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.