Why Elephantine Island is a must-visit for culture vultures on a Nile cruise

If you’re planning to explore Egypt, Nile cruises are the ideal way of doing so. As well as the renowned landmarks like the pyramids and the sphinx, you should make sure you take in equally-impressive but lesser known gems, like Elephantine Island.

The isle is located in the River Nile and is classed as part of Aswan, a city in southern Egypt. Elephantine Island is an important attraction for many holidaymakers as it’s home to an archaeological site.

A brief history

Elephantine Island was known as Abu or Yabu in ancient times and had a number of functions. The isle served as a defensive structure to protect nearby cities and was also used as a transfer point for cargo travelling down the Nile.

There was once a fortress here, along with a number of other buildings, the remains of which have been excavated in recent years. The name of the island is thought to refer to its shape, which is said to resemble an elephant’s tusk, or may be derived from old Greek words meaning elephant. It may also have resulted from island’s connection to the ivory trade.

The archaeological site

Excavation of the island has turned up some interesting artefacts dating back to predynastic times, in addition to the remains of buildings. If you visit as part of a cruise down the Nile, you’ll be able to see firsthand the ruins of an ancient temple dedicated to Khnum – the Egyptian god of creation and also the god of the River Nile.

What remains of the temple takes up a large area at the southern end of the island, but you might also spot an ancient step pyramid and a small shrine as you take a tour of the island. In addition, there are two nilometers to be seen here, which were measuring levels carved out of the cliff faces used to gauge water depth.

Other attractions

Wandering around the ancient sites makes for a memorable excursion but, if you’re keen to see more, you should head to the Museum of Aswan – officially known as the Nubia Museum.

Opened in the 1990s, the museum has won awards for its unique design, which aims to replicate the architecture of buildings found in traditional Nubian villages. Inside, there are all manner of unearthed artefacts to view, many of which were excavated at the archaeological sites on the island.

The dozens of artefacts span a long timeframe and include examples of prehistoric objects, items from the Meroitic period, and artefacts from the Roman era. Among the exhibits are frescoes from the 10th century, prehistoric tools like axes, the mummy of a priest’s wife, and 18th century amulets. Some of the objects on display were locally sourced, while others have been given to the collection by other museums from throughout Egypt.

Externally, the museum is set in thousands of acres of grounds, which are worth exploring. The gardens comprise a series of waterfalls, flowering plants, palm trees and natural rocks, while there is also an amphitheatre and open air stage, where both Egyptian and foreign groups perform.

Further down is an outdoor exhibition of religious Islamic buildings, a replica Nubian house complete with traditional furnishings, and an artificial cave, in which you can admire prehistoric carvings and paintings.

British Airways Offers More In-Flight Entertainment and Retail Experiences

British Airways, the UK-based airline, has recently upgraded its ‘In-flight Entertainment Experience British Airways’ on its long-distance aircraft.

The entertainment experience will vary with the type of aircraft, but most will be offering a wide range of content that will be available from when passengers board the aircraft to when they arrive at their destination.

For passengers in First and Club World and front row seats, screens will have to be stowed away during takeoff and landing, but they may still listen to audio broadcasts.

The airline has also made plans to increase its in-flight retail offers, as recent research amongst Christmas shoppers has found that a third (or 32%) of people are likely to buy their Christmas gifts on board flights.

Around 30,000 people are flying with British Airways on Christmas Day, and the airline is busy stocking additional gift items for its onboard retail programme, during the busiest shopping season of the year.

Peter O’Shea, the airline on-board retail executive, said, ‘December is our busiest month for on board shopping. Customers like to chose from our carefully selected gifts and benefit from a wide range of travel exclusives and tax-free purchases. Many also like the convenience of buying on board, as it means less to carry in their luggage.’

The airline is also planning to offer a charity donation card, designed by Tracey Emin, and available on board flights and online at www.highlifeshop.com from December 3, 2012. The card, priced at £5, will donate money to Flying Start, the airline’s charity partnership with Comic Relief.

Feel pampered with honeymoon packages

When booking your honeymoon there are certain criteria people have in mind for your holiday of a lifetime. As well as the perfect location, beautiful settings and gorgeous weather, you begin looking for all the lovely freebies you can get with a honeymoon, to make this trip the most special of your lives.

Lots of tour operators these days throw in several complimentary items with honeymoon packages, so if you’re keen on getting a free gift or two, read on to find out what you can receive.

Room upgrades

We all dream of booking the honeymoon suite at a hotel, especially if you’re actually going on your honeymoon. But when you weigh up the costs, you might decide that the added expense isn’t something you can afford. That is why it is so brilliant when some hotels offer to give you a free upgrade to the honeymoon – or another fancy – suite.

When booking your trip, we advise you to look for accommodation that has special deals on the rooms such as this. You might also find offers for some hotels that allow you to get one or two nights free if you stay a certain amount of time. If you go on a safari honeymoon, you may get one night free and an upgrade to a romantic lodge with a private pool – heaven!

Free champagne

They weren’t the only treats you may be given though, and you may also be lucky enough to receive a free bottle of champagne. In fact, we discovered that lots of hotels are keen to offer loved-up brides and grooms some complimentary bubbly. This is often stipulated when you book the room (indeed, it could tempt you to choose one hotel over another!), but you might instead be surprised by the generous offer and find a chilled bottle and two glasses when you arrive – ideal after a long flight across the world!

Romantic dinners

There’s nothing you may enjoy more than spending time with your new husband having a romantic dinner, and we think you should have as many of these as possible on your honeymoon. This is why we specifically look at the different restaurants and cuisines available at the hotels we are considering – however, as well as having amazing dinners out at luxurious eateries, you might also have the chance to enjoy a private candlelit dining experience.

Some hotels might offer you and your spouse the opportunity to have a three-course meal on its beach, pier or other private area. Some enjoy a really special dinner alone in a gazebo by the sea with their own private waiting service all evening, delicious food and the most spectacular views.

Pampering packages

Another thing you may appreciate on your honeymoon is the chance to enjoy the hotel’s spa facilities – especially if you found the task of organising the wedding a particularly stressful one! If rest and relaxation are two highly important criteria for your romantic break, look for resorts that have their own treatment rooms. Offers for free couples’ massages, facials, mud wraps and other luxury experiences are also often available. Having one or two of these will certainly leave you feeling very special on your honeymoon – especially if you get them for free!

Wherever you decide to go for your romantic break – from following these steps and enjoying a safari in Africa to embarking on a romantic honeymoon in the Caribbean – keep these freebies in mind when booking your trip. This way, you can ensure you have the best holiday of your lives.

Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel offers accommodation and parking packages

Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel, a Renaissance brand hotel property from Marriott International in London, is offering its guests the opportunity to park and fly for the upcoming festive season.

The hotel is located next to London Heathrow Airport, and adjacent to the M4 and M25 motorways, and is 20-minutes rail time from the city of London. The parking package currently on offer, ‘Park Here Fly There’, is priced at £105 per night upwards, and includes a night’s accommodation, parking for up to 15 days at the hotel, and transportation to and from the airport.

The hotel is suited to both business and leisure travellers, and also offers facilities for hosting wedding ceremonies and celebrations, meetings and banquets. The hotel’s health club is offering soothing treatments, and a 24-hour fitness centre claims to have the latest technology for a healthy workout. Guests can eat at the several dining venues at the hotel, including the DUO Bar and Restaurant.

The hotel’s accommodation includes 643 guest rooms, six suites and conference facilities, including 28 meeting rooms.

Some of the other hotels close to the airport that offer similar packages are the Crowne Plaza, easy Hotel Heathrow, the Heathrow Hilton, the Heathrow Hilton Terminal 5, the Holiday Inn, the Holiday Inn Heathrow Ariel, Holiday Inn Heathrow M4, Holiday Inn Slough Windsor, Ibis, the Marriott Heathrow, Marriott Slough/Windsor, Novotel, the Park Inn, Premier Inn, Premier Inn Heathrow, the Radisson Edwardian, DoubleTree by Hilton, Sheraton Heathrow, Sheraton Skyline, the Sofitel Terminal 5, the Thistle Hotel, and the Travelodge Terminal 5.

Keeping Costs Down When Travelling

As fun as travelling can be, it is not always cheap. Whether on a business trip, holiday or simply visiting friends and family, everyone needs to travel occasionally. As such, keeping the costs down is always appreciated. Learning that now, rather than later, will not only save you more money, but help turn it into a vital skill in the years to come.

Additionally, many of the tips and techniques here might still be beneficial to the frequent traveller. There is always something new to learn, and there are definitely always ways to keep costs down for those who seek them.

Travelling Options: Insurance

First of all, it might be a surprise to look into insurance options when travelling, but your choice of transport definitely adds a certain cost.

Vehicle insurance is expensive, as are the running costs of owning a vehicle. If you don’t travel that often, owning such a vehicle may seem pointless. It could sit in your drive, only being used for short distances in day to day life where public transport would suffice.

Instead, consider renting a car when you need it. By only driving in short time frames throughout the year, you’ll find that car club insurance can be surprisingly cheap. Compare this to the costs of owning a car all year around, and the maths should speak clearly.


Similar to your transport options, a lot of people often go for overtly expense accommodation. Hotels can be effective, but you really need to assess your use of them.

If you just want a bed for the night, a motel or B&B might be much cheaper. Hotels can charge a hefty fee per night, which they often justify for the atmosphere and additional facilities. Unless you’re making full use of the hotel, there isn’t always much point to them. If you’re just using the room, the basic facilities found here can be found in most forms of accommodation.

Moving down the scale will provide you with more money from savings without sacrificing much. A bed and bathroom are all that most people require, so it doesn’t always make sense to go to an expensive hotel.

Saving Money

In short, these are only some basic areas, but they are the areas where a lot of money goes when travelling. If you cut down your transport and accommodation options, for instance, then you’ll start to save a surprising amount of money.

For the likes of holidays, this excess cash is certainly welcome. Yet, even for simple trips, any money saved is a general advantage. Money is scarce these days, so being able to hold on to what you really helps you stretch your money further on any income.

So, whether it’s renting a car instead of owning one, or considering different accommodation, there are a few options open to anyone who’s willing to try something different and bring down their expenses as a result.

A guide to India’s top national parks

India is a brilliant place to spot amazing wildlife and incredible scenery – and its national parks are arguably the best areas to do so. There is a surprisingly large number of these, though, so we’ve put together a quick list of the ones that most spark my interest below. Hopefully, that’ll help you narrow down your options.

Nagarhole National Park

Where: Karnataka

Named after the river that runs through it, Nagarhole National Park is one of the true highlights of any trip to India. Made up of forested valleys and mountains, this reserve is home to all kinds of wonderful wildlife – and is an especially good place to spot elephants, which is something that particularly appeals.

However, there’s loads more you see here – including tigers, which is one of the most popular animals to try to see on jaunts to India. Leopards, sloth bears, jackals and close to 300 types of birds are just some of the other animals you might spot while you’re there.

Ranthambore National Park

Where: Rajasthan

This is a popular stop-off on nature-based tours of India, which are one of the best things to do if you’re serious about seeing a lot of wildlife. Companies like TransIndus run this kind of break, with Ranthambore likely to be listed on these itineraries as one of the top places to spot tigers.

In fact, poachers have depleted the number of big cats here a fair amount in recent years but, fortunately, there’s still a decent enough population density that you’re pretty likely to see one or two loping around while you’re there.

While the tigers are what most people come to see, this reserve – which is the flagship national park in Rajasthan – has a lot else to offer. In addition to all the other animals, which include leopards, jackals, Indian porcupines and longeared hedgehogs, you can also see authentic Rajput ruins dotted about the grounds.

Bandhavgarh National Park

Where: Madhya Pradesh

If it’s tigers that really interest you, Bandhavgarh National Park absolutely has to be on your list of places to visit. Why? Well, it claims to have the greatest density of Bengal tigers not only in the country, but also in the world. As you’d expect, this means that by coming here, you’ll give yourself the best chance of seeing one.

Excitingly, you can go on an elephant safari early in the morning to track the tigers, or you’re able to go down the more common jeep route – the choice is yours. One thing to remember when planning your trip, though, is the park is closed for several months a year, usually between July and October.

Fossil National Park

Where: Madhya Pradesh

India’s national parks may often be home to amazing animals, but not all of them are wildlife-focused. For a unique experience, head to Fossil National Park, where you can see fossilised plants and molluscs.

Most of the time, these fossils look a lot like normal rocks, which has led to them being unwittingly damaged or moved in the past. While they may not have a particularly striking appearance, they are truly remarkable when you consider they date back between 40 million and 150 million years.

So, visiting here is a really magical, once in a lifetime experience. Don’t miss it!

Glasgow Airport To Support Voluntary Work For Young Adults

Glasgow Airport, in Scotland, is offering a volunteering initiative to young unemployed adults.

The airport has awarded an amount of £4,900 to ProjectScotland through its FlightPath Fund, allowing the project to offer seven adults the opportunity of taking up full-time volunteering roles with a charity or social enterprise.

The volunteer opportunities are expected to last for several months and are intended to provide a springboard for those selected to help them find future employment, as well as offering charitable organisations the additional resources, and benefits to the communities in which the volunteers work.

Maureen Jamieson, Glasgow Airport’s head of procurement, said, ‘One of the reasons for establishing the FlightPath Fund was to tackle social issues such youth employment, so we are very excited about being able to help ProjectScotland break down barriers for these young people.

These volunteering projects are beneficial on several levels – they help the individual and the organisation they are placed with, as well as the community in which that organisation operates.

That represents tremendous value and ProjectScotland has an excellent track record of success in turning placements into full-time employment so we look forward to seeing the results.’

Rucelle Soutar, the finance director for ProjectScotland, said, ‘Youth unemployment in Scotland has been rising steadily in recent years and some of the worst affected areas lie under the Glasgow Airport flightpath. Young people are looking for opportunities to develop their skills and gain the practical workplace experience sought by many employers.

Volunteering makes young people more optimistic and prepared for the journey ahead. Our opportunities with charities and social enterprises give them the space and time to recognise how capable they are.

Glasgow Airport’s support will open doors for seven young people and ultimately allow them to take control of their own lives and improve their future prospects.’

The Glasgow Airport Flightpath Fund has awarded around £400,000 to 150 community groups and charities since 2010. The Communities Trust and charity collection boxes in the airport terminal finance the fund.

Thomas Cook Announces Losses Due To Increasing Fuel Costs

The UK-based travel company, Thomas Cook, has announced pre-tax losses of £485.3 million for the year ended September 30, 2012, from a loss of £398.2 million reported for the earlier year.

The company revenue has decreased to £9.5 billion for 2012, from £9.8 billion in the same period last year. The increasing annual losses have been explained as partly due to reduced capacity and higher fuel costs.

Harriet Green, the new chief executive officer of Thomas Cook, said, ‘In 2012 over 23 million customers enjoyed their holidays with us, 50 percent of whom went on an independent or flexible holiday. Through building on our core product strengths to further improve our proposition with new and different products, we have a significant opportunity to unlock the full potential of our brands and attract more customers.

As we develop our Business Transformation plans we will continue to place our customers and employees at the very centre of our business.

Through leveraging existing best practice and by focusing on efficiency, harnessing the power of technology and delivering on our commitments we are addressing the most immediate challenges facing the Group and creating a platform for future growth.

These results reflect the major issues that Thomas Cook faced last year, but they mask the material improvement that we made in the fourth quarter. Our brand has demonstrated its strength by recovering all the ground lost during last year’s difficulties and we have identified significant further efficiency improvements.

The year ahead is the initial stage in this recovery and as we embark upon our first year of Business Transformation, we are optimistic about the future and look forward to updating you on our full plans and additional financial benefits in the spring of 2013.’

Qatar Airways to Fly Dreamliner flights to London Heathrow

Qatar Airways, a Qatar based airline company, will be introducing its brand new Dreamliner aircraft on routes between Doha and London from December 13, 2012.

The airline has taken delivery of its initial Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft recently, and is expected to take delivery of around 60 Dreamliners that are on order, over the next few years.

Qatar Airways chief executive officer, Akbar Al Baker, said, ‘We are delighted at last with today’s announcement that in just over two weeks’ time, the UK market will see its first 787 on a regular full commercial service when it flies into London Heathrow.

Inaugurating our 787 on the London Heathrow route puts Qatar Airways firmly on the global aviation map as a carrier with a determination to continue its expansion drive and improve an already superior in-flight product.

Both new and existing customers in the UK and further afield on connecting flights will soon have an opportunity to fly on the most talked-about aircraft in the world in and out of London.

We have already received our second 787 with a further three to join our fleet by the end of the year. And we won’t stop there. With more 787s being inducted into the fleet next year, further route launches and our move to a brand new international airport in Doha during 2013, we continue to look forward to another year of exciting developments.

With our ever-expanding international network, more people from different parts of the world will have an opportunity to fly Qatar Airways and our new 787s to and from our Doha hub.’

The B787 aircraft will operate on flight QR075 from Doha to Heathrow. The new aircraft feature Wi-Fi Internet access, touch screen Android IFE systems, and two-class seating.

Network Rail Announces Performance Update

Network Rail, a company that operates the UK’s railway network, has reported on the railway companies’ performance for the period October 14, 2012, to November 10, 2012.

The rail company has reported an avearge punctuality of 88.9 percent during the period, compared to 89.3 percent for the same period last year. The moving annual average is now at 91.7 percent.

The measure of train punctuality is known as the PPM (public performance measure), which refers to trains arriving at their destinations within five minutes of scheduled time for commuter services, and within 10 minutes of their scheduled time for long distance services. Train punctuality, at national level, is measured for all trains of the network, and is inclusive of cancelled services and delays.

c2c, a train operator that is owned by National express, and which operates the London, Tilbury and Southend franchise, has reported the best punctuality in this period, with a figure of 98.4 percent.

In the six month ended September 30, 2012, Network Rail reported revenue of £3,167m, compared to £2,997m for the same period last year.

Patrick Butcher, Network Rail’s group finance director, said, ‘The railway continues to see strong traffic growth which provides us with the challenge of getting the balance right between capacity, reliability and efficiency. We have seen growth on the network of 5 percent a year for a decade, and this is set to continue. That means we continue to become more efficient so we can continue to invest to meet this growth.

This, combined with the traffic growth, allows us to sustain high levels of capital investment, delivering £2.1bn worth of capital work in the six months.

Network Rail continues to evolve. Last year we completed devolving authority to all ten of our routes and now we can make progress to moving to a group structure that reflects this. We have already set up our infrastructure projects division as a standalone business unit, launched Network Rail Consulting as our international business and we have plans to run our energy, telecoms and recycling operations each with their own profit and loss account. We believe this will generate greater efficiencies and unlock greater value to the business.’