A dream that comes true isn’t something that’s happening everyday, but it happened to me as soon as we arrived in sight of the dahabiya which we would board and stay on for the next 3 nights.
When my uncle went to Egypt (I must have been 9 or 10) and brought me back souvenirs and travel brochures (no internet then), I told myself that Egypt would be my first trip abroad…that didn’t happen.
Only in October 2018 after visiting 30 other countries I finally managed to see the pyramids, Tutankhamun’s treasure, and to finally take a Nile cruise on board a dahabiya.
A Nile cruise on a dahabiya is such a fascinating experience! I had so many doubts about taking a cruise with 2 crazy little toddlers (2years 4 months), but everything was amazing.
But let’s start from the beginning: what is a dahabiya? A dahabiya is a small sailing boat with usually 5/6 cabins, so it is for only 10/12 people. Although it is a sailing boat most of the time it will actually be towed by a tug boat.
In the Luxor direction it follows the Nile current, but usually the wind is not strong enough, in the Aswan direction most of the time the current is too strong for the sails.
Don’t let this put you off though because the tug boat will go far enough ahead so you don’t notice the engine.
Here is the video of us arriving at the boat:
I was so excited to board that I didn’t realize Mark was carrying everything, bags, baggage, and kids!!!
FINDING THE RIGHT CRUISE
The process to find the right cruise took me a little bit of time. I searched online and read the experiences of other travellers, but I wasn’t convinced about booking a trip on the typical cruise boat. Too big, too loud, too many people…nothing was matching my idea of a slow trip that makes you feel you are back in the Ancient Egypt time.
But finally…I came across the dahabiya cruise. I found a few companies offering this solution and based on itinerary, length of the trip and reviews I decided to book with Djed Egypt Travel.
The booking process was easy but deposit payment can only be made in Euros with a bank transfer or credit card through a link they will send you.
Either process costs extra: 3% for the credit card or the fee from your bank for the international transfer.
There are 3 boats you can chose from and they cover the Luxor-Aswan itinerary in both directions, leaving 3 times a week in each direction so you should be able to find the right one for you.
I decided to book the Zekrayaat boat that leaves Aswan on Friday and covers the distance to Luxor in 3 nights.
The Luxor to Aswan itinerary requires 4 nights, but as it was our first boat experience with Liam and Santiago I preferred to choose the shorter itinerary, the 4 nights option covers more sightseeing too.
On our trip there were only 3 other couples. At the beginning we were nervous thinking that there could have been some tension…we thought we could find some people unhappy to have to share space with 2 toddlers for 3 days, but luckily we were wrong. The Spanish, American and German couples were lovely and never made us feel in the wrong place which we of course appreciated so much.
On our side of course we tried to engage them in activities that would keep them entertained. The veranda outside our cabin was also a good option to spend some time together but leaving the top deck quiet for the others. The boat crew were also amazing: they were always playing with the boys and helping us. We couldn’t have hoped for anything better.
The dahabiya boat doesn’t have a contemporary luxurious feeling, so a modern Princess could be disappointed. It is, in fact, quite traditional but you could definitely imagine to be a princess from the 18th century.
We initially booked a standard cabin for €1,050, the price included full board and entrance to all sites with an Egyptologist who was travelling on the dahabiya with us. (kids were free)
The larger cabin with the small veranda was still available when we boarded and, as we were the first arriving, we got the option to pay an extra €120 to upgrade…and so we did…
Our cabin consisted of a really high bed (quite useful to store the luggage under), a small wardrobe and a fridge,ensuite bathroom, and of course the lovely space outside with soft seating and a little table.
They were also able to provide 1 cot (thinking that one baby would have slept with us), but it was really big and there’s no chance of one of the boys sleeping with us! Considering this we asked them to remove it, and we used instead our amazing little Phil & Ted cots which we brought with us just in case (not knowing how the Egyptian cot situation would have been).
In our cabin there were 2 side windows (plus the big one towards the outside space) that provided a lovely view close to the water level.
The dahabiya has 2 levels. On the top deck there is a lovely communal space with a big table in the middle and some relaxing areas with chairs, cushions, sunbeds and also a hammock.
The top deck is covered and most of the sides are high enough to not create any concern when the kids got close to them.
The lower deck is where the cabins are located. On the same level there is a dining room that was really practical for us to feed Liam and Santiago. We tried the first day to have lunch all together, but there were too many distraction on the top deck, while in this room they managed to stay calmer and eat.
In the video the lovely top deck
Food was plenty and good, nothing fancy but tasty. Breakfast included coffee and tea, 2 different juices, cheeses, yogurt, bread, eggs, and pancakes. Lunch and dinner were all based on Egyptian cuisine. Afternoon tea was also provided to the great joy of Liam and Santiago who were allowed a few biscuits.
The dahabiya are small enough to be able to moor where the big boats can’t arrive, so the second night we moored at a little island in the middle of the Nile and the crew moved the big table and set a candle lit dinner on the shore of the little island.
Fortunately we were also back on a really good schedule with Liam and Santiago, waking up around 7 in the morning, having a nap after lunch, and going to bed at 7pm.
This way we always managed to have dinner with the other guests, including on the island because there was only us and we were just in front of the boat, so it was easy to go and listen at the door in case someone was waking up.
The days passed at a really nice pace. The first day we were picked up from the Nubian village near Aswan where we had spent 2 nights and in around 1 hour we reached the boat. We actually sailed in the morning, and after lunch we stopped at the Kom Ombo temple before continuing along the Nile. In the evening we stopped just in front the site we would visit the day after.
The second day we visited the sandstone quarries at Gebel el-Silsila in the morning, and after lunch we stopped for a splash in the Nile beside a little beach. The second night was when we had dinner on the banks of the island.
The third day in the morning we went to the Edfu temple (extra 20 EGP are required for the horse carriage ride to the temple, it is too far to walk). In the afternoon we went to El Kab to visit some of the tombs from the old kingdom, then we sailed again for a bit until at dinner time we arrived at Esna, where we would disembarque the next day.
The last evening in Esna is the only thing I didn’t like because you moor in a busy little town with many other boats and you loose the feeling of the fairytale world you have been living in for the last 3 days. I’m sure there could be a much quieter spot…
The fourth morning we had a really early breakfast and left the boat at 7am. The normal plan is that you leave around 10am, but we wanted to see Luxor before heading to the Red Sea, so an early start for us!
HOT TIP: the price you pay only excludes alcoholic drinks and tips. The third night the guide gave us 2 envelopes (1 for the crew and 1 for himself) to leave a tip. Tipping is not obligatory but in Egypt it is part of their culture. We found good guidelines in this website which seemed to work out fine.
HOT TIP: some trips include a visit to Aswan and Luxor in the itinerary, ours didn’t. This means you spend more time on the Nile which is what I preferred. You can always organize to visit these places before or after the cruise, just make sure you check what you are going to visit in your itinerary first.
A Nile cruise is an unforgettable dream experience and shouldn’t be missed during a trip to Egypt even if you are travelling with kids. Of course you need to always be alert but it really is worth the extra effort.
I still used my Ergobaby Adapt to carry one of the boys on my back and it worked perfectly when we needed to reach the sites. During the visits they were running around but we were still able to follow our guide enough.
Our Egyptologist was really knowledgeable, one of the few that can still read hieroglyphics.
Please let me know in the comments if you have taken a Nile cruise and if I forgot something!