Time to try a berth on the Nile
AndrewSanger takes a trip back in time during a cruise on the Nile and
GENTLE, WARM air moves over the wide river at dusk, strange birds fly low, voices and l i l t i n g m u s i c drift across from the shore, blending with the call of the muezzin. The lush river banks are garlanded with green palms, but rising behind, bare hills are silhouetted against the sky, a reminder of the empty Sahara that lies beyond.
The extraordinary remoteness of this part of Egypt preserved the Pharaohs and their world for thousands of years. And in the millennia since, the dry heat has preserved scores of their gigantic statues, their immense tombs and mighty stone temples carved from top to base with symbols and signs.
The biggest surprise is that the River Nile today is a busy place. As we travelled sedately for 130 miles from Luxor to Aswan, other cruise ships journeyed just ahead or behind, together with flocks of feluccas, the quiet wooden sailboats, and small rowing boats each with a fisherman or two on board wearing their galabyas, the traditional ankle-length Arab kaftans. As it happens, almost every passenger ended up with a galabya of their own — they make handy dressing gowns.
To buy one, browse the stalls of the bazaars at any of the ship’s stops, where traders swarm around, insistent, determined to make a sale at any price. Some offer shirts, shawls and scarves which can be haggled down to £1 each, others hold out racks of jewellery, with beaded necklaces costing as little as 50 pence.
Alternatively, buy in unhurried tranquillity on board ship, where the prices are almost the same.
In between the temples and tombs, life on board is thoroughly relaxing. All cabins have a river view, often with picture windows that open wide. There is a friendly, informal atmosphere, even in the dining room. On the top deck, lie back under an African sun, relax at the bar or cool off in the pool. Crew members are always on hand to bring a drink to your sun-lounger.
With none of the formality of an ocean cruise, dining was buffet-style, an all-you-can-eat abundance of delicious dishes, including fish, soups, vegetables and salads, plus Egyptian cakes, fruit and other desserts. Breakfast was equally good, with pancakes, fresh breads, salty local cheeses and eggs freshly cooked to order.
Despite these on-board delights, the
Aswan, where the Nile ‘becomes vast and still, with large islands in midstream’