Saturday, June 18, 2005

Feluccas on the Nile

Feluccas on the Nile
Feluccas on the Nile, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
At least once a summer I get out on a felucca in the evening. There's no real reason that I can't do it almost any night, other than the fact that life tends to get in the way. Summer evenings are also the main time for riding, so that presents a major conflict, but every time I get out on the river I wonder why I don't do this more often. Sliding silently up the river as we hear the noise of traffic fall away in the wind takes me back to many of the summer nights spent sailing from Alexandria to Cyprus many years ago.

Before we moved from Toronto to Egypt, my husband had a 32 foot Jeanneau Atalia built in the south of France, his only toy. He sailed it from France to Egypt during the spring before we moved and we did a lot of day sailing from Alexandria's Eastern Harbour. The sad thing about having a sailboat in Egypt is that the bureaucracy really takes the fun out of a lot of it. Night sailing in Egypt is pretty much restricted to the Nile and Lake Nasser because the Coast Guard forbids night dockings in Egyptian ports. Boats have to be in the harbour before sunset.

For about five years we would sail our boat to Limassol, Cyprus, where the kids and I would live on the boat in the marina doing maintenance all summer and then my husband would join us to sail back in the fall. It was a magical time for the kids, living on the boat and having a dinghy to zip around in along the shore. I loved the escape from the complexities of life and the ease of simply getting up to dress in a bathing suit, doing laundry in a bucket on the dock, and reading in the cockpit in the evening.

Now I get my sailing fix from the feluccas in the summer. The evening that this photo was taken I'd gotten a phone call in the afternoon from a young friend who wanted to come riding that night. I'd already promised to join friends for the felucca and gave her a rain check for the next day. As we sailed up the Nile, a mass of other feluccas wove their ways in and out of the islands and other boats. Lo and behold, one of them contained the girl who had wanted to go riding! She called out that it had sounded like such a good idea that they'd also headed for the river.

With the almost constant breeze blowing up river from the North, the feluccas are out sailing almost 24 hours a day. During the day they may ferry people across the river, they may be carrying refugees from the city heat. At night they are hired by the hour and may be out sailing all night long. The boats are constructed of heavy wood and the lateen rigging is simple and elegant for the river work. As Ratty in Wind In The Willows avowed, there's nothing like messing about in a boat.

1 comment:

kenju said...

I have always wanted to cruise the Nile; you make it sound like paradise to me.