Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cruisin' the Nile Princess Donia style

The Nile lazily passing us by
No trip to Egypt is complete without a cruise on the Nile.  Whether it’s a quick jaunt in a felucca, a traditional Egyptian sailboat, or a multi-day all-inclusive cruise ship there are countless options to get you on the water.  We choose a boat somewhere between the rather rugged felucca (where the only amenity is blankets – and make sure the captain has plenty, because the deck is hard and the night is cold - and a canopy for shade, because the days are hot), and the impersonal cruise ships that unload hundreds of passengers to tour each site in alarmingly large English, German, or French groups.

A felucca might work for a few
hours but not for five days
The floating hotel option.  Meh.

Our boat, the Princess Donia, was a Dahabyia that offers the comforts of the large cruise ships, private room and bath, air-con (though it was not needed in January), an on-board crew and chef, and a large sun deck perfect for lazing and watching the Nile pass you by, but carries fewer passengers, travels by sail (but has a tug in case there is no wind), and as the website states: “combine[s] the glamour, sophistication and elegance of yesteryear with every comfort of modern life.”

The Princess Donia

The front deck of the Princess Donia
Our sitting area towards the back of the boat

Just lazing about on the boat.

We began the Nile cruise portion of our trip in a van.  Because the Egyptian government built a number of dams and locks to control the Nile’s annual flooding a Luxor to Aswan, cruises actually start in Esna, about an hour south of Luxor.  We jumped into the van with our hands embarrassingly stuffed with delicious fried eggplant and zucchini from lunch at Beit Sabee.  After shoving the last of them in our mouths we introduced ourselves to Hany, our on-board Egyptologist and the four other passengers: Ed & Ellen and Chaz & Stacey.  The group seemed nice, despite two-thirds of us being lawyers, and everyone spoke English.

Ellen & Ed, Jesse & Dave (galaybia'd), and Chaz & stacey
Each day’s itinerary was basically the same.  Each morning we’d wake-up, have breakfast, check-out the animal shape towel arrangement, sail (or tug) to the morning site, tour it with Hany, return to the boat for a cool towel and refreshing tea.  Relax.  We’d take lunch, and then repeat the morning itinerary each afternoon.  This left plenty of time on the boat to read (Jesse), or take photos of the fishermen, feluccas and other Nile traffic that drifted by (Me).

Post-breakfast activity: 
Discover the newest animal-towel in our room   

Swan family

Tour Ancient Egyptian Sites [Not pictured, yet!]
And then return to Khalil waiting with a cool towel and fresh tea.

Ahhhh, those teas always hit the spot.

Morning Fisherman Photo Session:
They smack the water hoping the scared fish would jump into their boat, a la Sesame Street 

Afternoon Photo Session
The afternoon session was enhanced with a Stella beer, mint tea, and golden sunsets

Each night we would enjoy dinner on the (freezing) boat, fight down some Egyptian wine, and wait to do the same thing the next day.  It was a great trip.

We booked our trip through the super-helpful and accommodating Noha and Abeer at Oriental Tours Egypt.  Doing the Nile on a small boat was a lot of fun and very relaxing.  More photos can be found here, some good ones are below.

When the wind died we were pulled by our trusty tug

Captain Hassan - in one of his many matching track suits.

Local fishermen's boats on the side of the Nile

The full sails of the Princess Donia

Fisherman at sunset

Another day, another sunset

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