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.
6,650 kilometres long, the Nile is the main artery of Egypt – and the cradle of the country’s package tourism. In 1869, English travelling evangelist Thomas Cook organized a group trip to Egypt, taking 32 passengers from Cairo to Aswan on two steamers. The price he charged included rail fares to the starting-point, catering, sightseeing and an expert local guide – the first example of the all-inclusive package deal. The route is still popular today, although modern cruise ships able to carry well over one hundred passengers have replaced the leisurely paddle-wheel steamers as the preferred method of transport for Nile tourists. Before the Covid-19 pandemic brought tourism in the region more or less to a standstill, there were around 300 of these vessels plying the river, most of them en route between Luxor and Aswan. Faceless crates stuffed with pools, gyms, nightclubs, restaurants and other forms of distraction, constantly disgorging their hordes of passengers at the same old stopping points and lining up at night closely packed, noisy and smelly, at the same old moorings.
The 35-metre dahabiya Abundance, owned by Johanna Marius and Mohammed Morsy (see information below), is the diametrical opposite of that conveyor-belt tourism. It takes a maximum of ten passengers in five cabins and is decorated with taste and affectionate attention to detail. Two-masted, with a total of 260 square metres of sail, it utilizes clean wind power to the full. Dahabiyas have been in widespread use in Egypt for thousands of years, and carvings of vessels very reminiscent of the Abundance can be found at many ancient tombs. Today the ships mainly serve an international clientele with a yen to travel the Nile, but in a style that places an individual approach and personal space at front and centre. Unlike a cruise ship, a dahabiya has no need of either piers or ports and can moor at any point along the banks, enabling its passengers to sidestep the crowds thronging the tourist hotspots. Its comparatively stately speed is not a disadvantage, but a true blessing, allowing time to contemplate the passing countryside as the mind falls into step with the slow pace. For passengers, the proximity to the water creates a feeling of being part of the journey instead of a mere spectator.
In a nutshell, there’s no more relaxing way of exploring the Nile!
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