Africa,  Egypt,  Nile Cruise,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Day 6 in Egypt: Quarries of Jebel Silsileh, Walk in the Palm groves

Today, we have two exceptional visits, proposed only to dahabiyas and feluccas: the visit of the Quarries of Jebel Silsileh, and a long walk in the Palmeraies

If you haven’t read them yet, please read our previous travel diaries in Egypt first: #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

Today, we get up quite late (finally 7:30 am) for a breakfast at 8 am
We see in the distance two magnificent feluccas, which do not stop at the same place as us, but which contribute strongly to the beauty of the place and to the idea we have of a cruise on the Nile (there are less of them because of the decrease of tourism, just like the dahabiyas and cruise boats). It’s like a dream. There isn’t much wind today and I secretly hope that there will be enough to sail like yesterday

We arrive at the quarry of Jebel Silsileh. There are two quarries on both banks, but we visit only on one bank because the other isn’t accessible to tourists. At the entrance of the quarry is a small temple, dug in the rock, like Abu Simbel. This quarry is no longer active, because it is classified

Our guide Bassem shows us the wind goddess outside the temple and I take the opportunity to secretly pray for more wind today

This quarry is the source of stones of the same type as those used in Karnak or Luxor for example. As the workers come from the 40 provinces of Egypt, on the wall we see the main gods but also the characteristic gods of each of the 40 regions, so that each worker can address the God of his region

To give you an idea of the size of the stones and the quarry, I volunteered

These holes are used to pass the ropes to go down the stones. Sand is put here on purpose to facilitate the transport of the stones

There are a few memorial chapels along the way, later used as tombs, but basically they mark the visit of a particular pharaoh. Then they put wheat seeds inside. When the water of the Nile rises and the wheat grows inside these chapels, a very joyful festival takes place: the wine festival, a bit like Oktoberfest

We are invited to go up to the top. From here, we can actually see that the Nile is very narrow (a few hundred meters wide vs. the usual 1km). When the water of the Nile rises strongly, the current is very strong, but this passage is so narrow that the water is obliged to “calm down” a little. It makes one think of the myth of the distant Goddess

Distant Goddess: When Ra was the great King of Egypt, his eye left his master’s palace. It took the form of the goddess Hathor, then traveled to Nubia and took on the appearance of a bloodthirsty lioness. Ra asked Shu and Thoth to do what they could to bring the eye back to Egypt. In order to get close to the goddess, they changed into monkeys. Thoth succeeded in convincing Hathor to return to Egypt. In an effort to appease her permanently, he rushed her into the waters of the Nile at the first cataract. She then transformed into the features of a cat of the goddess Bastet.

We see like a “hole” in the middle of the mountain

From this viewpoint, we also see in the distance a form of mushroom (but called eggplant in Arabic), the legend says that it is to hang a chain (there is another mushroom on the other side of the bank, today non-existent), and prevent the advance of the enemies of Egypt

The visit ends here and we see a sandal (type of sailboat) surprisingly loaded on the shore. In fact, it is just the boat of the archaeologists who are still working there

We take back the boat and from the bridge, we observe the memorial chapels, the mushroom and a far away but very nice chapel, not easily accessible

Then, we sail another 20 minutes and we are deposited on the bank, for a 1h30 walk in the palm groves. The captain will come to pick us up a little further. It is the first time that we see our boat sailing without us 😀 and it is magnificent. It is probably the most beautiful dahabiya in Egypt still in service

We leave for a walk of 1h30 with a sailor and our guide in the palm groves. It is super pleasant because we are most of the time in the shade

We are shown the “doume”, which looks like palm groves but isn’t

Its fruit, when dry, is used to make tea

Here is a tree NOT TO TOUCH. The fruit, the leaves, nada! Danger of being blind

After an hour and a half of walking, we are tired but happy to have burned off some of the calories we took in excess (the chef cooks too well). But we are also very happy to find our boat

The bed is made, as every day, the towels are folded in a very innovative way

We are sailing this time (the wind is blowing very strong), it seems that my prayers have been heard. We are sailing in absolute calm

We come face to face with this huge bridge under construction. Apparently, it would be to better facilitate the access to Kom Ombo

There is a very pretty dahabiya following us, and then we see it disappear behind the Japanese pump. The tugboat which follows us makes a sign to our captain. We will learn later that it was trapped on a sand bank, and the tugs in the surroundings (including ours) were mobilized to get it out of there. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be at the scene to describe exactly how it works

Sailing on the Nile is a difficult exercise, especially for sailboats. There is no sign indicating the sandbanks (it changes all the time because of the silt deposited), you just have to look at the naked eye. And a gust of wind comes so quickly. In this case of this dahabiya, it is possible that the wind was too strong today (+ a huge cruise ship creating waves that passed at the same time), drove it on the sandbank

It happens very often, when a large cruise ship passes too close to a dahabiya with all its sails out, that its tugboat runs at full speed between the boat and the dahabiya, to be ready to intervene at any time

Cruise ships, for their part, cannot afford to be stuck on a sandbank because it will mobilize an army of tugs to get them out. Our guide tells us that once it happened to a cruise ship and the boss preferred to send another boat, migrating all his clients to the new one, rather than wait for the rescue

Yet we are far from the “highway” of boats as before the revolution. Before, there were 400 of them, now they hope to reach 100 by Christmas 2018

We moor then here, we could have bathed but JB does not feel very well and prefers to take a nap. There are very beautiful dogs waiting to be fed by the mattresses. One dog in particular, beautiful, white, lets himself be stroked and he seems to like me particularly. He is very excited to see me. We will see him later because he is following the boat. So cute!

With the wind, the sail, the presence of the dogs, I’m very happy and settle down like a “Titanic”

Three people from a dahabiya next door take advantage of this little break to come and visit our boat because ours is too beautiful. We thought that they could surely give us more details about their rescue from the sand strip. That must make a nice travel anecdote. But the incident may be too recent and instead of telling it in a “it’s so funny what happened to us” mode, the experience still seems traumatic for them 😀 They have a lot of things to blame their boat for. How can you be unhappy when you sail a dahabiya?

If they knew that we had Wifi on board (wifi thanks to our 4G connection, which we shared with our neighbors on board), and that we were upgraded to be on this boat, we would have finished them! Our guide tells us that once, a customer complained because there were too many boats on the Nile, preventing him from enjoying the landscapes ahahha 😀

Hieroglyphics course

This isn’t part of the dahabiya program but as our guide Bassem is an Egyptologist, he is also “bilingual” in hieroglyphics. As he likes us, he gave us a mini class. There is no alphabet as such, but symbols that reproduce a sound. And symbols such as “denominative” which helps to clarify the meaning, indicating that it is a place, a person?

So, it is possible, if you have worked at least 2 years on the hieroglyphics, to recognize the signs (there are 5000 signs) and know how to read aloud the hieroglyphics, but to understand the meaning … it’s a lot more work! In any case, thanks to this mini course, the next day, we were able to recognize quite a few signs, even if we don’t understand the meaning. And then, by wanting to copy Bassem’s lesson, we realized that we also had to learn how to draw the signs, for example the owl, the falcon, the duck etc. in both directions in addition, because sometimes the falcon turns left, and sometimes it turns right

So I stopped copying his course, and he gave me his sheet at the end of the course, it’s simpler ahaha. Bassem tells us that speaking Arabic – Egyptian – helps a lot because a lot of Egyptian words come from the hieroglyphics

Once again, we have a beautiful sunset on the Nile, an exceptional homemade dinner with ingredients sometimes bought directly from the villagers (I want a chef like him in my house all year round). Tonight, many cruise boats will pass by, there are more waves than usual but we have a great night, thanks to the long afternoon ride

JB doesn’t feel very well, he caught a cold yesterday I think (after swimming), and hasn’t eaten since last night. He’s starting to have a fever. After vomiting, he feels better (careful, it’s related to the wind and the cold of yesterday, but not related to the food on the boat because only JB is sick). The chef even cooked white rice and sautéed vegetables especially for him. All the crew asked how he was doing… It’s really too sweet. After a good night, a lot of tiger balm, he recovered the next day

More of our adventure here

Part 2: Practical Tips


Once again, everything is already prepaid (see our travel budget here)


Today’s visits are only with a dahabiya or felucca. By car, it is quite laborious to go there

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