5 Reasons to take your Nile Cruise on a Dahabiya
It's MY genuine joy to share this post with you, as it is the 100th one published on my blog site. I hope you enjoy this blog about the Dahabiya Nile Cruises in Egypt and check out some of my other 99 blogs covering topics regarding travel, culture, and food.
The Nile River is the lifeblood of Egypt. Flowing northward from Sudan, through Egypt, and ultimately emptying into the Mediterranean Sea; the Nile River is the convergence of the Blue Nile which originates from Lake Tana in the highlands of Ethiopia, and the White Nile from Lake Victoria in Uganda. The Nile River is and has been THE primary water source for Egypt, whose civilization became established along the length of the river's silty shores dating back to the 4th millennium BC.
When tourists visit Egypt, a Nile River cruise is often on their itineraries. The cruises typically occur in the central segment of the Egyptian Nile, between the cities of Luxor and Aswan. Three different kinds of boats can be used to enjoy the Nile... a river cruise boat, a Dahabiya sailboat (shown above), and a felucca. Of the three, one is the superior choice - the Dahabiya!
5 Reasons why you should choose the Dahabiya
First-class sailboat with first-class service
Guaranteed small group size
Exquisite dining experience
Increased mooring sites offer unique exposure to Egypt
Offers a peaceful, quiet Nile experience
First-class Sailboat with First-class Service
The Dahabiyas are gorgeous sailing vessels with classic style and old-world charm. Beautiful wood finishes and decor compliment the sailboats' elegance. They date to the late 1800s but were a particularly common way to cruise the Nile in style between the 1920s-1940s. (Of historical note, Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered and opened in November 1922). The authentic service offered on the vessels replicates the first-class service offered during those days of old when such travel was considered a luxury. In the travel industry of today, that type of quality is nearly impossible for the average traveler to experience.
Each Dahabiya is accompanied by an Egyptian crew of 10, which includes a captain, a chef, and an English-speaking Egyptologist. Every concern is tended to such as welcome drinks with each re-boarding, daily afternoon tea with Egyptian sweets, luggage handling, as well as, assisting every passenger to safely maneuver between the boat and the rugged shore.
Guaranteed Small Group Size
The Dahabiyas are small sailing vessels, in contrast to the huge river cruise boats also navigating the Nile. While river cruise boats have 50-60 rooms, the Dahabiya has only 5-6 rooms depending on the floorplan selected. Hence, the maximum number of passengers on a Dahabiya sailboat is 12, but often even less. The Dahabiya I was on this past March had only 8 guests with 10 crew members. A knowledgeable, English-speaking Egyptologist is on the boat and assigned to guide the guests at every destination. Eight of us shared one Egyptologist! This pales in comparison to the size of the tour groups that emerged from the river cruise boats, where there were easily 30 tourists guided by one Egyptologist. A smaller group of people allows for more tailored discussion, easier handling of questions, better viewing of the sites, as well as nimbler mobility and accommodation of the group. With such a small group size we were able to visit remote villages, be welcomed into a family home for tea, learn about sugar cane and Egyptian agriculture, interact with the curious children in the villages, and even "crash" a local village wedding. Guaranteed small group size elevates the overall experience and learning potential!
Exquisite Dining Experience
Each Dahabiya has a skilled chef who prepares traditional Egyptian meals... breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The chef and his assistants serve the guests, family-style, all seated around one long table. No open buffets. No large volume cooking for the masses. Authentic meals are prepared with fresh local ingredients which are often purchased in the various villages at our mooring stops. Meat, fish, and vegetarian options are all abundant. Dinners are served on the open top deck of the sailboat under a twinkling night sky along the tranquil banks of the Nile. It simply doesn't get sweeter than that!
Due to the small size of the sailboat, the guests get to know the chef directly and we are welcomed into the kitchen if we desire to assist with or learn Egyptian cooking.
Increased Mooring Stops offer Unique Exposure to Egypt
Because the Dahabiya sailboats are small, nimble, and have shallow bottoms, they are able to moor along shorelines that are far too shallow for the large river cruise boats to access. This allows for many more stoppage points in remote locations between Luxor and Aswan. Whereas the large river cruise boats stop at Esna, occasionally Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan; the Dahabiya sailboats stop at Esna, the ancient town of El Kab, Edfu, the quarry of Gebel el Silsila, Kom Ombo, the island of Maniha, the camel and livestock markets of Daraw, the Nubian village of El Koubania, and finally Aswan.
The advantages of sailing on the Dahabiya are not simply the benefit of added sites and experiences, but more importantly the very intentional and calculated timing of arrival to sites where the cruise boats also anchor. The captains of the Dahabiyas know the schedules of the large cruise boats and make it a point to arrive at the common destinations well before the cruise boats arrive so that the historical sites are nearly empty when we are there with our small group. We were already leaving the historical sites to enjoy a leisurely day sailing on the Nile when ALL the cruise boats were approaching the shore, as shown below. The many cruise boats travel together and reach the sites at the same time. When they arrive and disembark, the sites are immediately inundated with several hundred tourists. Hence, timing is a major advantage when traveling on a Dahabiya.
A Peaceful, Quiet Nile Experience
One of the nicest things about a Nile River cruise is the quiet serenity that one hopes to obtain by leaving the noise and bustle of Cairo and Luxor behind. This hope may or may not be fulfilled depending on the type of cruise that you choose. The large river cruise boats may not give you the tranquility you desire. Each is loaded with over 100 guests plus employees and the numerous river boats travel and anchor together in a herd fashion. As such, the flashy lights, crowd volume, pool noise, music, and motor, magnified across multiple boats traveling together and anchored side-by-side, do not lend to a peaceful ambiance.
Contrast that with the Dahabiya sailboat which is peaceful and idyllic. You can enjoy the calm sunrises and radiant sunsets. You can watch the fish jump and Nile birds fly or listen to the water lapping against the boat alongside the croaking of the frogs. During the day you can sit on the deck as the boat sails and read, chat, relax or enjoy a drink while you feel the warm river breeze against your skin. Each Dahabiya has two large sails and no motor. A quiet tug gently pulls it from a distance if the winds are insufficient or the opposing current is too strong. The sailboat moors alone, secluded along the tranquil banks of the Nile. There you can relax on the deck beneath the quiet starry sky. The crew, too, is quiet and nearly disappears into the stillness of the night.
... For me, it's a no-brainer!
Useful Dahabiya Nile Cruise tips:
Cruising southward from Esna to Aswan takes 4 days, as you are traveling against the current, but typically with the wind at your back. This direction allows for more sailing time.
Cruising northward from Aswan to Esna takes 3 days, as you are traveling with the current, but against the wind. This direction results in more time being tugged.
There are no crocodiles anymore in the Egyptian Nile! There haven't been for over a century since the creation of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902. So, yes, you can swim in the Nile.
Tips are recommended for the 10 crew members. Conveniently, it can be given as one lump sum to the captain on the last day. He divides it amongst the crew. No need to tip daily for every little thing during your cruising days.
If you can, reserve the suite! It is only slightly more expensive than a regular cabin but has the marked advantage of having its own private patio.
There are a few different Dahabiya companies. We used Djed Egypt Travel for our Dahabiya Nile Cruise and couldn't have been happier with our decision. They were outstanding in every way. (www.djedegypt.com). Please note that I get zero kickback or compensation from recommending Djed.
If using Djed for your Dahabiya experience, know that only 'The Orient' sailboat has 4 cabins and 1 large suite (max 10 guests), while all the other sailboats in their fleet have 4 cabins and 2 small suites (max 12 guests). We were on the Orient and secured the one large suite which was truly magical.