The Nile flows gently along the banks as we sail upstream toward Aswan. On the shore, donkeys and camels carry sugar cane, children play at the water’s edge, women wash giant pots, and fishermen throw out lines and nets.
It’s a rural scene—the same, I imagine, that travelers would have witnessed a hundred years ago.
We are experiencing it all from the comfort of the Lazuli III, a 120-foot dahabiya. A dahabiya is sort of a houseboat with two giant triangular sails and a very shallow draft that allows us to tie up to the shore each night.
The pace is slow and just as it should be. In our six days and five nights, we will sail only about 90 miles on our trip from Luxor to Aswan. The larger riverboats do the journey in three days and travel at night. The dahabiya allows us to sit back and soak in the magic of life along the Nile and to relax in the evenings with cows, snowy white egrets, and great blue heron as our only neighbors.
One of the great joys of traveling on the dahibiya is our ability to pull up and visit small villages along the river.
The captain looks quite elegant in his traditional, flowing galabeya as he directs the crew ashore.
In one village the children wait for us with handmade baskets.
In another village we set up tables of art supplies, and the children rushed to shore to color and draw with us.
Three out of the four of us are artists, so this is a very special interaction for us.
While many people travel the Nile to experience the spectacular tombs and monuments that dot the shore, for me it is these remote farms and villages and the people that inhabit them that are the real magic of this part of Egypt.
In the year that followed the 2011 Revolution in Egypt, tourism came to a complete standstill. Even now, only about 25% of the annual number of tourists have returned. It is sad to see rows of empty riverboats lining the shore in larger towns along the Nile. The archaeological sites are breathtaking and there are few other travelers. The Egyptians are warm and welcoming. The country feels safe, and since it’s not crowded, this is actually the perfect time to visit.
-Photos and text by WT adventurer Pam Bacich, In the Wake of Cleopatra