Feluccas & Nile Cruisin’…
Monday, May 3rd 2010: Aswan, Egypt
A couple of hours and barely any sleep later, I sat in the cabin watching the blur of greenery go by. We passed fields of palm trees, banana trees, hibiscus bushes, tall grass, grazing livestock and farmers tending to it all. We passed through small towns where there were men sitting in front of shops, women in burqas walking in groups and occasionally a child on a donkey strutting down the road alongside the tracks. We left Giza late, and so were late getting there, but when we finally arrived in Aswan, we gladly got off the train and onto the bus, eager to get to our cruise boat (not quite a ship) for lunch and a shower. Aswan was slightly hotter than Cairo but just as busy. It was pretty amusing to see the numerous Pepsi and Coca-Cola billboards, and the big KFC and Pizza Hut signs outside the train station. After the cramped overnight shoebox ride, our boat, the M/S La Traviata, was like a gift from God with its buffet-style restaurant downstairs, a large nicely furnished lobby on the main level, spacious rooms with private showers and balconies and a sun deck up top with a bar and pool. I made a mental note to come back to Egypt just to cruise the Nile for a week. After we settled into our rooms, washed away the weariness from the night before and had a bite to eat, it was time for our felucca ride up the river to the Botanical Gardens.
Here began my infatuation with feluccas. The breeze in the huge white sail, against the light blue sky, carried us down the calm of a dark blue river, and patches of green bushes lined the banks of high undisturbed sand dunes. We waved to other passing feluccas, cruise boats, and local fishermen and took pictures of grazing water buffalo and birds as we sailed along.
With Sherif in the background telling us a love story about the mosque-like building on a nearby hill, I sat on the bow listening and taking in the scenery all around me. It’s own little island in the middle of the Nile, the Aswan Botanical Gardens was an interesting sight with its wide variety of trees, plants and flowers against a backdrop of tall, barren sand dunes.
We took our time walking through the gardens and eventually met back at the felucca. While waiting for everyone to return we were ‘kept company’ by a crafty scarf salesman. He kept us quite amused as he tried to ‘ginnal’ his way to making a sale, “Ahhh, I mean 10 British pounds… hahaha!” The sail back to the boat was just as gorgeous and I wished it would have been a little longer. Today’s agenda was much less hectic than the day before with a lot less stops, but still worthy of many pictures that speak for themselves. Sherif took those who wanted to go out for some shopping and then we spent the rest of the evening relaxing – some in the much appreciated air-conditioned comfort of their rooms (like myself) and some on the top deck with a drink from the bar, a cup of tea, or just laying by the pool. Later that night, after dinner, we all met for the evening’s entertainment. We were only one of about three other tour groups on the boat, so there was a good-sized audience waiting to see the belly dancer’s performance. Honestly speaking, I was expecting a better show from this belly dancer and was somewhat disappointed when I realized I’d seen better here in my own backyard, but she was engaging and kept the crowd involved and dancing with her. The gentleman who danced after her was much more impressive as he spun in circles nonstop showing off his colourful cloak.
We called it a night soon after since our wake-up call the next morning was at 2:30. We had to be up early to get to the airport to catch our flight down to the main highlight of the entire tour – Abu Simbel.