This is a different glimpse at Nile River cruising and the current state of tourism along the famed river.
Nile River trips have been a fairly common touristic voyage, which visit many of Egypt’s ancient temples along the way. In fact, there are more than 350 river cruise boats ready to ply the route between Luxor and Aswan. Yet in today’s post-revolution Egypt, only about fifteen of these ships remain in operation. That’s only about 4% of these ships that are being used.
This has left hundreds of once-luxurious river cruise boats frozen in time. Since 2011, tourism in Egypt has dwindled from massive tourist hoards to now what is only a slow trickle. The strong summer heat further subdues visitors. The slow trickle of tourists has nearly come to a halt, a stark contrast against the backdrop of the mighty Nile.
Instead of tourist masses lining the River Nile, now are these ghost ships. Dozens upon dozens of former river cruises now lay stacked up against one another protruding from the river banks around Luxor.
The furniture inside is left to collect dust. The interior of the ships have virtually turned into ovens, baking in the 115 F (46 C) degree heat. Air conditions hasn’t been run for years now and these extreme conditions are beginning to show. Blankets now cover much of the furniture in perhaps a weak attempt to protect what is left.
A few mattresses are haphazardly placed across the lobby for security guards to sleep and thwart any would-be pillagers. In areas where formal balls were once held, now sits a plain-clothed guard watching wrestling from a tiny TV rigged up by wiring strewn across the width of the ship. He casually puffs on a cigarette with one hand, filling the gloomy lobby with smoke, as he grips an assault rifle in his other hand.
A thin layer of water somehow remains unevaporated in the pool, perhaps periodically being filled to prevent further corrosion. The upper deck’s astroturf is rolled up and lounge chairs have given way to the elements and lay fallen apart. The worn lifesavers lining the rails provide for great irony, as its the ships themselves that now need saving.
We asked why some of the hundreds of boats have not been sold or relocated elsewhere. It was explained that it has always been believed that the strong tourism which once was, will again resume. There are murmurs and hopes that additional boats will resume operation this upcoming winter.
But just as the country is returning to order and people are beginning to say its “safe to travel in Egypt again,” new threats of Isis emerge in the region, which further takes its toll on a nation that desperately needs tourism to come back.
Meanwhile touring Egypt this summer is providing a rare opportunity to have these once overcrowded sites completely to yourself. It’s actually a pretty special time to travel through this historic land.
It’s sad to see these luxury liners falling into disrepair. They are perhaps becoming Egypt’s modern day ruins. We’ll hope alongside the Egyptians that these ships will return to their glory days and once again ply this classic Nile route. Until then, its interesting to marvel at these now dilapidated vessels and imagine what once was.