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The first Egypt-travel recommendation I was given, was to try a felucca ride on the River Nile. More authentically Egyptian than a cruise with hundreds of other tourists, it seemed to be a better way to spend time with a local, and experience a trip that is more personalised .


After a lot of research online, I found Captain Ziggy. Real name Mohammed, Ziggy has been sailing feluccas since the age of 11. Being the oldest child in his family, he was, naturally, responsible and wanted to help his dad earn money for the family. So he insisted on helping out his dad on his felucca. After several unsuccessful attempts to kick his son off the boat and into school, his dad gave in and, ever since, Ziggy has been sailing the Nile.


Lack of schooling has meant that Ziggy is unable to read English, but he is able to speak it. He has no website and doesn’t work for a company. To reserve a trip on his felucca, I sent him voice notes via WhatsApp to get a quote for two nights (meals included), as a solo traveller (5,000LE/ £135). Once I decided to go for it, I sent over a copy of my passport (needed for registration to the authorities) and booked it!



As promised, Ziggy was waiting for me on the platform at Luxor train station. The poor thing was waiting two hours as the train was, unsurprisingly, late! Still, he grabbed my big backpack and carried it out of the station for me without complaint.


Day 1


The felucca was parked a 10-minute-walk away from the train station. On the way there is a chance to stock up alcohol, withdraw cash (Ziggy obviously only accepts cash), and pick up any other essentials.

All luggage can be left on the felucca, and I’d recommend you spend the morning/early afternoon exploring anything you wish to see in Aswan. If you have more time, I’d recommend staying in Aswan for a couple of days before sailing up the Nile by felucca.

The Unfinished Obelisk and Elephantine Island are major highlights in Aswan.


A windy start


The day we set sail was very windy. “New wind” Ziggy called it. Most boats stayed safely on the banks of the river. Professional Ziggy, however, zig zagged us up the Nile and then parked in a quiet spot to serve me lunch. His sister had prepared fish caught from the Nile.

The food was plentiful and delicious!


We continued sailing and it was incredibly peaceful after the chaos of Cairo.



Before the sunset, Ziggy parked us on a quiet beach where I’d have a view of the sunrise. As the sun was setting, Ziggy and his assistant prepared the felucca for the night by wrapping it up in traditional Egyptian cloth to shield us from any wind. Dinner was lighter since lunch was big and I’d not done anything all afternoon except lounge around on the felucca!


Day 2


I woke around 6am as I’d gotten used to the early morning sunrise routine! So, I was able to watch the sunrise and go to the toilet before anyone else woke up.

For information on the toilet-situation, see my FAQs below!


Ziggy woke and made me a breakfast fit for a queen.

Fried eggs, bread, cheese, honey, tea and fresh oranges.

Swimming in the Nile


Then we sailed off and headed further north. For lunch we parked on a quiet beach and Ziggy set about cooking lunch whilst I went for a walk on the small beach. Although quiet, the locals are used to seeing tourists dip into the sea, so Ziggy told me not to feel conscious of getting out my swimsuit. However, I was still hesitant due to the temperature of the water. But then, another felucca parked next to us and two guys got straight into the water. So I did the same. It was COLD! The only way to avoid freezing, is to keep moving and swimming! The water was wonderfully clean, so it was like taking a cold bath to make up for the lack of running water on the felucca.



Lunch was served, and then Ziggy, himself, jumped into the water. He had cooked up a delicious shakshuka - eggs cooked in a sauce of tomato, peppers, onion and garlic.

It was so good!

Kom Ombo


After lunch, we crossed to the other side of the river where Ziggy’s cousin was waiting for us with a tuk tuk. The two guys from the other felucca, and I jumped into the tuk tuk and we were whisked away towards Kom Ombo Temple.


On the way, Ziggy's cousin took my phone and charger to a petrol station where they were able to charge it whilst we were sightseeing. There's no charging points on the felucca! I think it’s the longest amount of time I went without my phone on the trip!


Kom Ombo Temple, meaning Hill of Gold, was incredible! I wasn’t expecting such a beautiful sight!

Dedicated to Sobek (the crocodile-headed god) and Horus (the falcon-headed god) - both of which appear in the Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan - this temple is from 180-47 BC!!



Near the exit of the temple is a museum dedicated to Sobek which features mummified crocodiles as well as a ton of information. It's small but well worth a visit.


Back on the felucca, Ziggy was preparing another fantastic meal. This time we had a Nubian dish of camel meat stew and rice!


Ziggy, the other felucca’s staff, and a friend of theirs gathered on the beach to set up a campfire to keep us warm. We huddled up by the fire whilst Ziggy and his friends filled the air with Egyptian music.

As well as a great skipper and cook, Ziggy is also a very good singer!!



Day 3


The next day, I had two options to get to Luxor; the 8am train or the 3pm train. I decided to get the 8am train to maximise my time in Luxor. Ziggy got up at 6am to cook breakfast for me despite my insisting that he didn’t need to wake so early! Boiled eggs, bread, cheese and honey with a cup of tea was enough. His cousin returned with his tuk tuk to take me to the train station in Kom Ombo and I was on my way to Luxor!



 


Tour or Explore


Verdict : Explore!

Whether you’re going on a solo trip, as a couple, or a trip with friends, this is something you definitely don’t need to experience as part of a tour. A personalised trip with Ziggy, or one of his brothers, is a great option to experience the river Nile in a relaxing atmosphere. Just drop Ziggy a voice note via WhatsApp on +20 120 856 2850 and he’ll take care of you!



Check out my 2 day itinerary in Luxor for more tips and recommendations!


FAQs

How long is a trip on the felucca?


To sail the Nile with Ziggy, or other captains you may find in Aswan, the length of the trip is up to you! My stay was for 2 nights which I think is a good amount of time to experience the Nile, life on a felucca, and still have time for the rest of Egypt!


What is the itinerary?


Your starting point can be in Aswan or in Luxor, or anything in between. However, you’d need to arrange this with the skipper beforehand.


I started my journey from Aswan, and sailed north bound, as the river naturally flows in this direction. If there is no wind, the felucca can gently sail down along with the current. You can go all the way to Luxor but this would take a few days. I ended up my trip near Kom Ombo as there is a train station there that took me to Luxor.


How much is a trip on the felucca?


Depends on how long your stay is. You can send Ziggy a voice note to get an idea of the price he offers per person. For me, as a solo traveller, for 2 nights, I paid 5,000 LE.


How many people can the felucca fit?


Ziggy’s felucca is large and can easily fit a small group or family!


Are there toilet facilities?


There is no running water on the felucca, and therefore, no toilet facilities. Your captain should stop the boat in an appropriate place whenever you need to go, but it’s all outdoors! Behind trees, bushes, rocks, wherever you can find a safe spot! It’s part of the felucca life!


Are meals included?


Once on the boat, all meals are included. If you have special dietary requirements you need to specify this to the captain beforehand so they make the appropriate preparations.


Is it safe for female solo travellers?


I chose Ziggy specifically because I saw a good review from another female solo traveller! He looked after me well and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible.



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