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The Nile River, Lifeblood of Egyptian Civilization


The Nile still flows as it did for the pharaohs — the lifeblood of Egyptian civilization. Enjoy a peek at riverside life from a traditional sailboat called a felucca.

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The Nile still flows as it did for the pharaohs — the lifeblood of civilization then, as today. Luxor's riverfront is busy with boats, big and small. The traditional felucca — long a hard-working cargo boat — now hauls vacationing tourists. Anywhere on the Nile, I love a felucca ride.

The hand stitched canvas sail artfully catches the breeze. Egyptian boatmen have been sailing this river for thousands of years. Today, they expertly maneuver as tourists leave every care behind, enjoying this scene — essentially unchanged since the time of the pharaohs.

Here, where the desert meets the Nile, the lush ribbon of green is a reminder of how fundamental this river is to all life in Egypt. As the sun sets, palms become silhouettes, ensuring memories created are never forgotten.

A short venture beyond the famous sights takes us into a timeless Egypt untouched by tourism. The vast majority of Egypt's 100 million people live along the banks of the Nile. And most of them lead traditional lives on land made fertile by the river. Plowing with oxen, sowing seeds by hand, and harvesting their crops, they farm as they have through the millennia.

In some ways, life along the Nile seems to have changed little since the days of the pharaohs. The major difference? The annual flooding — once essential to nourish the soil with silt — has been controlled by an enormous dam. Today, fertilizing and irrigating the soil is the work of engineers, rather than the gods. With the Nile now tamed, farming in Egypt is possible throughout the year.

Luxor's a busy port for river-cruise boats. Fleets of these provide multiday Nile cruises which have become a standard part of an Egyptian tour. We're riding one farther upstream for a look at the most scenic stretch of the Nile. As if on a floating resort hotel, tourists enjoy the deck — with its pool, the attentive service, and the views from their perch atop three floors of staterooms.

The trip upriver takes you by natural beauty and seemingly ancient scenes interrupted only by modern cruise boats. Long stretches pass by timeless slices of Egyptian life as vacationers have little option but to relax and live at the pace of the steady boat heading against the current of the fabled river.

It's so peaceful, until the tranquility is broken by…pirates?! Nope! They're eager and enterprising salesmen who artfully tie up to the surging riverboats to display, model, and haggle — selling their souvenirs the hard way. Whether you buy anything or not, you can enjoy their entertaining show afternoons on both the port and starboard sides.

As the sun gets low in the sky we enter the magic hour. Scenes crescendo in beauty as they glide gracefully by either side of the boat. We pass patient fishermen, grazing cattle, farmers at work, children play, villagers do their chores, and minarets call all to prayer as the sun sets.