|Traveller Home Egypt|
We got up, put our stuff together ands walked over to Adel's boat at 8:00 a.m. Piled into the felucca, which looked like it had been in the family for a while. It fit seven people perfectly, had a removable plank floor for storage, then the entire thing was covered in a layer of foam padding wrapped in sheets, creating the perfect comfy bed to lie on . There was a frame above us covered in what looked to be like cotton couch material all sewn together and tied over the top to shade us from the burning Egyptian sun. Immediately upon our departure we rolled back the top so we could make an attempt to brown our white-pale English-looking skin.
We finally set sail down the Nile and embarked on the one thing I really wanted to do for my birthday that year. Paris the year before, sailing down the Nile for the next - what'll I come up with next year? After stopping in one village ten minutes down the river to drop off Adel's father, who we'd been giving a lift, and another stop to buy some more stuff, then we all began to relax. All I could manage to do was read a bit and smoke a few cigarettes; just sitting there and watching the scenery go by was entertaining enough. Children would come down to the shore and scream "Hello" at us and stand there watching us sail past. The kids all seemed to have donkeys, which are treated like their house pet. The young owners were quite agile mounting the donkeys, as they have no saddles, so they'd climb up using the animal's hip joints as steps. Adel made us lunch which was pita bread, tuna, tomatoes, cucumbers and what tasted like cream cheese. Had lunch and tea then pulled back the tarp and had our afternoon naps - it was so relaxing.
We sailed for a few hours, then as the sun started to set Adel began preparing out dinner of potatoes with tomato sauce and macaroni. It got dark so we sailed to this island and dropped anchor for the night.
Now whenever anyone had to go to the bathroom we'd have to pull over to shore and Adel would carry the person over his shoulder from the boat to shore, as tourists aren't supposed to get into the Nile because of the bilharzia disease which you get from the snails living in the shallow waters of the Nile. We've got some photos of Adel carrying people to shore.
We prepared for bed by laying out our bags on the foam covered deck and rolled back the tarp so we could lie and gaze at the stars before going to bed. We were laying on the deck of the boat when Sarah noticed that down the river a bit there were a group of locals singing this melodic yet a bit eerie mellow Egyptian song. The song came wafting down the river as though the men were really far away, but close enough for us to hear the words of the song. It was a group of men singing which sounded to (a sound I can relate it to) a group of monks singing at their monastery. The captain and cook of the next felucca (20m) away each had a set of drums which they were beating in rhythm to the singers across the river.
We laid there enchanted by the music when Sarah said that one of the things you couldn't take home with you from your travels were sounds. And she was so right - I can try to describe these sounds and how pleasant it was to hear but you will never know until you go there yourself. The sound of the mosque in Cairo when Rich opened the French doors that morning, and this singing over the Nile; two things I will say (even thinking about this now in Oct 1993) never, ever forget.
The singing lulled us to sleep, but Adel and Sarah woke me up when he carried her across to shore for a loo break at 3:00 a.m. They came back and the three of us sat there and smoked cigarettes looking for shooting stars. Adel went and untied the boat so we would drift down river away from the stray dogs on shore who would come down to the Nile, take a drink, then go behind the closest bush and start yelping in a playful manner. It sounded like there were ten dogs paving a total party behind the bush. There were the dogs, then a short distance away the birds were fighting and squawking away, hence the reason for our drifting. Adel is a really agile sailor, for when we were getting ready to go to sleep Adel climbed the mast and tied the sail down. He climbed to the top of the mast as though it had stairs wrapping around it when in reality it was a pole with little circles of rope spaced evenly all the way to the top. We floated a while when one of the huge cruise ships that go up and down the Nile went by, which created a huge wake making the boat rock really hard.
The other guys in the boat woke up and were sort of startled that we'd been floating away from shore. Adel got up and started sailing again while we went back to sleep.
20th October 1992, On the Nile, El Haman, Egypt -
Today we sailed all day, and Adel let me sit and steer the boat up the Nile for an hour or so. I sat on the mats watching the world pass as I zig zagged the felucca up the river with my foot on the rudder. We pulled up to shore in the late afternoon and Sarah, Rich and I went ashore with Adel. He led us to his village to show us where he lives. His village sits on an oasis on the Nile, and there's huge green field leading up to the village - a strange thing to see amid all the desert wasteland just a few hundred yards inland from the river. The field is backed by tons of lush palm trees with the village on the hill above that. As Adel led us through the field to the village we passed the local women balancing those huge pots of water on their heads (as most locals do). Everyone was calling out to us, "Hello!" or "What is your name?" When we entered the village, people were coming out of their houses to see us, and the children would just follow us around watching us. One thing I noticed about the village is that someone must have come here with about 1,000 of those circular neon lights, because every house had one mounted and lit up over the door. We went to Adel's home - he lives with his mother, grandmother, and six brothers and sisters. He showed us his room which was small with a beaten mud floor, brick walls covered in mud to make them smooth, and a ceiling made up of palm fronds stripped of their leaves and laid across the top of the room. Other larger fronds had been laid over the top of those to create more shade. He has a wooden bed, a wardrobe, and a small table with an electric fan. Above all the very first thing I noticed when we walked in was a green gecko sitting on the wall, eventually making its way up the wall and out over the top of the wall. We sat there and met his entire family while Adel bathed in the nearby courtyard. His sister had a large pitcher of water and at his command she would pour the water over his squatting body. Their compound consisted of a courtyard with attached rooms opening out onto it. In one section of the area there were dates drying in the sun, and in another there were large blocks of mud and a huge kiln to bake the mud into bricks.
Adel gave us some dates, and once he'd changed his clothes we walked across the village to meet his wife. She lives with her family on the other side of the village. Her room was much the same as Adel's, only smaller, and instead of using her one electric socket for an electric fan she'd managed to get a ceiling fan mounted on a huge pole installed across the ceiling. Adel showed us some photos of his from previous boat trips and from his wedding before it was time for us to go. Being in the village (our first anywhere) was a really amazing experience; we got to actually see how these people were living, not just the tourist side of it.
The men and boys were all dressed in the traditional one-piece robe, but all the little girls had second, third and fourth hand Salvation Army dresses on. The worst clothing ever. When we were walking around the village I didn't see inside many other houses, so to get a better idea of how others lived, because everything is walled in. Each family has their own walled compound, like a fort to live in and keep their animals.
After our walk through the village we went back to the boat to see the other guys and prepare dinner before it got too dark. Adel built a bonfire on the beach, then it was back to sleep under the stars again.
21st October 1992, El Haman to Luxor, Egypt -
This morning we had breakfast, our last with that excellent fig jam Adel had brought along, then it was ashore to find some way to get to Idfu. We're sitting in Adel's village waiting for a friend of his to drive us to Idfu, then on to Luxor. If we wanted to sail to Luxor we'd have had to said the whole night through to get there on time. It was definitely a mission getting the Egyptian guy to give us a decent price to take us to Idfu. When told the price of the van Rob, the loud Aussie, screamed "I don't want to buy the van, I only want to rent it!" We finally agreed on a price and climbed in for the ride to Idfu. At Idfu's main taxi rank we haggled some more for the next cab to Luxor. Once in Luxor that afternoon we said good-bye to the dudes we'd been on the boat with and went our own way to find a place to stay. We ended up staying in the Golden Pension in the center of Luxor, only finding the place after the touts almost got in a brawl over who was going to lead us to a hotel.
We got cleaned up and met Adel that evening. He took us to this roof beer garden where we bought him a drink, then took him out to dinner. Talking with Adel was enlightening, for he was telling us about what he knew as an Egyptian; things we wouldn't hear unless we took the time to get to know a local. We learned that a camel costs EŁ2,000, and that Egyptian men can't get a passport until they've completed their two year mandatory military service. After our dinner we walked back to our hotel with Adel through the bazaar when there was a total blackout. It was a bit unnerving, but Sarah was armed with her torch which she handed to Adel to lead us along with. She then grabbed my arm so I'd know if someone was trying to kidnap her to sell her into the slave trade. We walked for ten minutes by flashlight when the lights regained power lighting the streets up just as we reached our hotel. We bid farewell to Adel and he wandered off into the dark, presumably to go find some people to sail back to Aswan with.
Sarah and I went wandering through the markets some more that evening, for it was such a nice night. We're all getting better at bargaining - Rich says we've moved up to the intermediate level.
NOTES TO ADD
* Kid running up river with $ so the jayfay could visit. Would see same kid farther down the Nile after a few hours sail
* Getting Adel wasted, cutting in front of cruise ship and turning into the shore to avoid it. Towards shore but there was a cow up to its head in the water, cooling off. Adel didn't see until late, so turned boat again, sending us into the tall leafy reeds on the bank. Good job Brad & Sarah - no more smoking for the captain