For thousands of years the Nile River was the main transport corridor and information highway of Egypt.
So effective was the Nile, that the mighty Egyptians and all of their amazing feats of engineering didn’t have the wheel until about a thousand years after they built the pyramids.
River travel was so ingrained into the psyche of the ancient Egyptians that it was assumed the dead sailed into the afterlife.
Glancing from side to side, I find myself in culture shock. Where did all these tourists come from? For several weeks in Ethiopia and Sudan, I saw none, and now, that’s all I see. It’s a hard adjustment.
Deciding something is needed to help in the transition, I opt for a sail ride.
A sail down the Nile is like sailing into living history.
Jumping on a fluka sailboat in Aswan, I set off for three peaceful days of ancient transportation, no motor, only wind and current to carry us north.
“I’ve been sailing the Nile for 20 years,” says Mohamed.
There is no more peaceful place on earth, as he guides our boat back and forth across the Nile.
Looking up, I watch the sail as the wind fills it from top to bottom. I sense it is also filling my own internal sails with each sweep across the river.
The great thing about sailing on a fluka is there is nothing to do but enjoy the ride as the boat passes the green-lined bank that holds back the tan and red desert.
On my boat are five other passengers, one from the U.S., two from Spain and two from France all sharing the red, yellow and green cushion that serves as our seat and bed.
Sleeping on the fluka, I wake in the middle of the night to see endless stars, with the occasional sound of water lapping up against the boat. Quietly I whisper, “This is a good life.”
Three days of paradise come to an abrupt stop as I step off the train in Cairo into the bustling capital of Egypt.
I squeeze in a short visit to the pyramids. But I have a larger goal.
Determined to follow the Nile to the end, I make my way to Rosetta.
Walking along the edge of the Nile in Rosetta I hear: “You donkey,” from a group of young boys who throw rocks at me. A local man watching comes running to my rescue with a large rock and makes the hand motions that I should grab and beat them.
“Jeesh,” I think to myself. I made it all the way across Africa to get conked on the head by bratty kids in Egypt.
Unfazed by the distraction I keep heading north. With no real plan, I miscalculate how far it is to the sea. After walking for an hour, I start hitchhiking; first a donkey cart picks me up, then a truck. Afterward a three-wheel tuk tuk takes me the rest of the way. Each ride offers a chance to make new friends.
The Nile has been a consistent thread on this journey. Spanning 4,000 miles, the Nile cuts across the heart of Africa. In Ethiopia, I touched the waters of the Blue Nile as it began its long journey from Lake Tana. In Uganda I floated Lake Victoria and rafted at the start of the White Nile. Like a wedding ceremony in Khartoum, I marveled at the spot where the two became one. I found a moment of peace on a fluka in Egypt. And now I find myself standing on the edge of where this majestic river meets its destination as it unites with the Mediterranean Sea in Rosetta.
Quietness fills me as I sit on the edge where the sea meets river. I realize this is the end of Africa for the Nile, just as this the end for this segment of my journey.
Just as I stand to head for home, a small wave comes up and surrounds my feet.