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Friday, April 18, 2014

SAILING DOWN THE NILE







 If you’ve never been on a Nile River cruise, I suggest you mark this on your ‘bucket list’. It was something I’d always wanted to do, though I’d often visualized myself on one of the Nile sailboats called a felucca. However, fortune had it that I was invited on a tour of Egypt that included a Nile cruise. 
 
The Sonesta Star Goddess
We boarded our river boat, The Sonesta Star Goddess, at Aswan. We were greeted at the gangway by the crew dressed in navy middies, and escorted into the elegant lounge where we were offered warm scented cloths to refresh our faces and hands, and a drink of citrus juice.  After having traveled by plane and van for many hours, this was indeed a welcoming! Then we were shown to our suites.
 
The Crew


The lounge
 




The cruise ship has 33 suites. Mine was a two-room suite with all the amenities and a small balcony overlooking the river.

 


After we were settled  we were invited for cocktails on the deck and given a tour of the ship. There’s everything a larger cruise ship might have including a spa, exercise room, dining room, bar where there is evening entertainment, various small shops. On the top deck there’s a swimming pool, hot tub, bar and lounge area where you can sit and watch the river slide by.




Sonesta’s fleet of five Nile River cruise ships offer 3-, 4-, and 7-night trips between Aswan and Luxor. http://www.sonesta.com/nilecruises/

I’d had no idea that the Nile River was quite as wide or as beautiful as it actually is. It’s the world’s longest river, flowing approximate 4665 miles out of the heart of Africa, northward to the Mediterranean Sea. There are two sources: The White Niles from equatorial Africa and the White Nile from the Abyssinian highlands. The cataracts, a progression of white rapids form the southern border of Egypt at Sudan. The First Cataract is at Aswan.
 
 
 

 
We traveled north from Aswan to Luxor on our three-day voyage, stopping each day to visit archaeological sites. Usually we set sail in the late afternoon, sailing during the evening and early morning. It was remarkable how quiet it was, as if the ship was sliding with the current, the pastoral shores slipping by like a silent movie.
Nile Sunset

Past Aswan, at Edfu, the great Nile Valley begins. Limestone cliffs run parallel along the shore for more than 400 miles, sometimes stretched toward the desert. These cliffs reach heights of 800 feet in some places with mesas and plateaus. The cliffs on the west are like sentinels standing before the Libyan Desert, and on the east they withdraw into the Arabian or Red Sea Deserts. At the delta in Lower Egypt, it fans out with seven major tributaries into the Mediterranean Sea.


For some reason a children’s song kept running through my head as I sat on the deck watching the river flow by:

Oh she
sailed away on a
pleasant summer's day
on the back of a crocodile.

You see, said she, "He's as
tame as he can be, I'll
float him down the Nile."

But the
croc' winked his eye as she
waved to all good-bye,
wearing a sunny smile.

At the
end of the ride the
lady was inside, and the
smile on the croc-o-dile!

But it seems there are no crocodiles lurking that part of the Nile now. Since the building of the Aswan Dam in 1960 they all reside on the south side of Lake Nasser, in the White Nile. However, I’d learn later that there is a crocodile museum at Kom Obo.
I was also reminded of Agatha Christie's book Death on the Nile and a friend pointed one out that would have been just the kind of Nile boat (a felucca) that Christie wrote about.
 

 
My travel friends and I enjoyed lounging on the upper deck in the warm March sunshine, watching the shoreline slip by. The river’s annual floods deposit fertile soil along its banks so the Nile sustains a variety of fish and fowl. In the reedy marshes egrets, ducks and geese nest. The Nile was known to nurture the sacred lotus, reeds and papyrus plants that were later used for writing on. The ancient Egyptians called the river  the “Father of Life” or “Mother of all men”.
 
Markos, Linda and Yves enjoy a relaxing afternoon

There is always a parade of farmers leading donkeys laden with produce or cut suger-cane and reed, boys on ponies walking along the river bank under the palms. People toil in fields, and there are herds of goats and cattle grazing near the shore.  The name of the river is Greek in origin, a version of the Semetic word “Nakhal”. The ancient Egyptians called it Hap-Ur or Great Hap. The river was the manifest of the god Hapi, a divine spirit that blessed the land with rich silt deposits. The Nile is Egypt’s life-blood.



These days, with tourism at a low ebb, there are few boats operating on the river. Out of more than 229 ships, there are currently only 24 operating on the river.  They provide an opportunity for guided excursion to explore the historic landmarks along the river: temples, tombs and ruins, with Egyptologist escorts. And there are plenty of leisure activities on board.
 
One day the Sonesta operations manager, Mr. Ahmed Tawfick, invited us to tour the kitchens and wheel room. We had been enjoying such amazing gourmet meals it was fun to go into the kitchen to meet the head chef and other staff who daily prepared our delicious meals.
 

 

In the wheel room we watched the pilot skillfully navigate the ship up the river. Mr Tawfick explained that there are only three families who are, by tradition, pilots of the Nile cruises and this man has been at the helm for 40 years.
 


Every night there was entertainment in the bar lounge. The first night was our Captain’s cocktail dinner. The next night was a ‘Gallabria Party’ where passengers dressed in Egyptian costumes and danced to Egyptian music. The third night was a belly dance show with the most amazing dervish who whirled dizzily in colourful skirts.
whirling dervish

On the morning of the fourth day we met in the lobby and prepared to disembark for our cross-country tour van trip through the desert to the Red Sea. I felt sad about leaving the ship after such a welcoming and relaxing cruise. But there were lots more adventures waiting at the Red Sea!
Sonesta’s fleet of five Nile River cruise ships offer 3-, 4-,and 7-night trips between Aswan and Luxor. http://www.sonesta.com/nilecruises/

 

NEXT: DAY 1 OF THE CRUISE WE STOP AT EDFU AND KOM OMBO 

 

 

 

10 comments:

Linda said...

What an amazing ship!

Rajat said...

that ship is a luxurious condo. Envy your job, looks like you had loads of fun.

Wynn Bexton said...

Watch for more stories coming soon! Glad you enjoyed this one.

Layla Walidah said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful post with us. One can know by visiting your post that you have enjoyed a lot during the time of your vacation. Nile is my one of the favorite place. Sunset picture is very pleasant. Now-a-days Egypt became very tourist attraction place where each year large no. of people comes to spend their vacation. Keep posting like this. Eagerly waiting for your next post.

Janny morag said...

Just I read your post, I am very impressed with your post .Your posted pictures are very eye-catching and interesting. I was on the cruise along the Nile valley. My Nile tours to Egypt were superb. I was quite happy and satisfied with my trip. Thanks for sharing with us such a mind-blowing blog.

Wynn Bexton said...

Thanks for your positive comments. This was really an outstanding trip and I'd love to go back!

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