Nile Cruising History
The Story of Leisure Sailing on Egypt’s Great Nile River
A “Giver of Life” and Mobility in Ancient Egypt
The inhabitants of northeast Africa’s fertile Nile Valley have used the waters of the world’s longest river for the transport of people and goods for tens of thousands of years. In ancient Egyptian literature, poetry, and official historical accounts, the Nile plays a very critical and central role in both commerce and in life itself, and to this day it remains the central artery of civilization in Egypt.
Just as they did thousands of years ago, luxurious boats have carried pharaohs, kings, queens, conquerers, and leisure travelers alike up and down the Nile in comfort and style. The designs of Nile cruising boats have ranged from huge canoe-shaped floating villas powered by dozens if not hundreds of oarsmen to wind-powered sailboats to steam-driven padel boats to modern gas-powered ships.
Among all of the Nile’s modes of transport, sailboats stand out as the most traditional and widely used type of vessel throughout Egyptian history. While the felucca remains the most common and practical – although also the smallest – form of sailboat used on the Nile, its larger and more luxurious cousin, the dahabiya, reigns supreme as the choice of luxury leisure travelers to Egypt for cruising the Nile in style while staying true to Egypt’s local sailing culture and traditions.
Today’s dahabiyas are thoroughly modern sailing vessels built in the traditional local style. The best among them maintain an old-world ambiance while offering all modern conveniences and luxuries that 21st-century travelers expect. These include spacious cabins, plush bedding, 24-hour electricity, real bathrooms with fully-enclosed showers, indoor and outdoor dining areas, and wi-fi.