A Felucca on the Nile

There are several must-sees (although they all escape me :P) and several must-dos when you are in Egypt. For me, there was no competition – the best was taking a Felucca down the Nile River for three days and two nights.

A few months ago I was given a bunch of photos from my time in Egypt, 1999, which had been lost for nearly two decades. Which means I can now write this post with photos to back me up! So I’m pretty excited to relay this tale, albeit 19 years after it occurred.

Greig relaxes on board.

I visited Egypt with a friend from Primary School (many years after Primary School I should add!). Most of my 1999 Round the World trip was solo, but we did team up at various points and we both though Egypt sounded good so we booked tickets to get there. We flew into Alexandria on the Mediterranean Coast from Frankfurt. I connected from Moscow and had spent half the day asleep on the Frankfurt carpet as I’d had no sleep, my friend Greig was flying in from Hamburg where he’d been living for several months. He needed to leave Germany for a certain period of time to be allowed in again.

I had the Lonely Planet for Egypt. It was one of the worst guide books I’ve ever used (please not that this was the Edition which was current at the time, which at the time wasn’t very current). The maps were all wrong for starters. Greig’s flight to Frankfurt was greatly delayed. The last passengers were boarding the flight to Alexandria, and I was standing there wondering if I should get on the plane or not.

Literally the last three passengers were having their boarding passes checked as Greig came running at a million miles an hour past the duty free. The sense of relief from my end was huge. We ran on board the plane and were soon airborne. It was late afternoon and I had arrived early morning, around 7am.

After getting to grips with a new country, we hit the capital Cairo where we bumped into a Canadian guy called Stacey who I had been emailing. Lonely Planet had (probably still do) a section for people looking for others to travel with. We knew we’d be in Egypt roughly the same time but it hadn’t worked out. But here he was at the hostel we were staying at, a day before flying out. He gave us the lowdown on what to do in Egypt, I think it’s fair to say we had no idea.

And so it was he thoroughly recommended taking a felucca on the Nile, that we should head to Aswan, in the south of Egypt, stay at a certain hotel (name long forgotten) and ask for a Captain Thomas. As we were apparently rubbish at the time at planning, we decided we might as well.

Train alongside the Nile.

The train journey is quite incredible. You follow the Nile southwards to Aswan, passing through Luxor on the way. Either side of the Nile it’s mostly just desert. Along the Nile, that’s where you find life in Egypt. It’s incredible.

We had a decent hotel in Aswan. I can tell you we probably arrived on the 23rd of April 1999. My diary didn’t survive, but I do know I had my 24th birthday on the Nile. The hotel choice was deliberate, as they could get us in contact with Captain Thomas.

Aswan, in late April, damned hot. And getting hotter. Well into the forties every day. We spent most of the daytime in the hotel, keeping cool. We may even have had an air conditioner. Before 11am and after 4pm were the times to get out and look at Aswan, a dusty desert town, I remember a market and not much else.

We met with Captain Thomas on the first night. I think we stayed a second, but I could be wrong. We discussed price and what would be involved. Two nights on the boat, leaving at 7am, third day off the boat and into a jeep to see a couple of sights before finishing in the early afternoon in Luxor. We would be dropped off at a hostel in Luxor, we didn’t have to stay there.

The cooking was to be done on board the boat. There was bread, eggs … stew, pasta…. It was a long time ago! The price, whatever it was and I would be wildly guessing if I had to name a price, was pretty decent. I doubt whether it was more than $20US per person a day. The boat was of a reasonable size, again this is hard to quantify. There would have been 10 passengers at a guess plus Captain Thomas and his crew which would have been another 3 or 4. And we all slept under the stars on the boat. Not a bad place to sleep at all.

It’s slow travel along the Nile, although you are going with the flow of the water obviously. Plenty of shade on the boat, the water of the river kept us much cooler than the actual outside temperature. We passed lots of boats going in the other direction, some were like us, some were ferries, and some were luxury boats for people who could afford them. The boat would rock a lot after passing a big ‘un.

And I don’t remember much of getting off the boat during the first couple of days. I do remember that on my 24th birthday I did jump off the boat and swim in the Nile. Whether it is advisable I don’t know, but it was too tempting to resist, and it was amazing.

Now, there were some stops to see temples. I think they happened on the final day, and then we were jeeped up to Luxor, but I could be wrong on that. The one I remember best is the Temple of Edfu, which is quite a large temple. It dates back to somewhere between 250BC and 50BC. But there was to be no shortage of temples.

At the end of it all we were dropped at the hostel in Luxor. We were all impressed by the cost, the fact there was a small dorm room which would fit all of us in, a nice rooftop restaurant and air conditioning. So we stayed there and all booked on the same tour of the Valley of the Kings and Queens for the next day.

And so the Nile adventure came to a close. And nearly twenty years on, it sticks in my mind as one of the best things I’ve ever done when travelling. Have you done such a trip? Please comment below, and May the Journey Never End!

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