Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Egypt: Aboard the M.S. Sherry Boat

The best way to see the temples and sites in Southern "Upper" Egypt is on a cruise ship from the Nile.  We booked our Nile cruise with “Thomas Cook” at the advice of our friends Laura and Joe who live in Cairo. Unknowingly we had made reservations with one of the first travel agents ever established in Egypt. Established in the 1880’s Cook Ltd. can be credited with establishing the first commercial infrastructure for Nile cruises.

We are cruising South, against the current for 4 Days.  (Itinerary here)

I sit on the open air deck of our boat watching the landscape pass by like a film strip. I can’t help but feel like I’m a character in some sepia toned silent film who’s story reveals the exotic antiquities of ancient Egypt.

Sounds and smells from activity on the riverbank waft in helping me to recognize that this is, indeed, real!

We arrive at the Esna lock to a que of 20 or more cruisers. This number would balloon nearly 300 in the high season. The 60m hulks restlessly jockey for position like a giant game of Tetris. All the while, small row boats piloted by traditionally dressed men squeeze between the floating hotels in a haphazard effort to sell their wares to the curies guests far above.

Children swimming next to trash...and water buffalo

The sun sets over the west bank of the Nile.

This experience makes the sharp contrast between worlds strikingly palpable. Day by day, ships arrive carrying hordes of overfed tourists who spill out anxiously ready to take in the sites. They engage with the culture only superficially. One man dons a Galobaya while another enjoys the novelty of haggling for low prices with a street vender.

Cruise Ships in front of Kom Ombo Temple

One can only hope that the presence of tourism has resulted in a net positive for the culture, economy and environment.

I have my doubts.

Nubian Dancers

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