Nile river boat cruise, Egypt

Latest visit: May 2019

Tips:

  • I would strongly recommend going with a local tourist company and not the big cruise boats to sail the Nile river. We used Les Gréments du Nil and had a FANTASTIC experience. They have different sized boats and will organize the tours, guides, drivers as well as serve 3 meals/day and clean the rooms. We got a 5 person boat called a Dahabeyeh.
  • Don’t be scared of getting seasick. I’m very sensitive to any rocking and took Dramamine the first day out of precaution but didn’t need it at all!
  • The staff on the boat was amazing! They catered to all our needs with a huge smile on their faces. The waiter understood English very well but didn’t speak it much. I suspect that it was the same for the other helpers as we used mostly gestures to communicate. Our guide was always available to help us translate if need be.
  • Bring lots of bug spray if you’re traveling during bug season.*
  • Bring light clothes that are respectful of the local dress code. It can get quite hot if you’re going during the summer!*
  • If you’re traveling during Ramadan, you can ask the boat company to buy bottles of wine for you before the start of Ramadan for your trip. Finding alcohol after will be tricky. I’m not sure how it works during the rest of the year.*
  • Food on the boat: they catered to our needs, serving everything from full vegetarian meals to beef tagine as well as freshly caught fish. It was served, buffet style on our table on the top deck. The dishes were all very colorful and abundant! To my disappointment, we drank a lot of ‘instant coffee’. On the last day I built up the courage to ask for a Turkish coffee and it was so good!
  • The boat will open the sails only if there is wind. If not it will be pulled by a tugboat. They will probably open them up at some point to show you how beautiful, peaceful and quiet it is!*
  • We only had electricity on the boat when the generator was turned on, which was about 2 hours a day. Get used to drinking warm drinks and pack extra power banks for your phones and cameras. Battery operated fans are also a good idea!
  • Expect kids on the river banks to yell ‘hello’ and wave at you. We played the game and waved back at them!
  • Tips: don’t forget to tip the wonderful staff on your boat.

* These tips are for the smaller 5 people Dahabeyeh we were on.

Impressions:

Because our time was so limited in Egypt, the owner of the boat company organized a special trip for us of 3 nights and 4 days on the Dahabeyeh. We started in Luxor and made our way down to Aswan. I cannot stress how this WAS THE BEST part of my trip to Egypt. My friends traveling with me also agreed unanimously. The boat was beautiful, perfectly restored and gave you the impression that you were still in the 1880s, sailing down the Nile river like Agatha Christie did in 1933. The rooftop deck was our main communal area where we just hung out, played backgammon, read a book, talked, napped. I enjoyed a few moments of peace and quiet, at sunrise, while my friends were still sleeping. I felt so privileged and took it all in: the cool (ish) breeze on my skin, the hum of local voices in the distance, the sound of water washing over the Egyptians coming to the river to bathe and pray, the dragonfly landing on my arm, the distant melody of local birds…please take me back now!

The food cooked and served on the boat was to die for. It was so fresh, varied and abundant. SO MUCH FOOD!

The staff was incredibly nice, funny, hardworking and respectful! We had 8 Egyptians working for us 5 people on the boat. We felt like queens.

It was quite a unique experience to be sailing down the Nile. Feeling the cool (ish) breeze coming off of the green, lush river bank and within instants, the air would shift into a very hot and dry heatwave coming from the opposite river bank, which looked like the desert. This happened more and more as we approached Aswan.

I will forever remember feeling like I was going to pass out from the heat (sometimes going up to 110F!) and jumping into the refreshingly cool Nile river was such a relief. I jumped off the back of the boat, swam with dogs and a bunch of fish! Such great memories were created on this boat.

I was sad that we didn’t get to actually sail for more than an hour or two, but grateful we were able to move thanks to the tugboat. It was a constant background noise, and you forgot about it until sometimes you’d get a draft of the smells of the engine, which wasn’t all too pleasant. The good thing about the tugboat was that we moved faster, thus getting more of a breeze! At night everything turned off and you could hear the local sounds as you fell asleep.

I would have taken at least 7 nights on this boat, if not more. It was so quiet, relaxing and a truly unique experience.

 

Related post: How to travel to Egypt as a woman in 2019, Hurghada.

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