Sailing the Nile is like slipping back some five thousand years in time at certain moments. Though the boats you sail on have changed immeasurably since the days when Akhenaton and Ramses crossed these same waters, there are sights, sounds and moments that those venerable, long gone demi gods of ancient Egypt would have recognised and remembered at once.
You see it in the cattle and oxen that graze idly at the water’s edge as you ghost silently by. The crocodiles that might once have taken them are now hundreds of miles to the south, contained in Lake Nasser by the concrete sarcophagus of the high dam at Aswan.
A Felucca or two might stand out across your path, with gently billowing white sails, cantered at a crazy angle as it heels sharply on the silver sheen of the ancient highway.
Small children in canoes paddle gamely out from between a gap in the ranks of sharp, spindly reeds that shroud the edges of the river banks on both sides.
The air is alive with the screeching and chattering of a myriad of birds, many of them keeping a wary eye on the odd, predatory hawk as it slowly circles high overhead, looking for a kill.
Buildings peep out at intervals from the serried ranks of slowly waving date palms. A blue domed mosque here, with spindly minarets clawing at a petrol blue sky. A half finished house there, with mud brick walls daubed a tired, sun bleached shade of musky ochre, with lines of washing hanging from the windows, drying out in the mid day heat.
A small truck here, overladen with fruit in rainbow shades. A tractor there, spluttering asthmatically into life as it rumbles toward the fields.
The sunsets are tender, mellow affairs. The slowly setting sun in the west turns this most ancient and legendary of rivers- the golden highway of the Pharaohs- into what resembles a sea of blazing straw. A moment that is at once both still and electrifying. An ageless, almost supernatural feeling floats in the ether like stardust. A magic as old as time. One that Cleopatra, Nefertiti or Tutankhamun would have known. One that would have made them smile.
Now those same rows of date palms stand, black and massive, against the slowly setting curtain of the Nile sunset. The only sound is that of thousands of chirping crickets, plus the gentle tinkling of the ice in your sunset gin and tonic.
At moments like this, you feel more alive than ever.
A day in the life. A day on the Nile. An experience that sears itself into your soul. It stays with you long, long, after you actually leave it behind. Wonderful stuff.