One of my most anticipated days on the tour was today, floating down the Nile on a felucca. Felucca’s are a traditional Egyptian motorless sailboat, but the sail is a little unusual compared to a “normal” sail. Rather than a standard straight triangle, its a side tilted triangle (there is probably a proper name for it that I don’t know…) and the mast rather than sitting parallel to the body of the boat, stands at an angle off the mast. The deck is quite flat and covered in mattresses and pillow for comfortable lounging.
All packed and ready to go, but no wind to speak of! We all packed our bags below since it’s a small ship, and prepared for a day of relaxing. The Nile is fairly calm this time of year and at points during the day, the water looked like glass! We did get a few small breezes that kept us moving along, but mainly we were just riding the current of the river. With a nice canopy over the lounge area, we were more than comfortable in our swimmies and relaxing. For any of the people that were on week 2 of the Dolce Mare cruise, I taught my fellow travelers Farkle and they LOVED it. We wound up playing several times during the day and had a lot of laughs, making fun of our guide Wahlid, who is shamelessly lucky with a pair of dice.
Pulling the boat over to the side of the river, we stopped for a mid-day swim and bathroom break. There are no toilets on the boat, so bush peeing it is. But the swimming break was absolutely marvelous. Unlike the warm Dead Sea, the Nile was brisk and refreshing after sitting in the hot Egyptian heat for a few hours. The water near Aswan was so clear, and you could see little fish swimming all around. Thankfully there are no crocs in this part of the Nile, because the large dams stop their progress. We stayed pretty close to shore, but if you did swim out a bit, you could feel the strength of the current. It was mighty strong.
I also really appreciated the nature and sounds of the Nile. The Nile Valley is so beautiful, because it is so wide and flat and filled with palm trees, bucolic farms and birds. Compared to the dry desert and rocky areas we had just left, I can finally understand why the ancient people wanted to live here. You can really feel the fact that this is the life and blood of this country. And it was silent! The cities here are so loud that it was a nice change in pace to have some peace and quiet. There are fisherman that float along the river and they use some traditional fishing techniques that were interesting to see. But other than them, we largely had the river to ourselves. There were hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of cruise ships and feluccas that were beached up on shore, sitting unused since the downturn in tourism. It’s quite sad to see, because Egypt really is a safe and wonderful place for tourists to visit, but with the revolution and subsequent media slander, no one wants to visit.
Nonetheless, we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner on this tiny ship and they were all delicious. Fresh crepes, chicken & rice soup, and shatshuka were a few of the culinary highlights. We got to watch a sunset on the river, and then pulled the felucca over to anchor for the night. We slept right on the top deck of the ship under the stars. With little city light around, we got an excellent view of an assortment of different constellations and stars. I even saw a shooting star! We only wound up traveling about 40 km in the 24 hours we were on the boat, but it was a truly relaxing day. And, the whole group came away feeling closer after a full day of each other’s company. This will definitely one of my highlights!