Sailing the Nile for three days sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Sailboats conjure up feelings of freedom, relaxation and, let’s be honest, opulence. How often do you associate sailing with anything less than the high-life? My last multi-day sailing experience, yachting around the Galapagos, was exactly what sailing fantasies are made of. Sailing on a felucca for three days up the Nile though was not.
The idea of sailing from Aswan to Luxor as the ancient Egyptians did is romantic. Wanting to see the Nile, relax and enjoy a little more of Egypt’s scenery we signed up for the two night, three-day tour. Originally we had planned to do the five-day cruise, but people had told us that two nights was plenty, actually they told us one night was probably enough. Even with this advice we decided to spend a little extra time, hoping to see more of the Nile, little did we know that extra time didn’t equate to extra distance.
Getting on the boat around 1 PM we lazily drifted a couple hundred meters to what we presume was a police checkpoint. Waiting there for a few minutes, we were excited when the captain returned to start our voyage. After drifting downstream for another 20 minutes we stopped at a beach to “swim”. Only LOCAVORista took the opportunity to dive into the Nile while our two German shipmates and I read on the boat. After LOCAVORista finished her swim the captain continued playing in the water for another hour or so. When he finally returned we were excited to really get moving, maybe actually sail.
Sadly we only moved a couple kilometers from this spot, by drifting, not sailing, to where we stopped for the night. As the sun was setting it was clear we could have walked this far from Aswan faster than we floated there. We could confirm this fact because we could still see the city from where we were. Still excited though we went to sleep hoping to see more on the second day.
Sleeping on the hard wood planks of the felucca we rose shortly after sunrise (about 6 AM). After enjoying breakfast we learned we had to wait for two more people to join us. Expected around 8:30 AM, the Australian couple wasn’t settled until 10 AM. Just after their arrival we floated a few kilometers, finally putting Aswan out of sight. After resting there for several hours, reading and hanging out, we floated another couple of kilometers before stopping for the night. While we were supposed to sail to the famous Kom Ombo Temple, it was clear we had completed less than half the humorously short distance.
“Relaxe”…it’s all there is to do on a felucca.
In the morning we were picked up by a minivan that took us to Kom Ombo. The first road sign we saw made it clear we had traveled less than 15 miles in two full days on the boat, never actually sailing.
So how was the trip? Actually pretty great. Not because of the boat, food or sights we saw, rather because of the great people we shared the experience with. They saw the humor in how pointless the mode of transportation was, but made it fun anyways. We shared book reports on what we were reading, learned about the DJ industry, got an examination of an infected wound I had, and discussed international politics. While the felucca itself failed to entertain, sharing the experience with interesting people saved the day.
WHEN YOU GO:
-THERE IS NO BATHROOM. If you aren’t comfortable relieving yourself off the side of the boat or behind a bush, this isn’t for you!
-CONSIDER ONE NIGHT. One night is enough to get the experience; in fact, the 1-hour sunset cruise in Aswan was a better experience than the multi-day cruise.
-BOOK THROUGH MEMNON HOTEL if you are a budget traveler. From what we heard the felucca experience is pretty much the same no matter whom you book from. Memnon offers great service and the cruise is 80 EGP ($13 USD) per day, per person.