummified animals were once left as an offering. Further upstream, there is a chance to swim in the Nile, and look inside the tombs where Tutankhamen’s discoverer, Howard Carter, first got hooked on Egypt. Bettany explores the longest tomb yet found, before heading to the Dendera temple, where Cleopatra herself may have once wowed her lover Julius Caesar.
Bettany visits the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor where, for 500 years, the Ancient Egyptians buried their pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, among them the boy-king Tutankhamun. However, the historian crosses the local hills to the Workers’ Village, where generations of skilled royal tomb-builders lived. As it turns out, they also dumped masses of domestic rubbish, which is now giving some insight into the highs, lows and preoccupations of ancient Egyptians. Bettany then heads south on the Nile’s oldest steam ship SS Sudan, which inspired Agatha Christie to write Death on the Nile.
The historian reaches the southernmost stretches of the Egyptian Nile, though her 900-mile journey is not quite over as she joins archaeologists as they extract a giant stone message board from the foundations of the temple of the crocodile god Sobek. Bettany also visits a hotel once frequented by Churchill and says farewell to her boat crew. After reaching Egypt’s border with Sudan where Rameses the Great built an outrageous temple to himself, the presenter joins the crowds to witness the power of the rising sun.