Warning: Dream Vacation Ahead, Cruise the Nile
I woke to the sound of song. Not of birds but a farmer serenading his water buffalo as he milked her. Up on deck, a pied kingfisher perching on a railing watched me eat breakfast, while I in turn observed a man in a small, patched-up boat beating the water with his oar to scare fish into his net. When we cast off, there was a creaking of ropes as we sailed very slowly upstream, past palms, mango trees and tall bulrushes, to a place named Nekhab.
You could be forgiven for not knowing about Nekhab, even though it was one of Egypt’s oldest and most important cities, the capital of the south before the pyramids were built. Nekhab, now El Kab, dropped off the tourist circuit long ago. But the city remains – or, at least, you can still view the great outer wall, temple ruins and some tombs – and its existence highlights a problem in exploring the Nile. Nekhab is 80 miles south of Luxor, on the busiest part of the river. The stretch between Luxor and Aswan is less than 140 miles in length, but is travelled by 300 cruise ships. Add to that the dozens of dahabiyas – multi-cabin sailing boats – and scores of single-sailed feluccas that are also licensed to carry people on this trip of a lifetime, and it is easy to see why choosing the right Nile cruise can be a nightmare.