We now made a start on our 600-mile Nile river cruise to Aswan. The long cruise from Cairo to Aswan is still a little unusual, not many boats do this stretch. Nile cruises typically run between Luxor and Aswan. The long cruises operated up until 1991 after which the middle section of the Nile remained closed. In the Nineties members of the al Gama’a al-Islamiyya Islamist group fired at
We set sail some time early in the morning, around 4 am apparently. I woke Rosemary at 5.30 to tell her we were travelling, and hence “doing things”, which I thought would please her, but she was not best pleased. There was a late breakfast at 8.00, after which we spent the morning on the deck watching the banks go by. It was not very warm, and I was reduced to putting on my Fat Face sweatshirt. There were many birds to spot, Crows, Pigeons, Egrets, Ibis, Swallows and Kingfishers. The Swallows were swooping over the water feeding on insects, the Egrets seemed to be the garbage collectors. Pied Kingfishers were very abundant when you knew where to look. Nice to watch the mix of green fields and housing. Lots of brick works with their tall chimneys. There was also the constant waving and whistling between the people on the shore and boat. We saw a dredger moving along the Nile, I assume it was moving to another location to dig out some of the irrigation canals. Its method of propulsion was to use its digger bucket, dipping the bucket into the water and swinging it towards the back, alternatively on either side.
Other features of the landscape were the number of Dalek-like pigeon lofts. Pigeons are a favourite food in Egypt, not that we were served with any. The number of chimneys on the bank numbered thousands. These were the brick works. Some were derelict, while others were still in use and a small number were actually firing bricks. Egypt has natural gas, so another feature was the number of power cables and power stations on the bank. Some brilliant towers.
To break the day up, we had a talk by the guides, Sherif and Anwar, and then our usual large lunch, back on deck followed by a fire drill (when I found the first life jacket I picked up could not be closed). More time on deck and then tea. After tea, we had a lecture on The Pyramid Age by George Hart. George is a retired Eguptologist from the British Museum. This lecture covered the old period, the Pyramid Age. Just before the lecture started, the tender was launched with a lot of commotion. The tender then had trouble starting its engine, so the accompanying police launch had to rescue them. Unfortunately, the lecture was due to start, so we never saw the outcome of this crisis. I think the tender was launched because of low water levels. I learnt on the last day of the cruise, there was a man at the foredeck of the SS Misr who constantly probed the water to find the depth throughout the whole voyage. I knew there was a crew member who came on deck before we went under a bridge. He would check a height measure against the height of the funnel, and then stand at the front of the boat with the measure upright to make sure we were lower than the bridge. I am not sure what would have happened if we here too high. I can’t believe we could have slowed down in time. If we were found to be too tall, the funnel could be lowered along with all the sun parasols over the loungers. This did happen at one bridge, the crew prepared the deck before we had reached it.
The boat moored up at Beni-Suif at dusk. We were moored up in a secure area, complete with watchtowers, police guards and of course a gated area immediately alongside us.
Dinner, but first cocktails at the bar, Gin Fizz for R and a Mojito for Steve. Tonight was an International buffet. Lamb rack for the meat, and some Red Mullet on the bone for the fish. The Mullet was very nice, though bony. After the dessert came the banging and the cake. Round the room it came, passing Rosemary by. Other tables were asked where the people from room 201 were. I was told by R to go and point out where she was, but somehow I ended up with a glass of red wine instead. Some loss of communication (or perhaps not)! Eventually Rosemary was located and duly received her cake, with a large piece of chocolate with her name iced on. The guides gave her a silver ankh, which was a lot more than I did and very kind of them. She cut the cake and the slices were duly passed around. Another birthday to come I hear.
Early night as we had an early start in the morning, a 5.45 am call for the next day.