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.
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.”
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