Cruising into Egypt’s Past
You’ll see them along the Corniche el Nil, the main thoroughfare that runs along the Nile. Their stark white sails and simple construction stand in contrast to the splashy souvenier stands and slick fast food restaurants cluttering the river’s shore. They’re called “feluccas” and many say that a trip to Cairo is not complete without taking a ride on one.
Before you dismiss the felucca as a crass tourist diversion, you may want to take a look at the history behind it. Feluccas are an integral part of Egypt’s past. These long wooden sailing boats once carried everything from pharaohs and military troops to food and supplies. Their construction in and of itself is somewhat of a miracle, given that there were few large trees to found at the time. Instead, workers lashed together a series of reeds and small wooden planks, covering the entire structure with a tarred cloth. A wooden mast and a sail made of cotton or linen were added to power the boat, with a series of oars serving as backup when winds failed to blow.
It’s not just ancient Egyptians who used the felucca. John Muir, the Scottish-born American naturalist, observed feluccas being used by Italian immigrants in the construction of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California. Feluccas were also used in countries like Sudan, Iraq and Malta.
You can board a felucca just about anywhere along the Corniche el Nil, although the majority are docked around the larger hotels, including
As soon as you set foot on a felucca, you’ll notice a sense of calm and quiet. It’s an entirely different experience than motorised transport and one that really allows you to appreciate the Nile’s many alluring sights. Looking for something more lively? Some felucca tours come with dinner buffets and entertainment, such as fire dancers.
Though the exterior of the felucca has evolved (most now use metal in their construction) the feeling of adventure and excitement you’ll have when boarding one has not. So give it a try. The Nile is calling.