Monday, December 18, 2017

Exploring the Nile ~ ‘Just like Bogey and Bacall. . .’

It had sounded so simple. . .an on-our-own island tour. In Egypt.
You know. . .'just like Bogey and Bacall' . . .(yes, I know they did Key Largo; bear with me):

It felt so adventuresome as we set out to explore a bit of The Nile in our hired boat, that I found myself humming the tune. . . . ‘just like Bogey and Bacall’. You know how some places just feel so extraordinarily fantastic that you know it must be a movie setting? Well that’s what this part of the Nile River was like.

Since arriving at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, we’d felt as if we were traveling in a time warp - back in the ‘golden age of travel’ - so why not imagine being the lead characters in some old black and white mid-20th century adventure film?

Our first stop: Elephantine Island, that bisects the Nile in Aswan. It beckoned each time we walked out on our hotel balcony; especially at night when street lights cast a mesmerizing glow on the river.

Elephatine Island from our balcony
From our balcony we had a near spot-on view of  the excavation site of ancient Abu, an important customs point and trading center dating back some 3,000 years BC.

Ancient Abu Egypt

On this sunny morning we planned to travel around the island by boat but begin our outing by exploring the island and its two villages on our own.

It sounded so simple. . .

We'd start from the Museum at the entry to the Abu excation site and walk north meeting up with our boatmen at the only hotel on the island, the Movenpick. According to our Lonely Planet’s Egypt guidebook:

“Siou and Koti villages lie between the ruins in the south and the Movenpick Resort. . .A north-south path crosses the middle of the island and links the two villages.”

Easey- peasy, we thought. Even better, we’d be away from the tour-touts along the river’s corniche that swarm like the area’s flies, offering river tours, land tours and combination tours. We didn't want a tour. We didn't want a guide.

Our adventure begins. . .
The man at the museum ticket booth pointed to a gate that led into a goat pasture when we told him where we were headed. By the time we reached the gate, it had a gatekeeper: a tall, slim-built man with graying hair, clad in a white galabeya (the long flowing robe worn by many men in this desert climate). He flashed a smile, showing a single front tooth. “Welcome,” he said, “I am the Mayor. I will show you my village.”

Our tour begins 
Despite our protestations, he insisted he would show us the village - and not just out of the goodness of his heart. “How long you want? Half hour or hour?” Half hour is 75, more for an hour.” 

We took the half hour option as it was clear we were going no where without the Mayor. 

Nubian House - how 'tourist' would this island be?
Our first pause was at an obvious tourist attraction a 'typical Nubian House', which was closed. Had we wanted, the Mayor would have had it opened (undoubtedly at a cost). When we declined, he set off with us in tow to see his village. Now, weeks later, we are still wondering where that simple sounding ‘north-south path’ was that the guidebook mentioned.  Like entering a maze, the dusty pathways twisted and turned through the town. We hadn't gone far before I was completely turned around.

A main 'road' path through town
At one turn a woman clad in a full body burqa, slit opening for her eyes, lowered her head and covered her face completely as she got close to us. A bit further and around another corner we passed three burqa-clad women sitting and visiting on the concrete steps of a home. One was using a stone mortar and pestle to grind grain. They ignored our passing. We came upon the first retail business, a grocery store,  I told the Mayor I wanted to take a photo. The woman running the store stepped out of camera range. This place was shaping up to be the 'real thing' - not a tourist village by any means.

The village grocery store. . .
Past open doors into homes with the barest of interior furnishings. Yet many wore colorful paintings and Nubian designs on their exterior walls. Proud of his village and a fountain of facts about it, our guide/Mayor would point out places I should photograph including this home with a crocodile skull hanging above the door.

“Crocodile!,” proudly pointed out the Mayor, "it brings good luck.”

PicMonkey Collage
Crocodile head above the door for good luck, check.
“So can you think of any of our friends – any body we know – that would want to be here with us right now,” The Scout asked me.  “None that I can think of,” I truthfully answered, chuckling at the thought.

PicMonkey Collage
Coffee anyone?
The Mayor asked if we’d like a Nubian coffee – we declined, explaining we’d just had coffee. As we approached the coffee shop, I was glad we’d passed on the offer. Just as I was glad we declined his offer for water from the village jugs outside the mosque.

Got thirst?
We did get a chuckle when after winding our way through dusty neighborhoods, past garden plots and pastures, we saw something so incongruous with the the setting that it couldn't be possible, but there it was:

The village museum
The village museum – which was also closed – had earned a flag of distinction from TripAdvisor!

Were we finally on that north-south path?
Our private tour ended right on the dot and the Mayor bid us farewell pointing us north, with a right turn, followed by left and another right to reach the hotel. We think we might have been on a portion of the ‘north-south’ path.  We managed to end up on a few dead ends before finding the hotel, where we were most happy to see our boatmen waiting for us. . .we were ready to set sail on The Nile.

The Nile River awaits. . .
We had it all
Just like Bogie and Bacall
Starring in our old late, late show
Sailing away to Key Largo. . .

That’s it for this week.  Our wishes for Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and Happy New Year to you and yours! Again, our thanks for the time you spend with us. Safe and happy travels. . .and next week we’ll tell you about Christmas in Greece.

Linking this week with:
Best of Weekend
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


  1. That was quite the adventure! I'm glad you made it back to the safety of your hotel and the boat man. Looking forward to the next post!

  2. Quite a day "on your own" . . . and I would have loved to have been with you!

    1. It wasn't a 'walk in the park' but it will long be remembered! Thanks for stopping by Cindy.

  3. What an interesting (and perhaps a bit unnerving) adventure.

    1. We ended up agreeing that it was one of those guides we'd still have preferred not to have, but I am certain we saw far more and learned more than had we gone on our own! Merry Christmas Donna!

  4. What a fascinating trip and some wonderful memories for you!
    Thanks for linking up at

  5. Your life is like a story so interesting. Thanks so much for always sharing such great photos with us.
    Merry Christmas and much love to you.

  6. Such a charming and breathtaking place, Jackie and Joel. I would love to explore the Nile one day. Is it easy to hire a boat there?


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