Meeting Upper Egypt Face to Face - Sail the Nile

Meeting Upper Egypt Face to Face

a travel experience by musician and songwriter Laurie Dameron

I ended my "Green News" article on Cairo, Part One, sharing about how something healed in me while I was in Egypt. I still struggle to find the words to convey this. To be honest, part of it is that before experiencing a country like Egypt, whenever I would see someone from that part of the world here in the USA, my first reaction has always been suspicion: Are they a terrorist?

After several days being immersed in this other culture so far away, I started feeling at ease and seeing these beautiful people for who they are. I especially cherished their smiles. You may remember the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song "Wooden Ships," which has these lyrics:

"If you smile at me, I will understand
'Cause that is something
Everybody everywhere does in the same language..."

Every time I took a photo or gazed at an Egyptian face that was smiling, it lit up my heart! And I realized Egyptians are just the same as people all over this world, raising their children and trying to live a good life. Now I celebrate the beautiful smiles from every person, everywhere!

Another part of the healing was that, after two days in Cairo, I suddenly realized that my chronic neck pain was gone! Pyramid power? I can't say how relieved I felt without that constant nagging pain! It lasted for a few weeks upon returning, but, unfortunately, gradually crept back.

The spiritual healing continued with our sailboat trip (a dahabiya) after our conference, the 29th International BPW Congress. (If you did not read about it in my previous article, let me know and I can send it to you.) We took a short flight from Cairo south to Luxor to meet Johanna Marius, a BPW member from Germany, who is also the owner of Luxor Sail the Nile. Her partner, Mohmed Morsy, is the wonderful captain. I will never forget his beautiful smile, nor that of Rabia (a sailor) and Mr. T (our waiter). By the way, the food was excellent, with fresh vegetables at every gourmet meal!

Something interesting I learned right away is that Upper Egypt is south and Lower Egypt is north. That is because the Nile is up river to the south. The prevailing winds on the Nile River blow to the south, so we were sailing against the current! When the winds died down, a tugboat was used to pull us along.

We had a fabulous Egyptologist on board, Mohamed A. Fahmy, who I think is going to be famous some day. He has it all: great knowledge, handsome, friendly, and an excellent teacher and guide! He is working on his PhD in archeology, and taught us about the many temples we toured. Perhaps another reason I was feeling so spiritual was that the ancient Egyptians were very spiritual and connected to nature, making gods and goddesses out of all of their animals!

I felt a profound sense of peace and serenity the moment I stepped on that boat. I had been wondering if I'd get seasick, as the Nile is very big, but the river was calm and steady flowing. My colleagues thanked me profusely for doing research before the trip and choosing this type of boat over a cruise ship. Besides having far fewer passengers than a cruise ship (10 vs. 200), our small dahabiya could pull over and moor at places where a big cruise ship couldn't. One of the highlights for me was pulling over in a rural area where we hiked through farmland and saw laughing boys riding by on their donkeys. We then walked down a road through a small town. We came upon a farmer with fresh dates. Even though my friend tried to pay him, he insisted on giving the dates to us! We passed a couple of schools, where I made a video of the students yelling, "USA, USA, we love you!" In general, it seems Egyptians love the USA, but give thumbs down at the mention of our president! I have posted the rest of the photos/videos on my Facebook page.

Just like in Cairo and most other Egyptian cities, there was much trash outside the rural homes. My colleagues and I had a great conversation one day while relaxing and floating up the river. The Egyptians don't have time to think about trash or environmental issues; they are focused on putting the next meal on the table. I realize that is the same problem here. I'm thinking that if we did not have laws against littering, we'd have trash all over the place, too. Johanna, the owner of the sailboat, is very concerned about the littering and had the whole riverbank, where the dahabiya is normally moored, cleaned up. She planning a project with the families living on the riverbank, about the effects of rubbish on health (sorry I don't have links for them). In a city near Luxor, Qena, they passed a law about littering which is enforced. It made a huge difference. Everything seems to come down to money, doesn't it?!

Johanna also has a project called Women Empowerment. She is involving women in her new business of sailing the Nile. Her sister-in-law, Yamna, does the washing and the ironing for the ship. Captain Mohmed used to have a laundry business do the work, but now Yamna is doing it; she's getting the same pay as the laundry business did. Another two ladies from the family are taking over the baking-bread, cakes, cupcakes, etc. "We pay them and actually spend more money than if we bought the things in a store, but home-baked bread tastes better. The ladies have a chance to make money."
I must say, I long to feel such serenity again. I have found I need to not listen to the news so much. I have mellowed out a bit with my environmental activism. As if in a dream, I keep hearing the Muslim prayer times. It seems every time I ask God what I should be doing, I get the same answer: Enjoy life, help others, and learn.
or maybe
just the beginning!!!

Here is a video of Luxor Sail the Nile


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