Industry trends indicate that people are looking for holidays that offer unique experiences and personal service, but how can you find this on the Nile which is a Mecca for large cruise ships carrying hundreds of tourists? There are surprisingly few small riverboats cruising the Nile – but the M/S Doma is one of them and is chartered exclusively for Explore customers.
We interview our Egyptian tour leader Arafa Omran and the Operations Manager of the boat Saleh Rabei to get to the bottom of what makes a holiday on the Doma so special…
So, Saleh, Arafa, there are many Nile cruise ships on the Nile - why is the Doma special?
Arafa-The best thing about the Doma is it can only take 24 people. This means only the Explore group on board which means privacy - not like the other big noisy cruise boats which take up to 300 people on board. While on Doma, it's our boat, we control the itinerary which means we can get to some sites before the big cruise ships turn up and be the only group exploring places like Edfu temple.
Saleh -The boat is also locally owned and staff are all from Luxor. This helps to employ local people and gives the customer the real Egyptian life experience.
At Explore our aim is to help people to “get off the beaten track” – how do you manage to do this in such a popular destination as Egypt?
Arafa- With Explore you do the same like what other travel agent do but in a real way not in a touristic way! For example, when we go to the Valley of the Kings, we take a donkey there rather than a coach.
One of my many favourite experiences with Explore is a trip to the Nubian Village. We use a motor boat to get to the first cataract in the river Nile among the small islands. (Most of them are declared as a national park and birds use them as a station during the migration seasons. You can see more than 400 different kinds of birds in different seasons!)
Then we leave the tourist areas far behind and get off the motor boat to walk around a Nubian Village where we can see the real local life (We are the only tourists there). Sometimes we are lucky enough to visit to a Wise Man called Haj Mohamed before visiting a real Nubian house. After welcome drinks we take a tour with a local guide who tells us all about the Nubian people.
After this we have a traditional meal and also have the chance to get a henna tattoo from a young female member of the family.
Saleh – And on board the Doma, our chef is local so he cooks all local food which completes the Egyptian experience. One of our meals is Koshary (very popular local dish consisting of macaroni, lentils, rice noodles, onions, hot sauce and garlic). We also do Falafel which is again traditional Egyptian food.
What is life like on board the Doma?
Arafa- This is a typical day sailing from Kom Ombo to Esna Lock
Breakfast while sailing in the morning and by 11:00 am we arrive at Edfu. While sailing people can do many things - some of them just enjoy sitting in the sun to try to get a tan before going back home, some read books and others just enjoy the sailing, and watching the daily life of Egyptians on the banks of the Nile. You can watch the birds, the daily life of the farmer and their daily activity and people fishing in the Nile with the same way the ancient Egyptians used to do 5000 years ago.
We get off the boat to visit Edfu Temple before resuming our journey back on the boat and having our lunch while sailing to Esna Lock. Some people like to cool themselves by jumping in the Doma pool, or just sitting in the bar with a drink listening to music or just playing cards, backgammon or dominoes.
After dinner we might have our Galabia Party with everybody dressed with this long traditional Egyptian garment and some funny make up. All the guests and crew get together for a fun party with games and dancing in the bar.
Saleh – Life on board is very relaxing, and customers can take advantage of our book corner, TV, bar, sun deck and the small pool on board in between the sightseeing. Guests really gel well with each other and the crew and feel at home straight away.
Why is cruising the Nile such a good way to get close to the culture of Egypt?
Arafa – Did you know that 96% of Egypt is desert, while only 3.4% is cultivated land – and this, as well as most Egyptian people is found along the banks of the Nile?
While sailing you will see the real Egypt. Watching the river banks with its cultivated land and the farmer working in it. See the contrast between the Desert and the Nile. Watch people fishing, swimming in the Nile, bathing animals like camels or horses, or just using the Nile to transfer products or people locally.
Thank you to Arafa and Saleh, who both look forward to welcoming you onto the Doma this year. To find out more about the boat, its facilities and the different tours you can do on it, take a look at our M/S Doma page.