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.
Virtually all the temples in Upper Egypt are built from sandstone from Gebel el-Silsila. Blocks of different sizes were carved out of the rock to order; the marks of the tools are still visible, as are the temple complexes where the labourers prayed and the rock tombs where they were laid to rest. The big Nile cruisers do not bother to stop at Egypt’s most important quarry, but the Abundance draws up there directly at the spot. Accompanied by a German-speaking guide who is on board throughout the cruise, we wander down sandy paths, captivated by his stories that transport us into the kingdom of the Pharaohs and marvelling at sculptures, pavilions and sheer 40-metre high cliffs. Sightseeing has rarely been so much fun.
The Abundance’s next stop is at Kom Ombo, where the Nile makes a U-shaped loop; the current here is slower, allowing sandbanks to build up which were once used by crocodiles to lay their eggs. No surprise, then that the double temple complex at Kom Ombo is dedicated to the crocodile god. The temple is one of the region’s most popular attractions and has its own mooring-place; accordingly, it is crowded with travel groups from all over the world, thronging the portals, colonnades and corridors as hawkers entreat us to buy their trinkets. And yet despite the masses, a visit to the temple should not be missed. All the chambers are decorated with reliefs and hieroglyphs; the wall of one is entirely covered with images of surgical instruments bearing a striking resemblance to what would be found in a modern-day operating theatre. This, our guide explains, was the hospital – well over 2,000 years ago. Mind-blowing.
As an antidote to the hustle and bustle of the tourists, Captain Mohammed has chosen an idyllic and tranquil spot for our evening halt. We stroll into the nearby village in the company of Rabbia, a crew member from Nubia. Children play under palm-trees while black-clad women sit on a low wall and chat; here and there a farmer rakes the soil. Strangers seem to be a rarity here, but we are greeted with polite indifference. In front of the prayer house a group of wildly gesticulating men are deep in noisy discussion. “An argument?” we ask Rabbia. “No, only football”, he assures us. Some things are the same the whole world over…
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