The Nile: Egypt's Great River with Bettany Hughes

The Nile: Egypt's Great River with Bettany Hughes

Series 1 - Episode 2



Her traditional dahabiya is “pretty gorgeous”, says Bettany Hughes, but it doesn’t come close to the opulence of Cleopatra’s gold-encrusted and perfumed-sailed boat. No wonder “Egypt’s very own superstar” has always fascinated her.

Hughes is sailing from Beni Hasan to Dendera, examining mummified animals (including a demonstration on a dead cat that’s not for the faint-hearted) and scrambling through tiny, dark, swelteringly hot tombs to exclaim over hieroglyphics and sarcophagi. She does stop off to investigate one woman’s attempt to grow the rare blue lotus flower, but even that involves an unladylike motorbike ride. Bet Cleopatra never had to do that.


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.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Bettany Hughes
Executive Producer Caterina Turroni
Series Director Caterina Turroni
Series Producer Owen Rodd
Lifestyle History