Take a Good Hard Look
Updated: Mar 16
What the heck is a felucca?
I didn't know...
The tour guides kept telling me that if I wanted, I could easily change over from my booked 'land excursion' to the much-sought-after, 'felucca adventure.'
But... what did that mean?
Was I supposed to know this word?
Cuz... I didn't.
Everyone else seemed to have a pretty good grasp on this particular amalgamated morsel of the English/Arabic vocabulary.
There was nothing for me to do except act like I knew what they were on about and pretend I was smart.
"Oh ya... I'll think about it," was my response... and then I frantically (and ever-so casually) asked around and looked up the unfamiliar word on Google images.
Felucca - (Arabic: فلوكة,) is a traditional wooden sailing boat used in the eastern Mediterranean (particularly along the Nile and in protected waters of the Red Sea.). Its rig consists of one or two lateen sails. They are usually able to board ten passengers and the crew consists of two or three people.
What they fail to mention in this explicate description, is that it is basically a BED on a BOAT.
No word of a lie...
So unbeknownst to me, there were three varieties of my Essential Egypt tour.
1. Nile Cruise. 2. Land. 3. Felucca.
The Nile option was a little more expensive, as it was a 5-star cruising vessel with full-on catering, a spa, a stocked bar and a pool. Land, which apparently I had slotted myself in for, was nothing but three days in our Aswan hotel, entertaining ourselves in the city. Felucca was... as I mentioned above... a bed... on a boat... boinging along, shore to shore and celebrating the scenery!
Ok! It was a no-brainer!
Felucca, it shall be!
I officially switched my itinerary and prepared to spend the next three days sharing a communal bed with 11 strangers, while traversing the mysterious waters of the world's most notorious river. As intriguing as it might appear, it did sound like a giant Nile orgie.
Everyone kept saying, "What happens on the felucca, stays on the felucca," which seemed a little offputting... and quite creepy to me... but I threw caution to the wind and boarded anyway...
As we boarded, we were given strict instructions to take what we needed out of our luggage, as it was going to be stored underneath for the duration of the excursion. We likely wouldn't see it again until disembarkment. How do you instantaneously plan for three days of lying in bed... in the sun... in the heat... on the water... ?
Did I mention there were no bathroom facilities?
Actually, that's a bit of a lie. There were two feluccas in our group... and one support boat. The support boat was a kind of double decker motor boat, which had running water, showers and toilets. It also functioned as a kitchen, a storage, a charging station and came equipped with a large upper deck that seemed more like a party room than a support boat. It was full of comfy seats and pillows. If someone desperately needed the loo, the support boat would pull up beside us and we were able to jump onboard.
There were a couple opportunities to jump in the Nile and refresh (aka clean ourselves up), but it was Baltic. As absurd as it sounds to say that I didn't swim in the Nile because the water was glacial, these are the facts. I fully understand it would have been entirely more convincing to claim the hazards of hippos and the threat of crocodile encounters... but, unfortunately, that's no longer a thing here.
Of course, all the crocodiles are in the Nubian houses, as bloody pets!
Here are some things that made our felucca experience even more incredible than it rightfully should have been. Or odd. You pick.
* We were only given spoons. There wasn't a knife or a fork in sight. Even when it came to cutting fish or spreading jam. Only big spoons.
* Not once did I see a napkin. If our hands were dirty or sticky or wet??? You guess it... our clothes... or the big bed sheet!
* I think it was a pre-requisite for the crew to smoke. It was NON STOP. Before one even went out, another one was lit! Don't get me wrong... they were fabulous. All of them. But man, could they ever put a pack away! If you ever really wanted to smoke, Egypt is the place for you. You're NEVER not within 2 metres of an ashtray... you can smoke anywhere you want (including shopping malls)... and you will be offered a cigarette at every turn. It's surreal, actually.
* If you spilled crumbs, you slept in crumbs.
Simone sent us a photo of a crocodile-shaped towel that the housekeeping crew left on her Nile Cruiser, 5-star bed. We, in turn, sent her a photo of the crumbs on our communal sheet. The crew seemed quite diligent about keeping things clean, like swabbing the deck and other schooner-style things like that... but I was curious as to how many times these sheets & blankets hit an industrial washing machine.
The mattresses were thin, making a comfortable sleep near to impossible... BUT... the food was brilliant and the company was great, so I figure the felucca was a win win. Hardly any cilantro either, which was bizarre...but a definite bonus in the felucca department.
I got "I'm on a Boat" by Lonely Island stuck in my head for almost the entire duration of our sail.
🎶… Everybody look at me
'Cause I'm sailing on a boat... sailing on a boat...
I'm on a boat... I'm on a boat... I'm on a boat
Take a good hard look at the motherf&#*king boat…🎶
There was even a point where I posted a photo on social media, with the caption, "Take a good hard look..." which was completely misinterpreted! If anyone wants a laugh though - check it out here! It's quite funny.
As much as I make fun of the experience, it was very enchanting, sailing down the Nile... on a bed.
Between the two feluccas, there was one alleged 'party' boat... but I think it could have been aptly referred to as the millennial boat. Neither of the boats partied much at all. I had ordered a couple bottles of wine to accompany us all on the junket, but those were demolished quickly and we were all dead asleep and snoring to the rocking of the river waves by no later than 10pm each evening..
There were 9 passengers on our felucca... me, Thad & Dave (USA), Marcus & Jen (USA), Eduardo & Maristella (Brazil/UK) and Sammy & Josh (UK). We were the older crowd... but we entertained ourselves with card games, drinking beer and smacking mosquitos. Despite the mosquito nets that were put up during the evening, I think Marcus ended up with almost 20 on his face!
On the first morning, we all went on a brief walk into the nearby village. I wasn't exactly sure if we had a specific destination... or if we were just stretching our legs. The feleccas didn't allow much in the way of room to stretch or exercise. If you weren't sitting on the bed, you were lying on the bed.
Not much for a real fitness fanatic like me! 😆
The setup of the felucca was particularly bad for my dumb knee, as I wasn't able to stretch it out or straighten it fully. Sitting hero-pose, cross-legged or even legs straight out were all impossible positions for me.
So what to do when in doubt?
Start popping the pills!
So in addition to stuffing pillows under my knee, that's exactly what I had to do to avoid the onset of inflammation and endure three days aboard the bed boat.
I hate my knee... in case you're wondering.
The village was more like a war zone than a community. So many of the houses sat unfinished, which we later found out was a tax break. At first, everything seemed so desolate... dusty and depressing... but then the colours began to pop out. It wasn't as vibrant as the Nubian village, but it definitely had its own share of charm.
I could not get enough of the enchantment of the doors and windows. Maristella and I got so lost in the magic of the colour, we ended up losing the rest of the crowd.
On the final night, they had the obligatory beach fire & dance, which featured one very loud 60-minute song. Really, there were a multitude of songs that ended up morphing into each other with each whoop and wail and pound of the drum, but still...
While some were mesmerized by the rhythm and bounded & bounced, contributing their own version of white-folk awkward to the conga, I finally stepped aside.
Every party has a pooper...
Blame it on my knee.
I did, however, promise to join back in on the next song...