One of the first things I stumbled upon when researching our trip to Egypt, was to ride a felucca from Aswan to Luxor. It immediately made it on my “want-to-do” list! The more popular option of a luxury cruise sounded appealing, but didn’t have the same charm as an Aswan to Luxor felucca ride. To me, the idea of slowly meandering down the Nile, powered only by the wind, watching life pass by on the riverbanks sounded incredible romantic and a wee bit more authentic.
Now, I knew the felucca wouldn’t be overly comfortable for sleeping, but I’m not one to shy away from anything just because it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes I think it even makes me want to do it more. Deep down I’ve reasoned that the more uncomfortable experiences tend to be the most rewarding. This actually proves to be true more often than not. However, with our Aswan to Luxor felucca ride, it definitely was NOT the case!
Booking The Felucca From Aswan To Luxor
We had planned to spend a few days in Aswan so we could sort out a felucca boat and captain. However, after stumbling upon Waleed from Aswan Individual, I decided to save myself the hassle and book through him. This was the best decision I could’ve made, especially considering how things turned out…
The morning we were to leave for our felucca trip everyone was a bit on edge. The kids were mostly excited for the boat ride, but the adults were a bit apprehensive as to how we were going to handle 3 days and 2 nights aboard a tiny little boat!
Randy & I took the girls across the river to the Aswan market to buy some drinks and snacks for the trip. On our way back across the ferry we ran into Waleed. He was coming to make sure we were all still planning on taking the felucca, and not backing out at the last minute!
Day 1 – Aswan
We all committed, and before long he had us loaded up into the boat and we were waving goodbye. Our captain spoke a little English, so we were able to communicate at a very basic level. If translation was required, Waleed was always a phone call away…and we never managed to make it out of cell service so he was always reachable.
We started off being pulled by a motorboat, as our initial direction was opposite of where we actually wanted to go! We traveled upstream towards Aswan high dam, and stopped in at one of our boat-man’s houses to pick up lunch. Everyone settled in to enjoy the scenery and before long the stresses of the morning melted away, although in the back of my mind I was wondering why we were heading away from Luxor and not towards it! I tried to “let it go” and figured these guys do this all the time, they must know what they’re doing!
We stopped for a late lunch along a small sandy bank, and everyone (except the moms) had their first swim in the Nile. The trees provided enough shade to be comfortable, despite the relatively unbearable heat. It was the perfect spot to hang out and hide from the hottest part of the day.
Once the kids (and Randy) had enough swimming, they loaded back into the boat and we slowly drifted down the Nile. We passed by a Nubian village on the West Bank, although it seemed to be mostly for the benefit of tourists (camels carried tourists along a dusty road around the village). It wasn’t quite the authentic experience I was hoping for, but I knew that once we got downstream from Aswan (the next day) we’d get away from the tourists and into the “real” Egypt.
Dinner was a delicious fried-fish feast, enjoyed from our boat along the banks of the Nile. I’m not sure how our boat-captain managed to pack as much as he did in the small cooler, but food seemed to magically appear when we needed it. He cooked on the front “deck” and we ate in the same place we spent the day (and night), with a table cloth down to protect the cushions.
When it was time to settle in for the night a canvas was pulled around the boat to keep the mosquitos out and the heat in. We each claimed a spot, laid out our blankets, and settled in for a (very) restless sleep. My biggest concern for the night was the fact that we were still upstream from our guesthouse. We were actually FURTHER AWAY from Luxor, and with the speed at which the boat was moving I was starting to doubt whether we would actually make it to Luxor or not.
Day 2 – Still In Aswan
We spent the second day in much the same way we spent the first day, lazing around on the boat. Everyone read books, played games and enjoyed the scenery. We all went for a late-morning swim in the Nile (the moms went this time too), and enjoy cooling off and cleaning off in the refreshing water.
The biggest problem was that the scenery wasn’t passing by us very quickly. The Nile moves quite slowly near Aswan, so there really wasn’t any current to carry us downstream. And the wind was non-existent! At one point we were turning in slow circles because there wasn’t even enough wind to keep the sail moving us in one direction.
As we slow-circled down the Nile, I started to get a bit frustrated at how the day had unfolded. The felucca was one of the experiences I was most excited about, and it wasn’t remotely close to meeting my expectations. The captain told me that the week previous we would’ve been in Luxor in a day because there was so much wind. However, that day there was NO wind, and nothing any of us could do about it.
By late afternoon we hadn’t even made it to the bridge just North of Aswan, and the city was still in sight. We hadn’t seen any of the “daily life” along the Nile I was hoping for (the Nubian village did NOT count!), and we still had a LONG way to go the next day to get to Luxor. We knew there was no way we’d make it even close to Luxor in the felucca, and would end up driving most of the way.
It was decision time.
We could spend another uncomfortable night on the boat, just to drive to Luxor the next morning. Or, we could give up, call Waleed, and drive to Luxor that night. We chose option #2!
We Quit The Felucca
Luckily for us the stars aligned. Our guesthouse/apartment-hotel in Luxor could fit us in that night, Waleed was able to arrange a van, and if we left right away we’d make it most of the way before tourists weren’t supposed to be on the road. Of course we didn’t leave immediately, as our boat captain had just finished making us dinner, so we ate first. And Kacela is the slowest eater on planet earth, so it took longer than it should have! When we finally made our way up the banks of the Nile, with all our stuff, Waleed was almost in a panic saying we needed to get on the road immediately!
At the time, I had no idea there was a night-driving ban for tourists, and thankfully it didn’t matter. We were stopped at a few check-points along the way, but no one even looked in side the van. And more importantly, no one questioned what we were doing on the road at that hour of the night!
When we finally arrived in Luxor 3.5hrs later, we were all exhausted and ready for bed. I was a bit bummed that the felucca trip hadn’t been the experience I was hoping for. But, we still had an enjoyable two days, and one uncomfortable night, floating down the Nile on a felucca.
One day I’ll make it back to Egypt, and do this trip again…hopefully next time there will be wind!
The Details – A Felucca From Aswan To Luxor
We booked a 3-day, 2 night Felucca trip with Waleed at Aswan Individual. He arranged everything, even organizing a larger boat to ensure we were all comfortable. After meeting us at our accommodation to ensure we made it on the boat, he worked tirelessly throughout our last evening to ensure we made it to Luxor safely. The owner of our guesthouse was even waiting for us in Luxor to take us to our accommodation because Waleed had called ahead to arrange it (even though we booked the Luxor guesthouse through booking.com!).
(note – I paid in full for this trip and didn’t receive any discount or compensation from Waleed…he didn’t even know I have a travel blog! His service was just SO outstanding that I can’t recommend him enough).
Ideally, we would’ve made it much further down the river! The van was organized to meet us in the middle of the third afternoon to take us the rest of the way to Luxor. We could’ve added on a visit to the temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo along the way as well, however we didn’t want to get templed-out before getting to Luxor. This was probably a mistake as I’ve heard Kom Ombo is incredible!
Cost –$368 USD for 2 families (3 adults and 4 kids), for 2 nights and 3 days. We also spent a further 300 LE ($49.25 CAD) on tips for the boat captain, his helper and the van drivers.
Tips For Riding A Felucca With Kids
- Bring LOTS of sunscreen, there’s shade on the boat but it moves throughout the day and it’s almost impossible to completely avoid the sun.
- Wear a hat or buff- see the point above (and don’t follow my bad parenting example where my girls are reading with no hat and no sunglasses…mom-fail!).
- Pack a few day-time activities such as books and colouring. There’s not much of an edge on the side of the boat, so you’ll need to be conscious to only pack activities that won’t easily end up overboard!
- Bring a game or two to play during the evening. We didn’t stay up too long after it got dark, but it’s nice to have something to do between dinner and (early) bed-time.
- Pack a headlamp, you’ll need it if you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Bring extra toilet paper…your toilet for the trip will be the sand on the banks of the Nile, or the Nile itself!
- If you have girls, also pack a Whiz-Easy (we affectionately call ours the “purple penis”, which should give you a pretty good idea of what it is and what it does!). This can come in quite handy if the kids don’t want to leave the boat to pee. I wouldn’t recommend using it for the adults!