A Nile cruise with a difference

A Nile cruise surely has to be part of any Egyptian itinerary.  The huge cruise ships were not for us though. After our homestay at Elephantine Island,  we spent the following two days aboard a felucca, lazily zig-zagging our way up the Nile towards Luxor.  

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Felucca on the Nile

A felucca is a traditional wooden boat with sails and oars.  They have been used around the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and along the Nile since ancient times.  Felucca have to zig-zag up the Nile, catching the breeze as they go.  Our felucca crew were able to make precise turns at exactly the same angle each time (we plotted the course on GPS). The boats are small, transporting only 10 to 15 people including the crew.  Below the deck there is only a small space for storing provisions, and no bathroom facilities.  Even though each of us drank 3 litres of water a day, nobody needed to use the bathroom whilst on the boat, which was just as well.

The boat was a comfortable place to be as the deck was covered by a large mattress and an awning protected us from the sun.  Two days sounded like a long time to just sit or lie on a tiny boat, but it provided a much-needed rest and respite from the sweltering heat.  We read, talked, and watched life along the Nile.

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Mosques along the river banks

We passed other felucca, children splashing about at the water’s edge, and dodged the huge cruise ships heading downstream.  The heat sucked the moisture from our bodies and the welcome breeze was like a hairdryer blowing in our faces.  Mirages appeared along the river banks in the distance as the sun blazed in the sky.  In spite of the temperatures, our captain and his mate worked tirelessly, pausing to fill their bottles from the river.  I couldn’t believe that they could drink the river water with no adverse effects.

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Our heroic felucca crew

As the sun descended, Mohammed and Ravi searched for a suitable place to stop for the night.  We set up camp moored amongst the reeds along the river bank.  The men put up the tent for our washing facilities at short distance away from the boat.

At first our site seemed deserted but we soon noticed a face peering at us, bemused, from a tiny house camouflaged amongst the reeds.  Mohammed and Ravi made a delicious dinner for us all and we passed a pleasant evening talking.  We slept on the deck under the stars, the silence punctuated every so often by a loud, strangled noise.  Nobody could think what it could be and our heroes were reluctant to investigate.  The next we discovered  that it was just a chicken (possibly a mutant, judging by the sound) and probably owned by the face in the rushes.

After breakfast on the second day we risked a swim (well, a paddle) in the Nile.  Initially my thoughts turned to the pet crocodile we’d met on Elephantine Island and his bigger, wild brothers; however what sent me scarpering back to the boat was the donkey dung bobbing merrily past us.

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Camels for sale at Daraw market

That morning we stopped to get ice from Daraw, which is a small town off the tourist radar.  Daraw is famous locally for its camel market, and so of course we wanted to take a look.  We did have to jump out of the way of a camel stampede as the animals were herded towards to market.  The market itself was a large, walled area which could hold hundreds of animals, although there were only a handful of camels when we visited.  It was interesting to see a non-touristy town and we felt as though we were somewhat off the beaten track.

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Edfu temple
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Colour on the hieroglyphs

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We continued, passing by the temple at Kom-Ombo and stopping at Edfu temple.  Edfu temple was built for the god Horus and is one of the best preserved ancient temples you can visit.  There is a hypostyle hall, a large pylon and all of the walls have been covered in beautiful hieroglyphs.  You should definitely try to peer into the darker corners of the temple as you will find beautifully preserved colours on the walls and pillars.

Eventually, on the afternoon of the second day we arrived in Luxor.  We said our goodbyes to our felucca crew, and feeling refreshed from our rest, set out to explore the city.

Read about Karnak temple and more in our Luxor post.

12 thoughts on “A Nile cruise with a difference

  1. Belle Papillon 24/7 says:

    How nice. Thanks for sharing.
    Oh man. I was scheduled to go to Israel, Egypt and Jordan in March but because of the recent kidnappings I heard the US embassy has declared for Americans to not cross the borders so we’re going to Dubai and Israel instead. I have been looking forward to that trip. 🙁

    Thanks for the follow. You have a new fan.
    I like your lay out.

    <3 BP

    • kidsandcompass says:

      Oh no, what a shame! I think it’s best to play it safe though.
      It’s a real pity about the situation in that region; there are so many wonderful things to see and I worry about the people whose livelihoods rest on tourism.
      I hope you enjoy Dubai and Israel.
      And thank you for the follow back 🙂

  2. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    The Felucca cruise looks really fascinating. The river Nile with its rich history dating back to antiquity is indeed an intriguing river. It must have been a great feeling cruising on the river.

  3. Kate says:

    Hi, we have an 8, 6 and 3 year old boys and we want to do a 4 night Nile Cruise this Christmas. As you can imagine they are quite active but they are interested in Pharaohs. Do you think it is wise for them to do a Nile cruise? Will they be bored or should we just bring loads of boardgames? Im just worried they are too young but i think itll be great for them.

    • Emily Cole says:

      Hi Kate. I’m not sure I’d recommend a felucca cruise for your 3 year old. There’s nowhere on board to run around so if he’s very active he might get frustrated. But if you think he’d be OK with that for a day or two then go for it. A Nile cruise on a larger ship would probably be great! I bet your boys will love Egypt – hope you have a great time.

    • Carol says:

      Hi Kate, We are in the same situation with 4 kids – 9,7,7, and 3. Did you end up taking a Nile River Cruise with your kids and would you recommend the cruise? We are finding it hard to decide between so many options.

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