A SAIL THROUGH HISTORY: THE FELUCCA BOATS OF THE NILE
Travel the River Nile as people who have in the time of the Pharaohs on a felucca boat with Journey To Egypt.
The mudbrick farmhouse casts a long shadow over pale, sun-scorched sand. Date palm silhouettes stand dark on the horizon. A late afternoon gust breaks the surface of the river pushing water high onto the muddy bank. The aged wooden boat moves at speed away from the land’s edge, its off-white sails full and stretched with momentum.
The boatman raises a hand over his brow. He stands looking into the blurred, sun-reflected distance where the water should end and sky begin. His face looks like a well-loved leather shoe; worn in and creased in all the right places. When he stands to smile and wave at every passing boat, our small vessel rocks and rolls with all of the pent-up enthusiasm of a hungry dog’s tail at dinnertime.
A larger river cruise ship ambles past heading in the same direction. A few passengers sit out on deck and we get close enough to see them raise their all-inclusive cocktails into the air as a greeting. Just as fast as it appeared, the river cruiser is out of sight, around a bend in the river before the last of the sun’s rays are spent and we have finished a conversation around how sometimes there are places where the journey is worth taking your time.
The river we are on is worth the wait. It can be argued that there is no body of water in the world that is flanked by so much history. The River Nileis not just the longest river in the world, but has also been the mythical life source for one of the greatest civilizations in human history.
There would be no conversation today about ancient Egypt without the River Nile. The annual inundation, or flooding of the Nile, millennia ago allowed for large-scale food production to support a growing population and led to the refinement of modern farming techniques like irrigation.
Such was the centrality of the Nile to ancient Egyptians, that river plays a core role in one of the most important myths of the Egyptian gods. In mythology, the god of the dead and regeneration, Osiris was a king of Egypt who was killed by his brother Seth on the banks of the River Nileand put into it in a coffin before having his corpse cut into pieces. Although his widow, Isis, succeeded in reassembling his body, with which she eventually conceived a son — the god Horus. Osiris, however, did not return to life and became king of the underworld. The ancient Egyptians believed that the dark shadowy waters of the Nile, and the sediment the river left after the annual flooding, were the result of Osiris and the afterlife.
Today felucca cruises offer travellers a slow meander through history; the chance to travel the River Nile as people would have in the time of the Pharaohs. The cruises commonly range from a short voyage of a couple of hours out of Cairo to see the modern metropolis that has grown up along the riverbanks, to a multi-day journey between Aswan and Luxor. The popular Aswan-to-Luxor leg will take travellers to some of ancient Egypt’s most important sites like Nekheb (or El Kb), which was the capital of Upper Egypt prior to the construction of the Pyramids, and the Temple of Kom Ombo, dedicated to the two gods Sobek (the crocodile god) and Harveris (the sun god).
Fewer and fewer of the vessels are made entirely out of wood today, however the basic structure of the felucca has not really changed since the time of the ancient Egyptians. A felucca is an open-decked boat often covered in colourful cushions and pillows for passenger comfort, complete with canvas shelters to block the searing desert sun. Made for sailing over shallow waters, feluccas don’t have a keel as such, but a heavy centre plate that can be raised over sandbars or when depth is an issue. Accommodation for passengers is on the deck of the boat itself, so travellers are advised to bring a sleeping bag or blanket for the cooler evenings.
As the traditional sailboats of Egypt, feluccas are written into the country’s DNA. The iconic image of the single-sailed craft sitting low in the water is often what comes to mind when we think of this part of our world. While feluccas may not have the in-room wireless connectivity, mini-bar or tiled bathrooms of the larger ships that ferry passengers along the ancient river, the opportunity to sleep on the open water of the Nile — looking up at the same star-freckled night sky as those who built the pyramids — is a travel experience not to be missed.
Journey To Egypt runs a number of departures in Egypt encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our Egypt tours here.
WHY CHOOSE AN EGYPT CRUISE?
Egypt is home to one third of the world’s antiquities, while Luxor is referred to as the world’s greatest open air museum.
Opportunity to explore an ancient civilisation with access to 5,000 years of ancient Egyptian history.
Cruise the epic Nile River on board authentic boutique ships, guided by world renowned Egyptologists Wonderful blend of East and West.
Legendary Egyptian hospitality and service.
THE NILE RIVER
The Nile was the lifeline of ancient Egyptian civilisation and today the banks of the river are dotted with ancient tombs and temples.
Lying 420 miles south of Cairo, Luxor is the most dramatic historical site in Egypt – and is often referred to as the world’s greatest open air museum. Luxor is the modern day name for Thebes, the ancient capital city of the New Kingdom Pharaohs. Today, Luxor is home to more than half of Egyptian antiquities and is a must-see destination for any visitor to Egypt.
Aswan is the “Jewel of the Nile”. Pink and grey granite thrusts upward through the Nubian sandstone, forming mountains, cliffs and jagged outcrops. The Nile runs clear and cold here, and endless waves of golden sand swirl against its banks.