Felucca on the Nile

One of the great journey’s to be had while in Egypt is to travel the length of the Nile, south to north, on board a traditional sailing vessel known as a felucca. 

FeluccaAswan is a small Egyptian city relatively close to the border with Sudan.  Surrounding the city are rocky hills, almost pink in color; one of which contains the mausoleum of Aga Khan lll, the 48th Imam, who died in 1957.

The Blue Nile cuts through Aswan’s center and under the bright midday sun she shimmers and glistens with a gentle relaxed beauty; like that of a tidal pool or crater lake. The water itself reflecting the appearance of a thousand diamonds mounted atop a vast fluid sapphire.

Dotted throughout this section, the river hosts dozens of tree covered islands that lend further to its overall allure; enhancing the richness of a land once ruled by pharaohs and sultans with their hoards of gold encrusted jewels.

Aswan proved to be a city that appreciated a more relaxed way of life. The polar opposite of its big brother Cairo.  Here you can stroll down the boardwalk alongside the Nile and even though hawkers still attempt to make sales, their numbers are few, and their style less abrasive.

It is a city in the desert and therefore a kind of oasis.  With a river through sand dunes guided by the arch of palm trees; swaying not from wind but from strong thermal currents. 

I spent my days in the company of sugar filled tea drinking Egyptians, the memory of Aga Khan, and the final resting place of Abu Simbel; massive temples located on the western bank of man-made Lake Nasser.

It was my departure from Aswan that was to be the highlight.  I had booked passage on a felucca along with several other travelers; all from England.  All in all there was 5 of us.  The trip was to take us down the Nile, north towards Edfu and Esna, with the final destination being Luxor.

I had wanted to go all the way to Cairo but there is a lot to see in between so cut the sailing short and would eventually head to the Read Sea; but that’s for later.

Our captain was named Abdullah; really.

He was a friendly chap who smiled constantly except when he barked orders at his young assistant. Then his smile became more a sneer of disdain that righted itself when his head redirected toward us.

Abdullah cooked our meals and guided us up the Nile. At night, as the sun sank below the horizon, he would stretch out with the rest of us to soak in the beauty and sheer magnificence of a countryside he had undoubtedly seen a million times before.

Relaxation came easy and soon turned to sleep as the suns crest was no more.

Early morning brought us alongside the ancient town of Edfu and the archaeological ruins that remain. As with Esna we explored the carved rocks and marveled at these structures that only an active imagination could bring into focus.

Walking in places steeped in historical significance can be intoxicating.  Your imagination can get you to that high faster and with added clarity.  To me this is exactly how you put the pieces of time back together as you stand in venues of greatness.

Luxor, our final stop; the resting place of kings and queens including Hatshepdut and Tutankhamen. It is here that you come face to face with mythology and fact.

It is here you separate extra-terrestrial assistance from the grit and fortitude of man.  

I rented a bicycle and rode it onto the ferry to cross the Nile. Awaiting on the other side were scores of children selling warm drinks that were supposed to be cold and unexpected fields of green, flowing creeks, and forests that provided adequate shade from the early morning sun.

These natural luxuries would not last.

The terrain, upon first incline, changed to the more barren beige of dust and desert. My bike groaned and creaked in unison and with each completed cycle of the wheels we found ourselves climbing steeper.

The Valley of the Kings and Queens was the destination but getting there was a trek.

Desert sun is oven hot.

Riding the bike soon became walking the bike and eventually I was in sight of the entrance. The famous valley that laid claim to some of the most intriguing characters in Egyptian history; the boy pharaoh among them.

Leaning my bike against a wall and paying baksheesh  for its continued protection I entered through a crowd of guides touting their services. I declined, opting for a more peaceful morning of exploration free of chatter no matter how based in expertise it was.

Of course the hawkers were not silent; never. Offers to sell me priceless artifacts taken from looted tombs came thick and fast but all in a whisper. Rocks picked from the ground suddenly became worth their weight in gold as storied historical eras were attached to them by teenage boys looking to find a “mark” and extract some cash.

Traveling in Egypt is a balance of awe, wonder, and turmoil, where keeping your wits sharp is essential to enjoyment. The game of travel is like sleeping with one eye open.

I meandered through the crevices of the valley where in some places the opposing walls were only feet apart; eventually delivering me to my ultimate destination…the tomb of Tutankhamun…King Tut.

1 Face of Cairo Funeral_Mask_of_Tutankhamen

Spacemen helped build the pyramids.

Entering the long descending corridor the walls contain a conspiracy theorists treasure trove. Hieroglyphics depicting what could easily be interpreted as flying saucers, aliens standing side by side with Egyptians, and images of future inventions.

Guide delivered assurances to the contrary refute all theories too radical.  We all would like to think, I think, how cool it would be if the men from outer space had come down to Egypt and assisted in the building of great monuments and provided knowledge about tools and weaponry beyond the radar of the time.

The fact is that the truth by itself is amazing enough. There is no need to look for inter-galactic conspirators.  The feats of the Egyptians stand the test of time in both durability and intrigue.  From the pyramids of Giza to the Valley of Kings and Queens in Luxor, the ingenuity required is astounding.

Descending below the scorching desert floor the air becomes cooler with every step.

As the light of day diminishes it is replaced by the flicker of candle sconces along the tunnel walls.  This in turn breathes additional life into the hieroglyphic drawings; within an instant you find yourself the central character in any one of a dozen famous movies flirting with the romance of tomb raiding and archaeological treasure.

A wide crevasse opens up beneath and your footing, on the rickety swing bridge, feels less confident by the step.  Beyond this last barricade to prevent plunder is the inner sanctum; the tomb of Tutankhamun.

It was much smaller that I had anticipated.

But the importance of being here, in this place of history, was not lost on me. Gone were all the treasures; stolen many decades ago. The floor and walls were barren and compiled of hardened mud. The sarcophagus lay as it was found in 1922, or so they believe.

I spent as long as I could in there; taking it all in.  In front of me was the burial place; around me was the tomb of a man who lived in 1332 BC. At one stage this room was filled with Egyptian loyalists burying their King.

There was some heady imagining happening; I was in full mind churn mode.

Exiting the tunnel I was spent. There was no real need to visit any more sites. The other Kings and Queens paled in comparison. It had been Tut that had occupied my youth. Leabank Primary school had honed a gift of curiosity and now I was standing in the shadow of its subject.

The journey back to Luxor was literally a breeze; all downhill to the river.

For more on this journey click on Sands of the SinaiThe Con Man of Cairo , The Mogamma Odyssey , and The Big Baksheesh.

44 thoughts on “Felucca on the Nile

  1. I have always found Egypt an intriguing place…I have been before but never got to do a boat trip on the Nile…my partner has always wanted to do a felucca ride. As for the history…its mind boggling and hard to comprehend how those pyramids and temples were built!


    1. Mind blowing is the perfect way of describing timelessness of the old structures with the crumbling new ones. Seems like it there is no connection.


  2. What an incredible experience, one which I would love to follow. As if Egypt isn’t romantic and awe inspiring enough your writing has taken it to a whole new level for me.


    1. Thank you very much for your comment Sarah. I am glad you enjoyed the journey through Egypt and yes, it is that conjures the romantic and the adventurer is us all. If you go I would love to read your impressions.


  3. What an amazing story, made better by your talented writing. I loved the part about “sleeping with one eye open.” That certainly would be my sentiment as a female traveler in Egypt today, whether it’s an accurate concern or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This brings me back to both my experience sailing in Aswan and also visiting the tomb of King Tut! I was feeling so under the weather visiting the tombs (barfed leading up the steps of King Tut’s tomb) 😦 I loved reading your experiences – I enjoy your writing greatly!


  5. Tim, first let me compliment your fluid and romantic writing style that had me feeling like i was tucked in with a good romance novel. Wow! Moving on… 😉 Your trip sounds heavenly and I truly felt like I was there riding the bike with you, and descending into the tombs away from the sunshine. Luxor looks most interesting to me. Fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great post and how well written! It’s such a pleasure to find a blog whose author goes beyond the typical “5 most interesting artifacts in x.” You bring life to your posts and your descriptions make the reader feel like she’s there, descending the steps into the tomb right behind you.

    Thank you.

    Dang. I have to try to learn to write like that. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing journey. I love the way you described your trip to Edfu, Esna, and Luxor. So much history and wonder. I was in awe and part of me wished I was with you. Although not on the felucca – I’m not comfortable enough on the water unless in a huge ocean liner.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, what an adventure. I could not imagine what I would think when I pondered I was boating on the Nile, or walking through an area that had so much history. To think you were in places described in ancient texts and the bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What am amazing journey Tim! I was fortunate to see the traveling King Tut exhibit in LA a few years ago and it was breathtaking, but I’m sure no where near the thrill of seeing it there in person. The trip on the Nile definitely made me jealous. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pyramids amaze all of us with its mysteries and size. I always think about visiting there. Have seen a lot of documentaries and heard names of many kings including Tut.
    I always like the way you describe everything, it was like as I am there and watching everything myself.

    SO you are enjoying the extension of visa. + I was wondering why you took bicycle and not the camel.
    This post reminds me of the Movie 10,000 BC.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Lenie and glad that line jumped out at you. I have visited many places around the world that are steeped in history and it is easy to get lost in thought as you time travel in your imagination.


  11. Haha, I like how you’re all idyllic when starting out and the pictures of the boats sailing on the Nile create such a serene mood, and then it’s time for the real trek to start. I went to the traveling Mummies of the World exhibit, but it would never be able to compare to the real thing. The school librarian I worked with actually cashed in her 401K and took her daughter on a Nile Cruise. Everyone talked about how she was so crazy, but I was more prone to say, “There’s a woman after my own heart.”


  12. Sailing on the Nile looks like such a peaceful and relaxing journey. Especially relative to some of the other chaos you’ve described in Egypt. Your photos make the water seem pristine, blue and calm.


  13. I love this line: “It is here you separate extra-terrestrial assistance from the grit and fortitude of man.” I can understand how people of today cannot believe that the men of that earlier (and supposedly cruder) time could build such feats of architecture. This is a trip I’d love to make someday, especially the felucca!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Egypt has a wonderful past and looking at its treasures is a delight. Spent a lot of time looking at Tut at the museum in Cairo. One day I will take a Nile cruise but at the moment Egypt is not a destination to be recommended.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Egypt is a place that I would love to visit. You had some amazing experiences! So Aswan isn’t just an answer to a crossword clue, I see. Yes, I’m one of those who wonder if spacemen helped with the pyramid building. And visiting King Tut’s tomb must have been special as well as all the other breathtaking sights. Lucky you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Tim, I am truly enjoying all your stories from Egypt…. I love the way you travel. I had never heard of a felucca before but wow- sailing on the Nile is not something I have heard much about before. Recently I watched a documentary about the pyramids and combined with your blog posts, I have Egypt on the brain…hope to visit sometime!


  17. I would never have thought to take a boat ride down the Nile River. That had to been exciting. You are doing what most people would never think of doing and after hearing it, think wow, why didn’t I think of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. That all must have seemed so surreal – I’ve never heard of a felucca before – what a romantic, dreamy way to sail down the storied Nile. I can’t imagine how it felt to be in the tomb of King Tut – although you do a lovely job describing it. How incredible to walk in the footsteps of the pharaohs, think of the civilizations that came before us, and their iconic achievements, that still endure. You’re so lucky to have experienced all this.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Tim, I too, just like Jacquie, have seen the museum exhibit of King Tut, but Oh to be there in person and walk the roads they walked and visit the actual tomb etc. must be incredible. You did a great job describing it for us, but I would so love to see it in person someday. Bucket list item. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi Tim. I’m envious that you were able to witness such a wonder like the pyramids. It’s truly amazing what the Egyptians were able to accomplish during ancient times with the resources provided. Now that you point it out, I do wonder if modern architectural pieces will stand as historical benchmarks or merely be compared to the past?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I have always found the ingenuity required to build the pyramids nothing short of astounding. I do not think the things we have built in our time will stand as long as these structures. I could feel your awe as you stood in that room where a king who ruled in 1322 BC lay. It left me breathless too! I have seen the traveling museum exhibit of Tut, but I would dearly love to travel to where he lived and ruled. Even though, as you say, this is a journey where one needs to keep their eyes wide open (I love that) for more than just the treasures and wonders…you sure make it sound appealing.

    Liked by 1 person

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