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It has been said that a Nile cruise in Egypt is like a trip back in time. At the start, you may set off from Cairo, a city well in the grip of modern times, but as you head upriver, you plunge deeper and deeper into a land sometimes practically untouched by 21st-century civilisation. Mud-brick houses line some segments of the river, while farming techniques seen along the banks have gone unchanged for hundreds of years. The sight of a donkey and cart is not unusual as life ticks over at a refreshingly slow pace.
These sights and this way of life are worth protecting and that is why you are encouraged to think ecologically when researching your boat trips and booking a Nile cruises.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
There are many ways to cruise the Nile and around 200 pleasure vessels operate on the famous river at any one time. Among these are traditional wooden sailboats like feluccas and the slightly larger dahabeahs. Despite their tourist heyday having being in Victorian times and the early 20th century, both boats still ply the waters of the Nile. Offering quieter and more serene trips, these non-motorised vessels are also kinder to the environment.
For the earth-conscious, a multi-day felucca trip is one option. However, feluccas are generally quite small, so you may find yourself with limited facilities. Some cruise companies offer trips on luxury dahabeahs (also spelled dahabiyah) instead. Given both boats’ minimal footprints, though, they will certainly satisfy ecotourists. And the era-long-past experience of a dahabeah may also leave you believing that Hercule Poirot himself is in the cabin next door.
Scaling Up and Still Staying Responsible
For many people, a traditional sailboat is not practical for a cruise lasting several days. Therefore, you are encouraged to book with cruise companies that put something back into the local community, for example by employing staff from the local area. By injecting money into the community, they ensure that living standards along the Nile, from Cairo through Luxor to Aswan, improve for those whose lifeblood is the river.
Some community support may also happen through education programmes promoting the sustainable use of the river and explaining why some practices, such as dumping waste, can harm the water and the health of the people who live along the length of the river.
A Balancing Act
The cruise industry on the Nile faces a fine balancing act. On the one hand, tourists who enjoy the many remarkable temples, the Valley of the Kings and the treasures of Cairo are vital to the local economy; on the other hand, their impact must be balanced against any potential long-term impact on the waterway itself and the people living along it.
Thankfully, local and international operators are beginning to recognise this and many have taken action. If you are looking to cruise the Nile, you should enquire with your providers about their ecological or responsible-tourism policies to make sure that your holiday won’t be making a negative effect, if any, on these historic areas.