By the time the Ashwan-Luxor train spit me out, the sky was a breath away from dusk. By the time I made it from the station to the promenade along the Nile, the lights were shining off the water and the warmth of the day was seeping away. The way was thick with offers of taxis, tours and trinkets. I had been sitting for 3+ hours and wanted nothing more than to drag my too-heavy suitcase along the sidewalk and soak up the Egyptian night.
Since I was staying on the West Bank, I had asked my host to send a boat for me and according to google the dock wasn’t far. Along the way a pleasant young man started chatting to me. Since we were going to the same dock, he offered to show me the way. He was a tour guide with a group coming from Aswan and he preferred to come by train rather than the boat; he would meet up with them when they arrived. I think he wanted to buffer me from the over enthusiastic restaurant “greeters”.
My boat arrived shortly after I found the dock and I was swept aboard by a dashingly dark man swathed in scarves and flowing robe. The boat puttered across in no time and my host, Sonbol, was waiting to greet me warmly and usher me onto the magical vintage Sandal boat that has been in his family for many many years.
After we got my stuff stowed downstairs in my room, he urged me to come up to the lounge and join him and his guests for dinner. He didn’t need to ask twice – I was ravenous!
The main deck was cocooned by heavy curtains effectively blocking the chilly January wind. The floor where we gathered for dinner were layered with thick rugs and strewn with plump cushions and lit by candle-light. There were around 6 Egyptian men, all related to Sonbol and the German girlfriend of one of them. The food was arrayed on the floor, picnic style and everyone dug in with their hands, using freshly made flat bread to scoop up all the different sauces and dips. I was introduced to hibiscus tea of which I consumed vast quantities during my visit.
After I stuffed my face I snuggled under thick wool blankets and sipped my tea, lulled by the murmuring voices of the men speaking Arabic. The flickering candle light teased me with glimpses of my new home – the ornate furniture, the art, the lovely ship…. Finally I gave up trying to stay awake and bid adieu and carefully made my way down the steep stairs.
Soon I was ensconced in bed buried under a mountain of blankets, gently rocked to sleep on the Nile. Was this a dream or what? Who needs dreams when one’s reality is so amazing?! I didn’t want this to end and yet couldn’t wait till morning so I could see what new adventures the day had in store for me!
My eyes flew open and after a moment of “Where the hell am I?!” I flung myself from bed and booted it upstairs. It was even better than the night before! The curtains were pulled back and nothing was between me and Egypt! The sun was coming up in front of me, behind Luxor and light flooded into the space. I drank in the exotic room and got so drunk on it I didn’t leave the boat that day at all!