Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How to have felucca at the Nile

Two feluccas raft up and speed up the Nile
Note the wake: power, man!
Ok, here it is: my ideal way to "do" the antiquities of the Nile.  (I'm an expert now; I've been here since Friday...)
Don't bother with any of the Lonely Planet ways to do it -- by road, plane, train, taxi, rickshaw, or any of that other nonsense.  Do it by felucca.
Here's how: fly in to Luxor and spend a coupla days here, maybe three, staying at a decent pub, like the one we're in now, the Steinberger, a five-star on the Nile, facing west.  Get a Nile-facing room.
Visit the magnificent temples and tombs that surround Luxor: about 100 just nearby.
Today we visited four, including the two big ones, Habu Temple and Hatshepsut's Temple (she was the only female Pharaoh, and had to exhibit some cunning to hold her throne), two magnificent and awe-inspiring monuments, quite as much "must-see" as the great monuments in Europe, St Peter's, St Paul's, Aztec's temples, Islam's Taj...

Then, organise yourself a felucca to float upriver to Aswan.
I investigated this in Aswan, thinking I'd leave on Saturday morning and get here to Luxor on Monday evening. But I couldn't get enough of my car-mates to come along.  And in any case, it seems that going upriver is better than going downriver, at least as the breezes are at the moment.  They're northerly, so that it's a nice run with the breeze behind you, whereas coming down river to Luxor you have to tack all the way.
These feluccas are really cool craft!  They have a big sail area and go like the clappers with a bit of weight of breeze.
The ideal trip....[click below]

The ideal trip has you taking along your own guide, a guy like we had today, Khaled ("Eternity") Helmy, an Egyptologist who teaches at Luxor Uni and does guiding for a bit of beer money (or rather "Beehir" money, the local non-alcoholic beer).  He was just great with us today, reading the hieroglyphs with ease, bright, knowledgeable, enthusiastic.  He gave me his email, unbidden, so here it is: khaled.helmy12@gmail.com.  [are there really 11 other "khaled helmy's"?]
It'd be worth doing a bit of study on hieroglyphs before you come, I reckon.  "Not too difficult", says Khaled, and I think that's right.  There are only 620 ideograms and about 30 letters.  (By contrast, Chinese has between 30 and 50 thousand characters, depending on who's doing the counting).  I think some study before would repay in the fun you'd have recognising them on the tombs.
Then try to work out some kind of toilet on board.  That shouldn't be too difficult as this is the place of "no problem, my friend".  Or else just hold on till each evening's stop. Yes, you have to stop, as the boats have no lights and aren't allowed to travel at night.
You glide along under sail, all quiet, watch the Nile and its antiquities slip past.  You decide you want to see something on the bank, you just pull over and get out. You sleep on board, by the banks of the Nile.
Here the Nile is clean and clear.  Swimming's fine, water warm. Just check with your guide about the local crocodile situation...
I'd allow about three days feluccin' around. (geddit??)
Then you're at Aswan, the pretty town of the trip so far.  Spend some days here.
Fly out with smile on face.
Egyptologist Khaled Helmy is our guide.  

The roof of Isis' temple at Habu was removed by a Mohammed Ali,
Ottoman ruler of Egypt in the early 20th Century.  He used the rocks to make dams
on the Nile. 

Khaled has rapt attention.  Val, Nicola, Chris, David, Deb, Heiko, Ian

The gorgeous coloured carvings and hieroglyphs of Isis' temple

Gordie's mummy pose at the Al-Bahari Temple, Valley of the Kings