We named this ship Zahra or 'flower' to evoke Egypt 's natural beauty and its rare and lovely plant life. Zahra was once a popular name for girls, as it derives from a word meaning 'to be radiant' or 'to flourish and prosper'. Egypt 's prosperity still relies to some extent on agriculture and the sunshine the country enjoys year round. Aside from its flavorful fruits and vegetables, the country's high quality cotton has been renowned for centuries. Between August and October parts of the Delta and Upper Egypt are carpeted in white cotton blossoms, signaling the start of the harvest known as 'cotton flower time' (zahrat el-otn). Many young men and women in the countryside still choose wedding dates to coincide with the harvest, to bless their union with the land's bounty, nurtured by their hands and the waters of the Nile.

The Zahra has six beautifully appointed cabins, each named for a flower that our guests are likely to encounter in the course of their Nile voyage.

White Lotus (Nymphaea Lotus)

The White Lotus is a water lily that thrives in the shallow branches of the Nile and its canals. Its lovely white flowers bloom in the morning and close at night. The lotus symbolized rebirth for the Ancient Egyptians, and was also the emblem of Lower Egypt. The ancients used the lotus flowers medicinally and women wore them in their hair at festivals and banquets.

Blue Lotus (Nymphaea Caerulea)

[Blue Lotus] For the Ancient Egyptians, the Blue Lotus, with its golden center and blue petals, was like the sky greeting the sun and bathing it in perfume. For this reason, this water lily was associated with sunrise and sunset. More fragrant than the White Lotus, the Blue Lotus also grows in the Nile shallows and canals. The ancients believed that its intense scent signaled the presence of a god and many tomb scenes depict the deceased inhaling the divine perfume.

Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia Crassipes)

The Water Hyacinth originates in the Amazon and was probably introduced to Egypt by the Khedive Tawfiq (1879-1892) as an ornamental plant. The plant's seductive beauty, its resilience and lack of natural predators in foreign environments has assisted its spread worldwide. Since the plant absorbs a liter of water daily and can replicate in just ten days, it threatens the Nile Basin, clogging waterways and consuming a precious resource. On Lake Victoria people call it 'the noxious beauty' and attempts are being made to control its rampant growth.

Sea Daffodil (Pancratium Maritimum)

[Sea Daffodil] The Sea Daffodil is easily recognized by its umbrella-shaped cluster of white flowers dangling from the tip of a leafless stem. In summer, the flower grows on the Mediterranean coastline and symbolizes the blossoming of the desolate land. At Baltim, a coastal town near Damietta, a massive sand dune bears the name 'Gebel al-Nargis', the Mountain of the Narcissus or Daffodil.

Hibiscus (Rosa Sinensis)

The Hibiscus, or Chinese Rose, reaches a height of one to three meters. Its origin is uncertain, but classical Arabic sources mention hibiscus cultivation in the 12 th century. Although the bud takes weeks to develop, and only lasts for a day or two once blossomed, the luxuriant bell -shaped flowers appear year-round. In Egypt, the dried petals are used to make karkadeh, a popular drink that produces a calming but refreshing effect when served as either a cold drink or a hot infusion.

Arabian Jasmin (Jasminum Sambac)

The 'Queen of Flowers' was introduced to Egypt around 1000 B.C. The Arabian variety is a climbing plant whose delicate white buds open at dusk and have an intoxicating scent, especially in summer. In the evening, Egyptian street vendors offer jasmine garlands to car drivers and passers-by who often present them to their sweethearts. Jasmin flowers have some medicinal applications, but are best known for their use in perfumes and in tea. Jasmin ('Yasmine') is a common name for girls in Egypt and the Arab world.