http://www.sina.com.cn 2007年04月03日 00:27
Sailing down the Nile 沿尼罗河扬帆而行
By Ann Givens AND Rafer Guzmán 刘颖 译
Aswan, Egypt — By the time we stepped off the crowded sidewalk into the Aswan Moon restaurant, we were sun-sick and exhausted from hours of pushing through the streets of Egypt’s southernmost city. We collapsed at a shaded table overlooking the Nile and asked the waiter to introduce us to a man called “Captain Washington.”
We had not yet decided whether we were up to a two-day sail up the Nile in a 20-foot wooden boat called a felucca1. Climbing aboard a tiny boat with two Nubian sailors for 48 hours was a leap of faith. We would be sleeping on deck, eating whatever food they prepared, washing up with Wetnaps. The concierge at the Cairo Marriott had laughed when we told him we were considering such a trip, and offered to book us a room on one of the Nile’s many cruise ships. Looking at those ships now, their decks dotted with bikini-clad tourists drinking mimosas, we wondered if we had made a mistake.
Of course, we had to be a little brave to choose Egypt as our vacation destination in the first place. Strife in the Middle East, and several terrorist attacks at Egyptian tourist destinations during the past several years, have made it a place that some travel agents don’t recommend.
That city, which sits on the banks of the Nile about 100 miles north of the Sudanese border, marks — both geographically and culturally — the line between the Middle East and Africa.
The Nile is gorgeous in Aswan, and the city is home to a wonderful museum, market and breathtaking antiquities. Moreover, it’s the departure point for day trips to one of Egypt’s most spectacular sites: the towering temples of Abu Simbel on the border with Sudan.
Traveling by felucca isn’t for everyone. The boats are small, about 20 feet long by 9 feet wide, and powered by a single sail. Passengers sit on a wide platform covered with cushions, and that’s also where they sleep. A simple canopy helps block the sun and wind.
This is the way Egyptians traveled for centuries, at least since the Middle Ages when the term felucca was coined by Italian visitors. In those days, there were reportedly tens of thousands of sailboats traversing the Nile. The boats are rarer sights today, as tourists increasingly opt for the faster, fancier cruise ships.
As we watched the city of Aswan drift away on our first day out, the first thing we noticed was the silence. We sat on the cushioned deck, in the shade of a canopy, as the sun-bleached shores of the Nile went by like a beautiful, colorful silent film. First we watched the bustle of downtown Aswan, where giant cruise ships lined the banks, and tourists in sun hats enjoyed early lunches at riverside restaurants.
Then, as we neared the west bank of the Nile, we could see the ancient ruins, Tombs of the Nobles, where the princes and governors who ruled Egypt more than 4,000 years ago are buried. And within an hour, we had entered the no-man’s-land between Aswan and Luxor to the north, where all there is to see are the green hills and farms at the river banks, disturbed only by the occasional wake of a cruise ship. For the most part we sailed along silently, reading, napping, and enjoying the view.
Our schedule was nothing if not flexible, so we took impromptu side trips into small villages along the way. At one, we toured a Nubian house decorated in complex beadwork that recalled the stained-glass windows of European cathedrals; in another, we bounced along in a Jeep to see the local camel market, where merchants proudly showed off their herds. We even made a beer run, pulling to shore to buy a few bottles of Egyptian Stella from the back of a truck. By the time we reached the temple of Kom Ombo, where the captain had arranged to drop us off the morning of our third day, we had gotten used to this carefree life.