In ancient Egypt, just like today, the Nile is Egypts’ heartbeat. All major cities are built around it and it is the main water supply for the country. I should have paid closer attention to my history lesson, as I was not prepared to what two days of sailing the felucca would entail.

Felucca at Sunset

It all started upon the arrival in Cairo, when a guide picked us up at the airport and ran through the itinerary. The itinerary consisted of Cairo, Pyramids of Giza, Aswan, Luxor, Abu Simbel and other ancient sites along the way. When the guides said you will be doing a 2 night cruise on the Nile, I thought to myself how sailing the Nile was actually on my bucket list. However, when he asked us, if me and my then boyfriend knew anything about the felucca, we both shook our heads. To which the guide said, “You will love it” and had the most sly smile I have ever seen.

After an uncomfortable overnight train in a first class cabin of an old 1960s Spanish train, we arrived in hot Aswan, from which our Felucca was to leave the next day after a day of sightseeing. We were told that we would be fed and water would be supplied. Therefore, when we got to the boat all we had among us was a litre of bottled water, a bottle of coke, a half eaten bag of chips and a small box of cookies. This was the first mistake that we made.

After meeting the rest of the group, 2 Australians and a couple from the Netherlands on their honeymoon, we were introduced to the crew. The crew consisted of a captain, who later we found out could not read or write and was a good muslim (as he had a mark on his forehead which indicated that he prayed) and two kids who could not have been older than 15. While you would not expect white crisp uniforms of sailers abroad, I was not prepared for scraps of clothes which were torn and dirty.

The view from Felucca

Shortly after the departure, I started to enjoy the feeling of the wind taking over the boat and how navigation worked. A few hours later however, the enjoyment stopped when food was served. Tomatoes were peeled by one of the kids with the dirtiest hands I have ever seen. This believe it or not was not the worst crime, food and dishes were actually washed in the Nile. Even if you think that the Nile is a clean river which it is, it is not THAT clean.

Due to my horror, I did not touch the food, my then boyfriend would only touch the cooked portion of the food and pita which came straight from a sealed bag. The food that we brought was the only thing that I ate for 2 days and a few pieces of pita as one of the Australians was kind enough to give me a slice as he noticed it was the only thing I would eat.

The second mistake was to not bring warm clothes. As it is the desert, it gets cold at night and sleeping on the water, with mosquitos buzzing without a blanket was not the most comfortable of nights. I should say one big blanket shared among 6 individuals which reeked of hashish which was consumed by the crew every thirty minutes.

In the morning, I was very thankful to have survived the freezing night and being alive. I went to brush my teeth with the only bottled water I had at the edge of the boat where I witnessed one of the crew members washing himself right in the dirty water, while another crew member was relieving himself on the other side.

Sailing on the Nile

Needless to say, I did survive this trip which was one of the most trying experiences both physically and psychologically. As soon as I arrived in Luxor, I had a big dilemma whether to take a shower first or to rush to McDonald’s to eat.

I did learn a few valuable lessons: always research before going on a trip, make sure you pack a warm sweater (a lesson that I keep on learning) and be grateful for everything you have which includes the basics of clean water and warm clothes. After all of that, I would recommend sailing but only for a few hours and definitely not overnight!