"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Egypt: Cruising the River Nile

First, some housekeeping.  This is my blog, my online journal if you will, and in it I write accounts of my experiences as I interpreted them.  It may in fact be a very different point of view from your own, and if that upsets you, well, there is not a thing I'm going to do about that.  If you don't happen to like what you read here, I just want to offer a gentle reminder that there is not a law in the land that forces you to continue soldiering on.  The internet is a big place, and I'm sure with only a minimum of effort you'll be able to find something else more suited to your tastes and preferences.  Also as a reminder, I do not publish abusive or excessively negative comments, and I am certainly not going to let myself get drawn into a virtual comment battle with someone who doesn't even offer the courtesy of a name.

Ahem.  Anyway.  Where were we, friends and lovers?

After my distinctly fish-out-of-water first day in Aswan, I really was very much looking forward to getting on a river cruise boat for a four-day journey up the Nile.  And right on time, an extremely nice representative from the boat rescued me from El Selam's lobby and took me here.

Oh.  My. Goodness.  The rep introduced me to Ismail, my group's tour guide, and I liked him immediately.  And then... they told me that there were two rooms left on the boat.  A single room, which is what I had booked, and... a suite.

Oh. My.  Goodness.

My room was huuuuuge!  It was just amazing.  There was a king-size bed, an entirely separate living area with comfy couch, French balcony doors and a big beautiful bathroom.  To the day I die I will never understand why they decided to give this to me and not some young couple in love.  I never get upgraded!!  After I finished jumping up and down, I unpacked a little and then went exploring.

I'd never been on a cruise before, and of course I'd always wanted to.  One thing about long-term budget travel, it allows me to see a lot and to meet so many wonderful people along the way, but it is not exactly what you'd call luxurious.  It's more than a fair trade, and I know that any traveling I do in the near and not-so-near future is probably going to include more than a couple dorm rooms.  It's all just part of the experience, but it meant that I was possibly the happiest person walking around on the Tower Prestige that morning.

Roof deck POOOOOL
The cruise was undoubtedly a splurge for me, don't get me wrong.  But it meant I'd get to see parts of Egypt I'd never be able to get to on my own, and quite honestly, with the meals and accommodation and guide and transport and tickets to sights all included, this four-day cruise turned out to be both amazing and a very economical choice.  (Which of course I appreciated at the time, but appreciated even more when I got to Cairo and saw how much money I was hemorrhaging on a daily basis.  But more on that later.)

I was meeting Ismail before lunch because my tour apparently included a feluca ride.  I actually didn't know this but happily accepted.  (A feluca is basically an old-fashioned sailboat.)  It was just Ismail, the boat operator, and me, and Ismail and I enjoyed a really nice conversation about Aswan, Egyptian history, tourism, etc.  Ismail said that this summer was the lowest low season he could remember, which I guess at least partly accounts for the desperate aggression of all the vendors I'd have to fend off during the length of my stay.

The heat was getting to be truly impressive as it got towards midday, but I was just loving every minute of actually getting to sail on the Nile.  However, we ended up not getting very far as after about ten minutes, our operator suddenly set the boat in a slow circle in the middle of the river, and started pulling out bag after bag full of beaded jewelry and other random trinkets which he shook dramatically in front of me before laying them all next to each other on the boat deck.  Um, talk about your captive audience.  I was glad Ismail was there but also kind of annoyed that my hour-long cruise apparently really meant ten-minute cruise followed by awkward sales pitch.  But I was still new to Egypt and hadn't quite yet grasped the constant extent to which I'd be pressured to fork over money for goods and services I did not want.  So, I bought a necklace, and it's pretty neat.  The guy (through Ismail) assured me it was turquoise and camel bone, but I think something must have gotten lost in translation because surely what he meant to say was "plastic".

Ah well.  It's different, anyway.  And I have yet another story to offer up whenever anyone asks me where I got it.

After I handed over my bills, the cruise was apparently over because the guy packed up his stash and took us directly back to shore.  Whatever, I guess it's what I could expect for free.  It was time for lunch on the ship anyway.

At lunch I met the other member of my tour group, 12 of us in all.  Pretty nice, diverse group of people.  After lunch there was an optional (read: not included) boat ride to a "Nubian Village", which I decided to go for.  Back out on the Nile!

At the village, the first thing we did was visit this one dude's house for tea and crocodiles.  No, really.

Obviously completely safe
Then, we just walked around through the gauntlet of vendors.  Egypt makes Istanbul's Grand Bazaar look positively asleep.  You already know how much I love being heckled and hassled while browsing so I didn't stop to look at much.  Then just as the sun was going down, it was time to get back on the boat and putter home.

Getting to hold a crocodile was fun, and I really loved getting to see more of the Nile, especially since my feluca ride had been rather a disappointment.  But I'd been in Egypt for two whole days at that point and had yet to see anything truly ancient or awesome, and I was getting a little antsy.  So I was very much looking forward to the next day, where among other things we would get to see the Philae Temple of Isis and Kom Ombo, a Ptolemaic temple dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and Horus the Elder.

After dinner, I had a very quiet glass of wine in the ship's lounge, then retired to my incredible room and had myself the earliest night in a long while, because days in Egypt start early.  5:30 wake-up call, anyone?

1 comment:

  1. "The heat was getting to be truly impressive." Well put.

    Horus. Interesting. Only today I saw a vanity New Mexico plate, HORUS, in Santa Fe.