Sailing Down the Nile

Esna, Egypt

Sailing down the Nile is a tricky thing. First of all, it feels weird to say “sailing down” the Nile when we were actually sailing north. But since the Nile flows in that direction, I suppose it is more accurate to say “sailing down” instead of “sailing up.”

Second, staying on the boat is basically like staying in a hotel, but with much smaller rooms and a more creative cleaning staff. As with other places in Egypt, we couldn’t flush anything down the toilet, and instead had to throw used tissue in the wastebasket.  The cleaning staff, who I swear came through twice a day,  loved to make designs out of the towels.  The first day, we got a lotus flower on a bed, but the second day they completely freaked me out by shaping the towels into a man with sunglasses hanging from the ceiling of our room. As I screamed in shock after walking into the room, I could see one of the staff laughing down the hallway!

Nile boat

Finally, you don’t near much about this before you go (at least I didn’t), but how quickly you make the journey between Aswan and Luxor depends on traffic on the river and the schedule of the locks. For example, after our stop at Kom Ombo in the evening, we went to visit the temple at Edfu first thing in the morning. We had to practically run through the temple, though, because of the schedule of the boat and the fact that it needed to get sailing to Esna to go through the locks that night or we would be significantly delayed.  Apparently only two boats can go through the locks at Esna at a time, so if we were going to stay on the tour schedule, we needed to get in line soon.


While we were stopped at Esna waiting to go through the locks, Shady took a group of us into town.  Esna felt more like a small village than a town and we were immediately surrounded with little kids begging us to buy things from them or otherwise give them money.  It was really hard to ignore them, but Shady warned us that if we gave them anything, they would never leave us alone.  Eventually Shady just said something to the group of kids that was following us and they left us alone after that.  We spent another hour or so then walking through the markets and stopping in an old Coptic church.  Before returning to the boat, we stopped at an outdoor cafe for some coffee and everyone had a chance to smoke the sheesha pipe if they wanted to (basically, flavored tobacco smoke from an elaborate looking glass pipe contraption).

Coptic Church, Esna, Egypt
Coptic Church in Esna

We made it through the locks on time and arrived in Luxor by late evening. Eager to get off the boat and explore, a group of us headed into town for a late dinner.  It felt so much cleaner and nicer than Aswan,  I really loved it.  It felt more like a European city whereas Aswan just felt small and dirty.  But after dinner and a drink, we returned to the boat for one last night on the water.

Note: I visited Egypt in January 2008, prior to the revolution. This post was originally published in 2010.

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