“He who rides the sea of the Nile must have sails woven of patience” – William Golding
Patience..or a maybe just a felucca full of beer and plenty to read…
A highlight of any trip to Egypt would have to be a Nile Cruise. There are a couple of ways you can accomplish this, depending on what you are after. For those who like comfort and style there are the luxury liners, cruising back and forth between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. For those after a bit more adventure, you can take a felucca, a traditional sail boat with one or two sails.
Of course we’ll have what’s behind door number two please.
As it turns out adventure really needs quotations in this case…as in “adventure”. In reality it’s two full days in forty degree heat (104 for the non-Australians among us) with no wind, sitting in the middle of the river, crammed on a single flat deck with about 15 people and everyone switching sides everytime the boat turns around, in an effort to avoid the scorching sun.
But it’s not really as bad as it all sounds.
Taking a felucca between Aswan and Luxor gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Nile, the river that has endowed its life giving waters throughout a long stretch of Africa, from it’s sources in Lake Victoria and Lake Tana to it’s mouth in the Mediterranean.
Down stream of the Aswan High Dam, and several hundred kilometres from Cairo, the water is clear, clean and apparently parasite and crocodile free. And the temperature on the boat is hot enough to set aside fears of swimming in the icy waters anyway. Frequent stops on sandy banks allow a brief but refreshingly chilly dip in the water.
It’s a quiet and relaxing way to spend a couple of days following the mayhem of Cairo and the early morning starts for visiting temples. Plenty of time to catch up on sleeping, reading, writing. The local Nubian crew cook simple but tasty meals. They clearly know Australians well, coming prepared with four cases of beer. Of course the boys considered it just plain rude not to drink them.
Swimming, relaxing and drinking are broken up with visits to Edfu and Kom Ombo temples. During our particular trip Kom Ombo was only viewable from the river, with street vendors barricading the entrance and throwing stones at anyone trying to enter or boats that came too close. After temple visits it was back to more swimming, relaxing and drinking.
Of course there are the logistics to consider as well. A felucca is a traditional flat decked wooden sail boat with one or two sails. Eating, sleeping and whiling away the day are all done on the one single deck. Bathroom amenities were traditionally over the side or on the banks. We were lucky enough to have an amenities boat that followed behind and a quick call would have it pulled up along side when required. This is a bit of a novelty among the felucca operators though so not all will have them. (Well by now everyone should know I’ll only rough it to a point!)
Sleeping arrangements can be crowded, with, as in our case, up to 14 people sleeping in close proximity. Get to know your traveling companions well! Snorers, sleep talkers, and people randomly stepping off the boat and making a big splash in the river at 3am are all part of the experience!
As the boat is pulled into the bank it’s recommended to keep valuable items off the deck. Even in what seems the middle of nowhere, opportunists come along the banks or by boat and grab anything obviously visible. The crew sleep in the storage compartment, guarding the luggage.
Don’t expect to actually make the distance from Aswan to Luxor – we may have gone perhaps 10 kilometres down river – current is often going one way and the wind the other … Or no wind at all. In our case a minibus was ready to pick us up on our last day and drive the remaining distance to Luxor.
For those of you who want to just have a small taste of what life on the Nile is like, you can book a single day trip. However, if you can pack light, enjoy home cooked local meals and time to chill, want the opportunity to swim safely in the Nile and you get on really well with your travel buddies then I definitely recommend a couple of days on a Felucca.