Category Archives: Egypt

Up the Nile

Our cruise down the Nile River from Luxor to Aswan was among the most relaxing and spiritually refreshing experiences of my life. The ancient Egyptians regarded the river as holy for the obvious reason that all activity in Egypt is concentrated around this thin strip of life that carves its way through the desert. Millenias-old temples line the banks and the call to prayer emanates from the small river towns along this flat, lazy stretch of river.

We boarded our Faluka in the morning. It is a moderately sized sailing ship. One of the key features of the Nile, is the prevailing winds always blow south against the current. In order to go south, one simply puts up the sails and to go north one simply floats. The boat is intended to sleep perhaps twenty passengers. The three of us shared the boat with four Australians and our captain, Enrique, along with a friendly crew of indeterminate size.

On the deck

The first day we took lunch with the men and I’ve finally begun to get the hang of Egyptian colloquial Arabic, which is somewhat different than the classical Arabic I briefly studied at Georgetown. I asked the men of the crew about their families and their impressions of Egypt after the revolution. Against a substantial language barrier, the gist of their responses was “Mubarak bad, democracy good.”

Enrique, our spiritual guide for the journey.

For the remainder of the day we lounged on the luxuriously padded deck of the ship and swam in the swift currents of the Nile. The men assured us there were no crocodiles in this region. In the evening we dined with the ship’s captain and owner Enrique, an enigmatic Harvard man and Paris-based world traveler, who recounted to us tales of his exploits around the world. Hoping for more detail, I asked him in private, “Que faites-vous exactement à Paris?”

He responded simply, “Je vis.” Continue reading



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Luxor as seen from a hot air balloon

Authors note: This narrative begins partway through my journey to Egypt after my experience in Cairo. I apologize for being preoccupied with other writing earlier in my trip. If I can ever find the words to express a fraction of the magic and energy that was Tahrir Square and revolutionary Cairo, I’ll be sure to publish them here.

Arriving at 5am by sleeper train in Luxor, we called the Princess Hotel from the guidebook. The French-Egyptian couple that owned the establishment left behind a younger brother to look after the place during their absence in France. He picked us up at the train station. The Princess Hotel, more like a hostel, had a lot of character. The dimly lit entry way led up to staircase with several floors, but only the second floor was fully constructed, while the remaining floors were simply concrete slabs with bits of metal reinforcement poking out of the roof.

Our room consisted of three beds and a bathroom with an arrangement in which the entire bathroom was a drainage basin for the shower. It had bright pink walls and in one of the windows had been blocked off with a leftover cardboard box of Dasani water bottles. This box flew out of the window when we turned on the fan. We may have been the only guests at the hotel.

In front of Hatchepsut Temple

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Filed under Egypt, Travel