Heading down the river. Board a traditional dahabiya and you’ll find an escape from the mass tourism that is so dominant here; instead, you can explore the culture, the country and the people from a personal and individual perspective.
The city of Esna (pop. 70,000), the starting-point of our journey, is situated between the Arab and Libyan deserts, around 55 kilometres south of Luxor. Several dahabiyas are lined up along the city’s pier in the morning sun; the Abundance stands out as particularly inviting with its gleaming wooden deck, sparkling white hull and colour-coordinated textiles. An eight-strong crew is on hand to take care of the ship and the guests. We are welcomed with fresh mango and guava juice and explore our cabins, feeling our excitement mounting at what awaits us.
As the ship does not have an engine, a tug is called in to help us on our way. We have scarcely cast off before Captain Mohammed sets both sails. His traditionally clad men have their hands full, their tunic-like galabiyas flapping as briskly in the wind as the three-cornered sails fixed to pivoting booms. But the crew quickly has everything under control and we glide southwards. The steering-gear is a solid wooden tiller operated with a system of pulleys; the river current gently assists us in our progress.
Time to relax. And there’s no shortage of comfortable spots on board; the striped hammock gently swinging under the sunroof, sunbeds and chairs with front-row views of the rigging, deep rattan armchairs, broad sofas and thick floor cushions grouped around an Oriental rug. Every tray, every item of decor has been arranged by the German manageress personally, a tribute to excellent taste. Meals are taken at a big table with plenty of space for everyone.
Everything on the Abundance is always freshly cooked, as Johanna Marius stressed in our preliminary conversation. Frozen meat or canned vegetables are an absolute no-no! Captain Mohammed makes daily trips to the market to buy provisions. Because of this, assures Munich-born Marius, guests need have no concerns about the stomach issues that bedevil so many tourists. “Nobody has ever been sick on board here”, says Marius with assured pride.
And indeed, everything served up on board the Abundance is delicious. We particularly enjoy the spicy mezze, an endless variety of Arabian appetizers that never fails to delight us. As well as all meals, water, tea and instant coffee are included in the charter price, with other beverages billed separately at fair prices.
The first day is over in a flash. By 4 pm we have reached our destination, a long island in the centre of the river, and three crew members swarm up the mast to furl and stow the sails before the tug slowly pulls us to shore. A crew member nimbly skips to shore over a narrow gangplank and uses a huge hammer to drive long pins into the dry ground before deftly tying up the Abundance with several mooring lines. Finally, a beam is fixed at right-angles to the ship as a spacer and a broad gangway is unfolded for passengers to disembark. So simple and so functional.
The dahabiya Abundance is operated by a company founded by the German-Egyptian couple Johanna Marius and Mohammed Morsy. They bought the pre-owned 35-metre ship in 2017, gave it a complete technical refit and beautifully redesigned the exterior and interior. The five cabins take a maximum of ten passengers, who are looked after by an eight-strong crew. Full-charter bookings are also possible.
As the captain, Mohammed Morsy is always on board. Johanna Marius, who lives with her husband in a village at Luxor on the west bank of the Nile, spends most of her time on land, answering enquiries, dealing with bookings and taking care of press, PR and marketing. On request she will compile individual agendas for visitors along the Nile, and helps to organize hotels, guides or train tickets.
The journey described here comprised four nights on board the Abundance. The price included full board, non-alcoholic drinks, tea, coffee, all transfers, sightseeing tours and entrance tickets, and a German or English-speaking Egyptologist as a guide.
The journey took place in February 2020, just before travel restrictions were imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021 the Abundance will resume travel between Luxor and Aswan; manageress Johanna Marius advises that demand is increasing. To protect guests’ health, the strict hygiene rules imposed by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism are observed to the letter on board. In addition, the dining setting has been changed, replacing the single large table described in our review with several small tables. Travel to Egypt currently requires submission of a PCR test in English or Arabic which must not be more than 72 hours old; however, please note these conditions may change at any time.
Sail the Nile, Tel.: +20 101 3131 886, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was published in german language in the Yacht-Revue 3/21. Text: Judith Duller-Mayrhofer