Sleeping Under the Stars on the Nile River
There's that moment when something you're dreading turns out to actually be amazing and you sigh a wave of relief and try to enjoy yourself and live your joy. When I booked my Egypt tour, the cheapest option included a felucca journey. I had no idea what this was, but it was less expensive than taking the Nile cruise, so I chose it. It was only later that I realized it was an uncovered boat with a camping-style overnighter. I was shook. I HATE camping. And by hate, I mean, I would do it if it weren't for bugs eating me alive any time I'm outdoors.
I was dreading this part of the tour. It was about half-way through the entire Egypt tour and I was not excited to rough it for the night. All the photos I had seen of a felucca made it look like you were right there, staring in the face of a potential West Nile Virus diagnosis. I prepped myself for the worst and readied myself for whatever discomfort I'd attain for the rest of the trip had I gotten bitten by mosquitos that evening.
But I was delighted to find out I was wrong. We drove up to the Nile to find our boat waiting at the edge. To my surprise, it looked actually super quaint. Our Nubian captain greeted us with a big smile and beckoned us onboard. When we got on, the ground was soft and comfy like a giant mattress. It felt like those children indoor playgrounds where the floor is just a giant sponge. They had pillows and plenty of space to lay down and relax. There was even a toilet (not the best one, but it served its purpose).
Our Nubian crew started cooking us our lunch, kofta with sauce and rice. A lot of us grabbed a Stella Egyptian beer and we joined together to eat. Egyptian food is delicious. The entire group had seconds and thirds of our meal. After we ate our fill, it was time to take off down the river.
The sun was out and there was a perfect breeze off the water as we cruised the Nile. We went in a zig-zag pattern and enjoyed the sun. Our captain went onto the roof of the boat and grabbed his drum. He sang for us and made us all join in. He told us about his family and life in Egypt. He owned the boat with his crew, which turned out they were all family members.
As dusk started to approach, we pulled off to the shore and we got off the boat to stretch our legs a bit. There were children running around with some cows and we waded in the water a bit. I can now say I've been in the Nile River. We hopped back into the boat and sailed some more as the sun started to set. One of the crew asked if I wanted to steer the felucca for a bit and I was nervous but thought, why not? The rudder was extremely heavy, but it was fun to see how well I could do it, even if it included me having to push against it like I was on a leg press at the gym.
The sunset over the Nile was gorgeous. I had heart eyes the entire time. The sky went from blue to gold to purple and finally disappeared. It's against the law for boats to sail on the Nile after sundown, so our crew docked us on this little island in the middle of the river and started to prepare our dinner. It was more tasty food and with the dim lights from the lightbulbs surrounding the boat, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
After we ate, we all went onto the shore as the crew lit a bonfire. We stood around the warmth as the Nubians started to play drums and sing with us. As the stars twinkled above, we had a blast just singing and dancing and enjoying this beautiful experience. It was a great bonding time with the tour group and lovely to meet locals who gave us a great time.
We went back onto the boat, and this is when I started to get worried about getting bitten. I covered myself with bug repellant lotion and covered myself with as much clothing as possible. However, it turned out I didn't really need to. The crew had a large roll of fabric that they put over the openings of the felucca, covering our boat. It was perfect for keeping out pests. They passed out heavy blankets and let us drift into sleep as the boat swayed slightly in the water.
I slept wonderfully. The comfy mat and warm blanket kept me warm and it was exciting to wake up in the morning as the sun rose behind us. You could hear the subtle buzz of the wildlife around the banks of the Nile and even though we weren't far away from civilization, it felt like we had our own little private paradise.
The crew woke us and supplied us with breakfast. It was a great layout of bread, eggs, cheese, and jam. We stuffed ourselves once again and set sail one last time to head back to shore. The Nubians helped us off the boat with our stuff and bid us farewell. We all gave them extra tips for their kindness and waved goodbye.
I wholeheartedly suggest you take an overnight felucca journey if you visit Egypt. These traditional Egyptian sailboats are a must if you want to enjoy some of the culture of the country a bit deeper. If anything, it's amazing to sleep under the stars on the Nile River, but it's even more than that. It's a fun experience to spend a day with some Nubians and eat local food. Add it onto any tour you're taking and you won't be sorry.
Watch some highlights from this part of my trip, including the felucca cruise and our amazing Nubian crew!