How did I get to Aswan?
It was my first professionally led tour of Egypt and the first time I’d been to Aswan. With all of this uncharted territory, I was extra vigilant and excited and a little bit nervous as we made our way south. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the best choices of our trip.
We settled into our hotel, and then ventured outdoors toward the Aswan Market. It was a hot afternoon, but the rich colors of the market, the tantalizing smells coming from the food stalls, and the abundant warmth of the people filled us all with wonder. Whether it’s the proximity to Africa or the vibrant Nubian people, there is something magically unique about Aswan.
We continued to explore Aswan, and glimpses of the Nile River beckoned to us. We made our way to the Corniche, the road along the river, and looked down at the water 100 feet below. I have never seen a photo that captures the river’s beauty or its power. Our firsthand experience of the mighty Nile stunned our group into an awed silence. We continued on to the river’s edge, hoping to find a felucca to take us out on the river. There were so many feluccas that we weren’t sure how pick the right one! Winnie and I stood side by side, delightfully overwhelmed by the river and all of the boats. When we saw a white felucca, painted in bright primary colors and flying a Bob Marley flag, Winnie and I turned toward each other and said in unison, “That’s the one!” We burst into laughter as the felucca drew closer to our group. When we met the boat on the river bank, we were greeted by Sugar and Ahmed.
Ahmed drove, and Sugar began singing and drumming. There was an almost instant connection with them and our group. As we moved away from the center of Aswan and into the spaciousness of the river, Sugar stopped his performance and let us sit in silence, absorbing the significance of the moment. We listened to the sounds of the gentle lapping water, the bird calls, and the distant voices from a hidden village. There was the feeling of being transported back in time as we gazed at the huge sand dunes that came right to the edge of the river and the herds of camels meandering along the banks, bathed in the warm glow of sunset. We were startled back into the present moment by the sound of singing very close by. We looked around and saw no one. In a few moments, some young boys came into view, floating on large pieces of styrofoam and paddling with their hands. Ever entrepreneurial, the village boys began singing “Frère Jacques” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as they surrounded our boat, hoping to make some money entertaining us passing tourists. It was another magical moment and we were happy to give them a few pounds for their delightful ingenuity. We were all falling in love with the Nile, which no longer felt like a legend from a book, but a real, felt place that revealed its mysteries moment by moment. When Ahmed and Sugar invited us on an early morning cruise through the local Nature Preserve the next day, we immediately agreed.
It was already warm as we picked our way down the embankment to the felucca that morning. Sugar and Ahmed offered us hot tea, soft cushions, and bright smiles. It was glorious to be on the river so early in the day; the water was like glass, smooth as silk, and the light was perfect, gentle and clear.
As before, Sugar shared his live music with us; but when he heard Winnie was experiencing some pain, he offered her a neck massage. Many of our group were healers of some type: Paula was a massage/cranio-sacral therapist, Winnie worked with the Shusta masters, and then there was me, holding space for everyone. Soon we were all exchanging various energy and body work. All of us except Ahmed.
Ahmad was the more stoic of the two. He sat at the helm of the felucca steering the boat, playing his reggae music, watchful and silent. Finally we encouraged him to let Sugar steer, and Winnie and Paula gave him a massage and energy work session. When they were done, the change was astonishing: Ahmed sat straight up and started talking a mile a minute! He said, “I don’t like everyone. I sit and I watch before I decide if people are good. And I love you all! I can feel you here,” and he grasped his chest holding his heart. His expression was so pure and so sincere that he touched all of our hearts. We were all feeling love in that moment. It was the perfect ending to our day on the Nile.
Ahmed and I stayed in close touch after meeting. Every time I go to Aswan he is my connection, my forever Felucca Captain. As we embark on our Nature Preserve Cruise we are in very good hands with Ahmed.