After fully exploring the pyramids and taking in the Sphinx, we went local and boarded the overnight train for Aswan. Taking the local train in Egypt was truly an authentic experience. I shared my “room” with Jackie from New York. The room was just big enough to hold chairs that folded into a bunk-bed and that was pretty much it. The size wasn’t a huge issue; we were basically just going straight to sleep anyway. The issue was the noise and the bumpiness of the ride: screeching metal, rickety beyond belief, cupboard doors opening and slamming shut, etc. The ladder even fell over and crashed down on poor Jackie’s knee. The food we were given to eat looked so unappetizing that Jackie and I couldn’t eat it. We snacked on the animal crackers she brought in bulk for the trip instead.
I tried to avoid the washroom at all costs, no matter how bad I had to pee. Originally I opened the sliding door and there was pee all over the ground – I’m assuming from guys being too wobbly to aim. It smelled of asparagus and my feet were sticking to the floor, so I got out of there quick. It was a pretty sleepless night, to say the least.
In the morning, we pulled into Egypt’s ancient frontier town of the south, Aswan. We took in its laid-back African atmosphere, and explored the colourful markets along the Nile. I rummaged through the Aswan souk that was full of fragrant spices, amulets, fabrics and souvenirs. I tried some hibiscus tea and snacked on tahini (sesame dip) and daoud basha (meatballs in tomato sauce).
Later, we hopped on board a white-sailed felucca and drifted along the Nile River, which was truly a local experience. We relaxed while floating down the palm-lined Nile and sailed past timeless monuments, green fields and Arabian Desert. We saw some of the locals swimming, fishing, and going about their day as we sailed past. It was a truly memorable way to see this unique part of the world and the perfect way to relax. Sherif docked the felucca at one point for us to get out and explore. We were really in the desert where some locals actually lived, with their own pet camels roaming out front their hut.
In the evening, my Egypt travel buddies and I unwound with a drink at the boat’s bar. It was a belly dancing theme, so we all found some belly dancing attire out in the markets that Sherif called “jinglies.” I found a nice set of pink jinglies that I tied into a tube top and a skirt. On the dance floor there was a mixture between authentic Aladdin-like music and also contemporary dance music. It was a ton of fun, and again because there was hardly anyone else there besides us. I think there was just one older couple who shimmied their way around us a few times and that was it.
I’m glad I was able to enjoy most of the dance because at the end of the night I came down with the most dreadful food poisoning from the boat’s buffet. I slipped into the wretched routine that every traveler can relate to: bed, bathroom, shower, bed, and so forth. No one saw me in action for the next day. I should have stuck to Jackie’s animal crackers. What was I thinking trying some of that chickpea lentil soup! Ohh, it was delicious, that’s why.