Egypt is a land of mystique and enigma, with one foot firmly anchored in the past and the other seeking a secure foundation in the future. Egypt is home to a treasure trove of colossal monuments. The construction techniques for some are known, but to this day, many others remain shrouded in mystery.
Little could the Pharaohs have imagined that the tombs and massive architecture they built—with the backbreaking labour of their faithful minions—would, thousands of years later, draw millions from around the world to stand in awe of their accomplishments. Where did these people come from and how did their civilization rise so rapidly? This is one of the many mysteries that makes Egypt utterly fascinating and calls you back time and again.
The Pyramids on the Giza Plateau are the only structures remaining of the seven wonders of the ancient world. They are so massive that they can be distinctly seen from space. Then there’s the mighty Sphinx, the largest monolith statue in the world.
Of course, Egypt is more than huge monuments and beautifully painted funeral art still visible on tomb walls after thousands of years. Mysteries abound, with the River Nile the greatest of all. The Nile flows out of Africa, north into the delta at the top of Egypt, until its nourishing waters come to rest in the Mediterranean Sea.
There are many ways to travel the Nile, and each one offers a uniquely different experience. As a special treat, we were invited for a breakfast cruise on a felucca, a small sail-driven single-operator boat. The morning dawned bright and beautiful with a clear blue sky and gentle winds—perfect sailing weather.
Our felucca was awaiting our arrival with a table set with linen and china and a 5-star breakfast of fresh squeezed fruit juices, hot coffee, fresh-from-the-oven pastries and breads, platters of cheeses and meats, fruits, yogurts, and cereals, and a waiter at the ready to serve us. We pushed off from the dock and the wind caught the sails as the helmsman deftly tacked to and fro while we enjoyed our meal, the warmth of the sun, and the company of our companions.
For an extended visit on the Nile with stops along the way at the temples of Abydos, Dandara, Luxor and Karnak, Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae and the High Dam at Aswan, there are dozens of luxury Nile cruisers to choose from.
Or you could do what I did, and enjoy the Nile from a Dahabiya, a boutique sailboat that is like a private yacht. Dahabiyas are some 50 metres long under sail power. The downside is that when the wind is not blowing in the right direction, you must be pulled by a tugboat which unfortunately is powered by diesel fuel.
Our Dahabiya was a spacious, beautifully polished wooden boat with comfortable deck couches and an open bar. Lounge chairs and an outdoor Jacuzzi with shaded zones for dining al fresco completed the upper deck areas. The Dahabiya had eight large air-conditioned sleeping suites, with wide-window viewing of the passing scene.
Because the Nile does not produce waves, there is no fear of becoming seasick and we were all able to eat the appetizing meals prepared for us. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style while dinner was a sit-down, waiter-served, full-course meal with the chef happy to accommodate our food requests.
Every meal started with appetizers and salads that were fresh and delicious. This was indeed a treat since on prior trips to Egypt it was deemed a no-no to eat uncooked food. Things have changed a lot in the last few years and while I still use bottled water even for brushing my teeth, the easing of food restrictions means that using tap water cannot be far behind in terms of safety and taste.
One balmy evening we were having pre-dinner cocktails on the deck when out of nowhere, a strong wind came up and sharp flying sand assaulted us. Calmly we were ushered downstairs while the wind blew mercilessly. We were experiencing a Khamasseen, or Chamsin, which loosely translates to “the fifties” because this sandstorm can arise anytime during a 50 day period.
That night, the howling wind lulled me to sleep as I imagined myself a character in an Agatha Christie novel, gliding down the Nile trapped on a boat in a sandstorm. Very exciting!
When we awoke, we were invited to enjoy breakfast in the dining room while the crew removed the thick sand deposits left by the storm. In a short while we were back on deck where we were greeted by a blue sky, bright sun, and the sail fully extended to take advantage of the breeze.
Barbara Angelakis is a seasoned international traveller and award-winning writer based in the New York City area. To read more of her articles and adventures visit LuxuryWeb Magazine at www.luxuryweb.com