Bliss On The Nile
Dahabeya Cruising in Style
By Hind Salah Korraa
We rented horse carriages by day, and trotted around Luxor’s awe-inspiring wealth of history. We took the children to the Sound and Light show at the Karnak Temple and silently grinned as we watched their jaws drop in captivation. We paid a visit to the glorious Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the enthralling Valley of the Kings, which helped the kids put a name to a face (or what was left of it, for that matter).
On what was supposed to be our last day, we took a felucca ride to savor the picturesque upper reaches of the Nile. It was then that we stumbled upon a beauty we saw from across the river. It was a strikingly elegant sailboat, which my husband told us was a Dahabiya, the Royal standard of cruises.
The Dahabiya, meaning ‘the Golden One’ for its high level of luxury, was a type of sailboat built for the royal family in the 1920’s to meander along the Nile on pleasure cruises. The appeal of the Dahabiya was resurrected again in the 21st century, but this time as a means for sophisticated travellers to explore the mighty Pharaonic monuments by river. Because of its smaller size and leisurely pace, travellers could privately sail in regal fashion, away from the flocks of tourists on the more common larger cruise ships.
We approached it in hopes of getting a tour. The closer we got, the more apparent it became that this was not your average cruise ship; this was an extravagant sailboat, it was the Sanctuary Zein Nile Chateau.
The manager of the boat greeted us with a warm Upper-Egyptian smile and informed us that it was a fleet member of Sanctuary Retreats Nile Cruises, a sister company of Abercrombie & Kent, who manage the boat. After getting company approval, he allowed us to have a peek. We were hooked. Without hesitation, we extended our trip to experience this enchantress and a phone call later the boat was booked for our own private charter.
This Dahabiya was only 50 meters long, so it was cozy and intimate. The top sundeck had sunbeds and umbrellas, with a heated Jacuzzi. Below it, the contemporary Arabian-themed lounge was in classy off-white, with panoramic sliding glass doors that converted it from indoor to outdoor space. For entertainment purposes, they provided a vast collection of recreational board games, and included was a small library. You could dine indoors or outdoors, depending on your preference and timings were at our convenience.
It boasted two luxurious suites and four cabins, accommodating a total of 12 guests. This left us with only one dilemma: who from our group would get the Farouk Suite! Quickly dismissing thoughts of hair-pulling and putting our friendship first, we decided we would do it civilly, like adults…. by flipping a coin, of course! Our friends won and we graciously congratulated them, but not before posing for some pictures in the royal suite.
My husband and I stayed in the exquisite Napoleon Suite, and it just made it all the more glamorous after we found out it had been Leonardo Di Caprio’s suite on a trip when he was invited by Naomi Campbell.
It turns out, this boat has sailed for some of the world’s most prominent personalities: international royalty, world leaders, and Hollywood celebrities such as Richard Gere, Brad and Angelina, Vanessa Williams, just to name a few.
The staff was highly-trained, polite and pampered us in every way possible. The entire boat was kept immaculately clean, even with our four mad kids wreaking havoc. The on-board veteran chef prepared scrumptious gourmet buffets in great variety at every meal- so take it from me and pack your ‘fat pants’. Main dishes included succulent beef in hearty gravy, chicken, baked to perfection with thyme, fish in butter lemon sauce, to name a few. My most memorable dinner platter was a luscious tender roast duck bathed in an aromatic orange sauce. However, there isn’t a dish you should skip without sampling; you won’t regret a single calorie.
We spent sailing time tanning on the upper deck sipping refreshing juices, while the kids hijacked the heated Jacuzzi. Gazing at the tranquility of the lotus and papyrus-studded Nile River, we witnessed kingfishers plunging into the Nile, snatching their meal. At sunset, the sun hypnotized us as it laid its shades of pumpkin and crimson over the water.
At night, we partied and danced and as the tunes shifted into slow romantic music, instinctively, without a murmur, the staff drew the curtains, dimmed the lights and filled the room with lit candles, concocting the perfect ambience.
The sight-seeing itinerary is flexible and tailored based on group preferences, so we visited architectural wonders of the Pharaohs, as well as enchanting local villages and islands along the Nile.
As the trip came to an end, we were bid farewell by each crew member, with genuine hospitable smiles and warm handshakes.
Travel agencies who cater for Dahabiya trips:
Abercrombie & Kent Egypt
Dahabiya: Sanctuary Zein Nile Chateau
Sonesta Cruise Collection- Nile River