Taking a Dahabiya down the Nile
Trip Start Oct 24, 2010
51Trip End Jan 16, 2011
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We decided to try the Dahabiya for several reasons.
1. While it is still very expensive, the Dahabiya also run the same stretch of river that the large ships do, but we choose one that ran over three nights rather than the others which run 5-7 days
2. The large cruisers stay in port for two days at Aswan and Luxor, while passengers see the sites. We would stay in cheaper hotels in those towns and save a few bucks, and we would see the same temples and sights from our hotel room.
3. We were also able to slow down those parts of the trip a relax a bit. We stayed 5 days in Aswan, for example, while the large ships were out in two. On the north end, in Luxor, the same thing applies. We will stay at a budget hotel for five days rather than moor up against another large ship, side by side, while we visit the Valley of the Kings and Karnak temple. In luxor we will be paying around 30 dollars a night for our hotel.
4. The Dahabiyas anchor on the shorelines, and near villages, and see at least two more Egyptian sites than the larger craft while we travel the same stretch of river. The large boats cannot moor along the shoreline.
5. The old sailing model offers a more personal atmosphere, and sense of traveling back in time, as they did it in the 19th century.
6. It is a shorter run on the sailer (three days) as they only sail the middle section between Aswan and Esna, while the cruisers take more time to go through the locks to Luxor, and park for a couple of days at both ends (5-7 days)
7. There is no DISCO on a dahabiya.
We choose to sail on the Dahabiya Zakrayaat. Zakrayaat means "Memories" in Arabic. The Dahabiaya Zakrayaat is around 45 meters long, has 8 staterooms, is capable of carrying 16 passengers and carries a crew of 9 crewmen including our Egytologist and the tug crew of two. While it is a large ship, it looks low, long, and sleek on the water, compared to the big ships here. It is a sailing cruising ship with two masts, one placed at each end of the ship. Since the wind comes up the river from Cairo, we will likely be motoring down the river. There is a towing tug that assists in moving the ship when it is heading directly into the wind. (This is something the old travelers did not have.) Unfortunately we are traveling downstream into the prevailing wind. If you would like to do this trip under sail power, take it from Luxor to Aswan. We are doing it the other way to avoid backtracking to Luxor by train of car. It is a very luxurious way to travel the Nile.
As we were picked up and delivered to the boat on the morning of the 17th for our three day journey down the river, we were surprised that there are only two other passengers aboard the boat. Nine crew serving 4 passengers
Day one we visited the Temples at Kom Ombo. The graphic depictions of Egyptian Kings were well preserved. Our Egyptologist, Abdullah, had studied Hieroglyphics for 6 years in Alexandria. He was able to explain many of the graphic carvings. Usually the King was representing himself as among the Gods, being anointed by the Gods or his wife, Gods and others are shown justifying the King's stature. He is typically shown with his wife and sometimes with his mother. The Gods are usually present. Sometimes the King would be on the same panel as himself deified as a God.
Glyphs can be read in both directions. The animals like geese, snakes, birds, etc. are all facing in one direction. You read toward the animals faces, not from behind them. Live Kings are depicted with open flaring skirts, dead Kings have tight mummy like skirts. Mummies stand on thin platforms and often have their arms wrapped with only their hands out.
First night: We anchored to stakes and stones along the shorelines directly below a series of temples where blocks of sandstone were quarried. The blocks were then transferred to barges and delivered to Luxor downstream and Kom Ombo upstream
Second day we visited the area above our boat moored along the beach. The cruise was nice and the weather was warm once the sun came up. It is surprising how cold it gets at night here. Early in the morning, if the wind is up, it is really cold here in the desert. During the day, if the wind is low, it is shirtsheeves and shorts on deck.
We stopped at the town of Edfu, motored on the tug to the city dock, and hired horse and buggy to carry us to the Edfu Temple complex. It has the thickest walls of any temple complex in Egypt. There had been some destruction of the carvings in years past. The French actually cut holes in the walls to mount canons when they used the place as a fortress. It was a magnificent temple, which has a very large open enclosure with no roof which would have allowed the public to enter. The inner sanctum was covered and the walls were loaded with carvings of Kings and Gods admiring each other.
We would cruise down stream and stop to visit smaller temples, like the tombs of Al Kob
As we approached our last stop in Esna, we saw several Dahabiyas sailing up the river. Some had only the foresail up, other had both sails up. They were really moving up the river against the river current, other outpacing their attendant tug boats. The crew has been very interesting to watch. They have all grown up on the river and really know their business. Egyptians have been sailing these waters for over 5,000 years!
We finished at the city of Esna. We tied up in town just as the 3:00 PM call to prayer was occurring. We walked to the temple in Esna and then back to the boat for the routine afternoon tea. Our last dinner was served and enjoyed our last dinner with Frank and Janca. Tomorrow we will have breakfast on the upper deck, pack and be picked up at 9:00 AM and delivered to our respective hotels. Stay Tuned.. Next post from Luxor, Temple of Karnak.