BBC Holiday Bales Nostalgic Nile 23.10.06

Daily Telegraph
Peter Hughes
Saturday 13 May 2007

'Going with the flow'

...'The riad I found was not in the city but on the Nile. It's a dahabiya, a traditional, two-masted Nile sailing cruiser. Anywhere else it would be called a yacht. King Farouk had several. So if a riad is a small princely palace on land - now given over to holidaymaking - a dahabiya is a riad on the river...'

...'Mahogany panelled and with two faux-glass oil lamps swinging from the beams - a perfect touch for a sailing ship - the look was of a colonial club. Hercule Poirot could have popped up at any moment. There were button-back leather sofa and chairs, an antique bookcase and Scrabble, and tables where we ate when the weather was too chilly for the deck. The food was outstandingly good...'

...' While the bigs ships charged by as if permanently late, the El Bey moved at the same courtly pace as the Nile - slow enough to enable us to smell woodsmoke from the villages and watch the kingfishers hover. Under our isosceles sails we were as much a curiosity as the boys laying fishing nets and the women doing laundry, the donkey carts and buffalo. But it was the sight of some 40 huge cruise boats, moored in ranks, cheek by gunwale up to 10 deep, at the pretty little temple of Kom Ombo that made the greatest sense of dahabiya travel. The dahabiyas dont take you to sites different from the norm, but they do take you in irresistibly different style...'

...'The greatest compliment to the El Bey was that, for all the wonders of ancient Egypt, shown to us by our own guide, the part of the week my fellow passengers enjoyed most was the time on the river...'