Crossing the Nile by Ferry
The article was written by Polish archaeologist Kamil Zachert, first appearing in Polish on the Polski Egipcjanin travel & lifestyle blog.
Getting to the other side of the Nile in Luxor should not be difficult for anyone. There are several ways of getting from, let’s say, Luxor Temple to Western Thebes. The most romantic option, though perhaps a bit risky, is a hot air balloon flight (I would not recommend this option for practical reasons, as the paperwork will take weeks). Personally, I have not traveled to the West bank by balloon.
A more sporty option, but I’d say even more risky, is to swim across. The risk isn’t only from the many felucca sail boats and motorboats that ply the Nile, and even occasionally by one of those large cruise ships.
The concern is more about catching some kind of bacteria from the incredibly dirty water, which is full of dead fish and agricultural waste – especially from all of the cattle farming. I’m not even going to mention the water’s current and whirlpools, although the surface of the Nile often seems very calm, with the waters flowing lazily by.
The super easy and touristy option is an air-conditioned bus that often also involves a structured tour itinerary. This option saves a dozen or so kilometers through the use of a bridge to the South of Luxor. The bus then turns right after crossing the river and then travels as far as the Colossi of Memnon. A more adequate analysis and judgment of a structured tour itinerary is available in another one of my posts (in short, the standard itinerary is a total scam and should be avoided).
A more atmospheric option includes the hiring of a felucca sailboat or motorboat. I should immediately point out that traveling by sail is more expensive than traveling by motor, and in addition, the preparations for travel are longer. If you are unlucky, and find yourself trying to cross the Nile on a windless day, you might find yourself stuck in the middle of the Nile for a good hour, laughing at the desperate attempts of your sailboat captain while he tries to maneuver.
Ultimately, the felucca captain might call forth for a nearby motorboat to be towed ashore. I should warn you that a complete lack of wind and the Egyptian darkness will not stop ‘Sindbad’ from offering you a felucca excursion on the Nile. This really means that you have to use your common sense and not let yourself be taken for a ride.
An exclusive motorboat (with only yourself or your group aboard) enjoys popularity among foreigners due to its speed and high comfort. Often such a “motorboat” plays Egyptian popular music (sha’aba). Around the sides of the boat you will likely see blinking green, white and blue lights which make the whole vessel look like a rural disco. The price of one way trip ranges from about 5 Egyptian pounds (less than $1 USD) upwards to… well, basically there is no ceiling.
Every motorboat ferry captain will first throw the higher amount in your face, and it is up to you to laugh at it and haggle the rate down. The conventional rate is 5 EGPs. I’ve noticed, however, that most (especially Poles) would prefer to kill their relative before paying anything more than 5 EGPs.
There is also the state-owned ferry. The advantage of this option is of course the very low price – only 1 Egyptian pound for foreign travelers. On the other hand, the disadvantage of the ferry is its infrequency throughout the day (about ever half hour) and a complete cessation during the night. In the evening hours, you are then forced to hire a motorboat at a monopolistic price.
I have to admit, however, that most often I get to the other side by ferry. I’m simply not in a hurry, mainly because I feel at home in West Thebes, and not on the clock like most travelers. I sit on the upper deck, open up a book and calmly wait for the ferry to fill up. Once it departs, the whole journey takes about 10 minutes. So much ado about nothing, right?
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