Down the Nile - alone in a fishermans skiff
by Mahoney, Rosemary
pub. by Little Brown and Company, NY, 2007 - isbn; 978-0-316-10745-7 Bibliography p.271-273 Acknowledgments p.275 total size 277 p.
This book is much more than a tale of travel down the Nile River in Egypt. It was published in 2007, which I expect means that the actual trip was in 2006 or even a year earlier. This book is a history of travel accounts on the Nile from Herodotus through Napoleons army and many travelers from the 1700s. She particularly quotes Florence Nightingale, more fameous for her nursing, and the French writer Gustave Flaubert.
Rosemary Mahoney rows small boats at home in New England for relaxation. She came up with the idea of rowing down a good part of the Nile, just for the experience.
The narrative begins in Cairo then quickly moves to Aswan, some 423 miles by air (555 miles by surface transportation) up stream, which in this case is - going South. The town of Aswan is located a few miles downstream (North) of the Aswan Dam constructed in the 1960s. It has a population over 250,000 and is 636 ft. above sea level. It is just North (downstream) of the cataracts which by definintion divide the Nile into upper and lower sections. The felucca captains used to sail up through this swfit water using considerable skill, and sail up the Nile for a considerable distance. After the dam it is sailed for just the the challenge sail, past the cataract then turn back to Aswan.
Mahoney spends considerable time attempting to buy a boat to row. She is rebuffed on all sides. People just do not do that, especially females. There were many offers to hire a felucca, there was a fleet of them available. Finally one felucca captain (a Nubian) took her seriously, and lent her his tiny skiff to row about Elephantine Island by Aswan.
After some negotiation and the arrival of a western female friend who lives in Cairo, she rows the little skiff a head of the friendly captains felucca, her friend and a crewmember aboard, often just out of sight of the felucca. They spend the evenings camped out with the felucca and other feluccas which are on more traditional tourist trips. This part of the journey ends in Luxor. At Luxor the felucca sails back to Aswan with her friendly Nubian captain.
She found Luxor to be a veritable den of iniquity. Tourists, especially older European women often coming for carnal company with local young men more than to see the antiquities.
She managed to buy a boat fairly directly, from some fishermen in Luxor and after some gathering of supplies rowed south to Quena on her own. The terrors of this part of her trip came mostly out of her own head. Toward the end she was discovered by a man and 4 of his young children. It gave her a fright and she reacted in fright. Later she came to understand that her reaction was unjustified. The story ends with her waiting for the train in Quena, her quest finished.
There is much more to this book, exploring social lives of the locals she met. Upon invitation she visits the family home of the Nubian captain on Elephantine Island, and met his elderly mother and sister. She later visited before he came home and had interesting conversation with the sister. She also had conversations with others over what in our western society would be considered highly personal matters. There was great curiosity about the -freedom- which westerners have, especially western women.
This is a very good read if one would want to have a look into upper Nile Egypt before the ferment which began in 2012.
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