Cruising the Nile on a Traditional Felucca | A Must Do in Egypt

It’s hard to say what my favorite activity or site in Egypt ultimately was, because there were too many good times to count in the span of two weeks.

Hot air ballooning over the Valley of the Kings, camel-riding around the Great Pyramids of Giza, scuba diving in Dahab, hiking Mt. Sinai in the middle of the night… not to mention meeting some of the my favorite new friends of the year.

How could I even begin to choose a favorite moment?

One of two feluccas our group used to cruise from Aswan to Luxor

One of highlights that sticks out in my head has to be our two night cruise down the Nile on a felucca tour.

A felucca is a traditional sailboat used to transport people and goods on the river. Feluccas rely solely on wind-power and have no engines, so the itinerary is never quite set in advance — something I was mildly concerned about at the outset.

Would I be bored out of my mind?

A crew member adjusts the sails on a particularly windless morning

The felucca tour was not my only option, as On The Go offers an alternative: a 5-star luxury cruise down the river for additional cost. Since I was watching my budget (watching it shrink), I decided to forgo restrooms, showers and mod cons for two days and wing it on the felucca with about 15 people I’d known for 48 hours. I figured whether it was a good memory like family cruises of the past, or a miserable, slow moving disaster, I was willing to take the risk.

Either way, I’d end up with a good story.

Lunch with my shipmates Steph, Elle, Haytham, KB & Shea before launching on the first day

After settling into the rhythm of zigzagging from shore to shore to shore to shore on a floating mattress on some of the prettiest days I’ve ever spent on this planet,

it honestly didn’t matter to me if we ever set foot on land again.

Lunchtime on the felucca tour

I expected to have a satisfactory time onboard. Never did it occur to me that I’d finally find the absolute relaxation I’d been looking for on the Nile, of all places. The felucca’s deck was covered in colorful cushions and pillows and sheltered from the desert sun by a canvas, so the main priority of each day was getting comfortable and lazing about in the sun.

It was unexpected bliss.

Spearfishing fail

We chatted, we read, we played cards, we drank Sprite (inexplicably called lemonade by the crazy Australians), we came up with plans to overtake the other felucca dressed as pirates (sadly this never happened), we ate hummus, we accompanied each other for potty breaks in the desert while attempting to avoid gargantuan beetles, we swam in the Nile.

We slept under the stars.

Our home sweet home for two nights: bed, restaurant, bar & pool deck

Sunset on the way to Luxor

Each night, we tied up at the shoreline for a group dinner, lots of laughter and eventually, bedtime on our floating mattress. On the first night, we docked and walked about 5 minutes to a nearby Nubian village where I made friends with a few adorable toddlers and everyone shared puffs of apple shisha.

That night we made our beds, foot-to-foot, four on each side and attempted to sleep through a bright full moon, some wild wind that came up out of nowhere and the sounds of creatures lurking in the greenery along the bank.

I didn’t sleep a wink the entire night, but it was dreamy and idyllic and wild all at once, so I didn’t even mind.

Full moon rising

The next night, we docked a few hours south of Luxor, with the intent of sailing at 2 a.m. in order to arrive early enough to meet our bus and visit Kom Ombo and Edfu temples. After doing nothing all day but cat-napping in the sun, swimming in the Nile and reading my book, we docked for dinner, drinks and a huge moonlit bonfire in the desert, complete with shisha, dancing, laughing and local tunes.

It’s a treasured, sweet memory that definitely stands out as one of those surreal, almost mythical moments when the downsides of travel are forgotten and all you feel is perfect, intoxicating freedom.

Like spinning around in circles until you fall down or laughing until you cry. So sublime!

So was I bored on my felucca tour? Not for a moment!

Despite roughing it just a little, the felucca experience was well worth having to tinkle in the desert for a couple of days. If you’re planning a trip to Egypt, don’t miss a felucca cruise!

Sailing north of Aswan

Along the Nile

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  • January 18, 2012

    YAY! Riding a felucca on the Nile is a magical experience. We lived in Egypt for a couple years and took quite a few felucca rides. Never got tired of it!

  • January 19, 2012

    Wow, just the thought of a boat covered in cushions makes me want to go! The pictures are beautiful 🙂

  • January 19, 2012

    I didn’t even know what a felucca was! But it looks like my kind of ride…

  • January 19, 2012
    Kymri

    Ah the felucca. Also my favorite memory of my first trip to Egypt. I remember the sounds along the river banks – braying donkeys, odd birds, and the calls to prayer in the distance. Your story and pictures brought back many more memories, thank you!

    • January 19, 2012

      You’re welcome! Glad I wasn’t the only one who loved the experience!

      • January 19, 2012

        I think you’d love it! So relaxing and an awesome way to experience Egypt.

  • January 19, 2012

    I am lucky enough to own a felucca in Luxor! I love sailing, would do it every day if I had the time! So glad you enjoyed your trip! I would recommend it to anyone!

  • January 20, 2012

    They have something similar to this in Turkey — the blue cruise. I didn’t do it, but it sounds like what you describe. Both are adventures I look forward to having one day. Glad you got to experience this!

  • January 20, 2012

    Wow! This looks like an amazing experience I didn’t even know existed. Will have to add it to the bucket list.

  • January 21, 2012

    This sounds amazing! I had never heard of a felucca before now. Your posts make me really want to go to Egypt!

  • January 23, 2012

    That’s lovely, not just the cruise on the felucca, but the vibe we can perceive from your pictures and tale.

    • January 23, 2012

      Thank you – definitely a bucket list item worth checking off!

  • February 22, 2012

    I would LOVE to do this! Sailing in any part of the world never fails to make me so happy.

    • February 23, 2012

      It was perfect in every way. If you have a penchant for sailing already, you will LOVE it!

  • March 16, 2012

    Looking forward to doing this!

  • July 07, 2014
    Michael Rzeszutek

    Hello! I was wondering if you have any contact details for the felucca you took from Aswan to Luxor. I am planning to backpack Egypt next week and your experience with the Nile tour has got me on board! Thank you.

    • July 09, 2014

      I don’t unfortunately – I was with my On the Go tour group and they organized everything for us. I would check TripAdvisor for some reccos!

  • September 07, 2016

    Hey….Buddy!!

    Wow! What great photos from the felucca ride! I read a lot of Elizabeth Peter’s novels that take place in Egypt and now you’ve whetted my desire for traveling to Egypt. That sounds like such a lovely boat ride! Love these pics! Glad the Felucca ride made you feel better! People were friendly and helpful and the sights overwhelming in Egypt.

    Thanks For sharing
    Regards:
    Abel

  • September 16, 2016

    Angie,

    Take a look at this felucca…..it’s kept the same traditional look with an upgraded facilities and safety features.
    http://www.nilebreeze.com

    Cheers,

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