Blog - Sail the Nile

Honey – sweetening life throughout history

Honey – sweetening life throughout history

Although honey was in use as a sweetener from earliest times in Ancient Egypt. portrayals of bee-keeping and collecting honey are rare. However, one of these scarce depictions can be seen in the Tomb of Pabasa in West Thebes (Luxor).

Honey is still harvested in many areas of Egypt today. The very finest is said to come from the beekeepers at the historic monastery of Deir el-Muharraq near Asyut.

Have we whetted your appetite? Sail with us on the dahabiya Abundance! We are the only ones to show you the hidden sides of Egypt, far away from the beaten track:

Stop – it’s Ramadan! Part Three: Fasting Turns Into Feasting

Stop – it’s Ramadan!  Part Three: Fasting Turns Into Feasting

A wonderful thing you see on the streets here at breakfast time during Ramadan are rows of tables set out every day, for people to come and eat their break-fast or ‘iftar’. Everyone can just go and join a table, and people eat together for free – all is donated by the businesses hosting this. Sometimes, some tables also just spring up in a street somewhere on a random day, paid for by a private individual with a bit more money than most.

You also often see young men standing along the roads with boxes full of little bags with dates and juice packs, throwing those little packets through the windows into the cars speeding past with consummate skill, just to help them break the fast if they are still on duty or running late.

It is a beautiful sight to see, this unquestionable sharing with others – it raises the level of togetherness from a family affair even further, to a community coming together. Poor or not, everyone just sits and eats together.

Ramadan lasts for 30 days, and in the last week, it is time to get ready for the closing ‘Eid’ or Feast.

As soon as Ramadan starts, the streets are already lined with strings of lights, streamers and the famous Ramadan lanterns – all to make this special month extra festive.

But by the time ‘Eid’ comes up, people really go to town on the decorations and sweets. Hundreds upon hundreds of traditional biscuits are baked to give to family, and kids all get new clothes to show off as they stroll along Luxor’s Corniche during ‘Eid’. Uncles and Aunties are visited by the kids to get treats and they often end up with quite a full wallet too! It is a huge party and the biggest feast of the year.


Stop – it’s Ramadan! Part Two: Fasting For The Poor

Stop – it’s Ramadan!  Part Two: Fasting For The Poor

Ramadan was ordained in the Koran and as such, is a duty for every Muslim who is old enough and healthy enough. Some people are exempt from fasting: for example, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with illnesses like diabetes that do not allow fasting, etc.

Islam is a very practical religion like that, and does not require its followers to do things that would bring harm to their health.

The religious basis for Ramadan is also very simple and down to earth. It was put in place so that people would understand what the life of a poor person is like – and in order to learn compassion and kindness towards them. Hence, you’re supposed to keep right on working on your empty stomach, even though some do not and take Ramadan off to spend the days sleeping in the AC.

At the first breaking of the fast, most people follow the tradition set by the Prophet Mohamed: just some dates, fresh if they can get them, and then a drink. Very popular drinks here in Luxor are ‘sobhy’ (a kind of fermented bread drink), cold, sweetened lemon juice and ‘gooz-hind’. Then, families and friends sit and eat together – usually a bit more (in some cases a lot more) luxurious food than they would normally have (the Prophet did not do this, by all accounts he was a very moderate man). And sweets, lots of sweets! ‘Kunafa’, ‘basboosa’, ‘ghoulash’, ‘Oom Ali’, ‘zalabia’, you name it, all those delicious, pastry and honey-drenched goodness that the Arabic region is so famous for.

Fun fact: if you miss a day of fasting for reasons NOT specified in Islam, you have to pay a poor person 11 EGP as a kind of fine – and all missed days of fasting, legitimate or not, need to be caught up with later.


Stop – it’s Ramadan! Part One: Fasting and Family

Stop – it’s Ramadan!  Part One: Fasting and Family

One of the most important periods in the Islamic calendar is the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, and it has a huge impact on all of society. Working hours and opening times of shops and sites are adjusted, and families and communities draw together in fasting and feasting.

Aside from the religious aspects and the actual fasting, Ramadan is also all about family. If you ask any Luxorian what s/he likes best about Ramadan, it will be the breaking of the fast with their (extended) family. People also often invite friends round for ‘iftar’, the break-fast. It is a very social experience. The days are very quiet and the city comes back to life in the evenings.

Here in Luxor, sunrise is around 03.45 am at the moment. That means that most people will start to eat their last meal before fasting from around 02.00 am. This meal is called ‘suhoor’ and you can eat whatever you want right up until the ‘fagr’, the sunrise call to prayer. After that, nothing at all may be consumed until sunset, which is around 18.30 pm here right now.

The mosque warns about 20 minutes ahead, and kids will set off fire-crackers (mostly for the fun of it, but officially to warn people that the time to eat is coming). Then, the mad rush starts to get home to the family before the actual sunset occurs.

The weather here is hot, so it is a long and hard fast, but most people take it as normal – even though tempers can sometimes flare. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, Ramadan shifts forward in the common calendar year by 10 days every year, so slowly, slowly, better/shorter fasting days are coming, but not yet. Right now, Ramadan is hot and heavy…



Bedew your body with that which is innermost in the Sea of Truth

Bedew your body with that which is innermost in the Sea of Truth

…or: In vino veritas

Alcohol in the workplace? In ancient Egypt? Incredible! …Or is it? Find out for certain on a visit to the Tomb of Userhat in West Thebes (Luxor), where one look at the faces of the workers depicted in the wine cellar will explain everything.

Interested in more fascinating details from the age of the Pharaohs? Sail with us on the dahabiya Abundance!
We reveal a different Egypt, far away from the beaten track:

Drama on the Nile

Drama on the Nile

Our gaze falls on a nymph encased in a glass coffin, secluded from view in a grotto. This is the resting-place of Isadora, who died far too young by drowning while crossing the Nile. Captured by the river nymphs, she became one herself – at least, according to the Greek epigrams placed by her grieving father at the left and right of the entrance to her shell-shaped grotto in the necropolis of Tuna el-Gebel.

Interested in discovering more secrets of ancient Egypt? Sail with us to El Minya in Central Egypt:

The Place of the Dead – Zawjet el-Meitin (Saujet el-Meitin, زاوية الميتين)

The Place of the Dead – Zawjet el-Meitin (Saujet el-Meitin, زاوية الميتين)

This fascinating “place of the dead” is the necropolis of the ancient town of Hebenu, which was inhabited from the early pharaonic era until Roman times. During the Third or Fourth Dynasty a small step pyramid was built here; like the other provincial pyramids, it was simply for purposes of representation and was never intended as a royal burial place. Shortly afterwards, however, the town was chosen by the nomarchs of the Oryx Nome as their last resting-place. Even today, the spot – where thousands upon thousands of domed tombs fringe the edge of the desert like stone honeycombs – has enormous significance for the local Muslim population.

And yet this place of the dead is also a cradle of life and vitality, not only during the annual festivals when the dead are visited by their living relatives, but all year round. In the village, well-known Egyptian artist Hassan el Shark has opened a small museum exhibiting his colourful works. These pictures capture the vibrancy of daily village life with compelling authenticity: a painted paean to life and a zest for living!

Have we tempted you to become explorers? Sail with us from Luxor to El Minya in Middle Egypt! We are the only ones that will guide you to unknown tombs and temples far from the tourist trails, and invite you to discover authentic Egyptian daily life:

Art on the River

Art on the River

On our Dahabeeya Abundance, we like to immerse our guests in beauty and style as they enjoy the luxury only a voyage on a dahabeeya can give.

One of the ways we love to do this is by displaying original artworks in our salon – we call it “Art on the River”. As a kind of private, floating gallery for only our guests to admire, we have different artists adding to the atmosphere of the Dahabeeya on a regular basis.

With our current artist, Katrina Vrebalovich, there is definitely a lovely breath of fresh air and inspiration blowing through our salon. The vivid abstract and semi-abstract scenes of her modern paintings bring life to the salon with their striking colours. Her works brighten up the neutral atmosphere there with their powerful expressiveness, drawing our gaze towards them inexorably.

Katrina’s work is special. Whilst painting, she seeks an inner connection to an aspect of Ancient Egypt and/or Nature, and then lets that energy flow through her hands as they create exquisite bursts of colour – in a similar way, the craftsmen of ancient Egypt asked their gods to breathe a part of their essence into their work, something they believed then to be a very real presence indeed. That is why gazing at Katrina’s vibrant work is an intrinsic experience: you cannot just glance at them, you feel them as you look – and then look again and deeper. As the colours and symbols move into your awareness, they transcend from mere images to the very essences of ancient Egyptian gods like Thoth, the God of Wisdom, the Moon and Writing, and Ma’at, the Goddess of Cosmic Truth and Balance. The two pieces representing Thoth and Ma’at now on display in our salon are fully abstract, but the feelings they evoke are anything but. They touch something inside each and every one of us, inviting us like Katrina’s undulating Nile Spirits to dive into an inner journey to a different reality that is in perfect harmony with our outer journey under sail on the Dahabeeya.

We can perhaps see this even more clearly in the semi-abstract works where images of a Nile Goddess and the sacred Lotus play a part. The ancients held true that the images they depicted on their walls were magical and could come to life when necessary. We can feel this in Katrina’s symbols as well – they hold a powerful life of their own, which transfers them right into the core of our very beings. The calm power of the Nile Goddess releases all our tensions as we gaze upon her, while the Lotus endows us with elegance and beauty. These paintings are truly powerful portals of colour that resonate exactly with the glory of Egypt’s nature and ancient culture that we get to admire on our dreamlike voyage down the Nile…

El-Minia – Hollywood at the Nile

El-Minia – Hollywood at the Nile

El Minya is probably the most irresistible and charming town in all of Central Egypt. It’s full of people ready to welcome visitors with openness, friendliness and curiosity – no prejudice or ulterior motives here! El Minya is home to one of Egypt’s most beautiful riverbank promenades, the perfect place for a stroll. But it’s also an El Dorado for archaeologists and archaeology fans, just a short distance from some of Egypt’s most stunning highlights – like the tombs of the nomarchs (provincial governors) at Beni Hassan, the city of the heretic King Akhenaten at Amarna, the fascinating necropolis and many thousands of animal mummies at Tuna el-Gebel, and the domed tombs at Zawyet el-Meitin. There’s something to capture every interest.

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Unknown Egypt – The Rock Tombs of Meir

Unknown Egypt – The Rock Tombs of Meir

The Rock Tombs of Meir are among the hidden highlights of Central Egypt, with their naturalistic portrayals of daily life. But groups of international visitors rarely stray to this necropolis, which lies on an ancient caravan route through the province of Asyut. A pity – because these tombs of provincial governors contain many spectacular reliefs that are unparalleled throughout the Nile Valley. In addition to spectacular reliefs portraying subjects from nature, including the mating and birth of various species of wild animals, these tombs also contain rare depictions of starving and poverty-stricken Bedouins.

Interested in other hidden highlights of Egypt? Join us on a journey of discovery through unknown Egypt! We are the only dahabiya operators to follow the footsteps of earlier explorers and adventurers, leaving the beaten track behind.