Dayabiya Louila - Sailing Up the Nile in Splendor

Taking a Dahahbiya down the Nile is an exercise in luxury and relaxation, it's like stepping back into a history when travel was elegant, leisurely and bespoke. Part of the reason we booked with Djed was because they have three of their own Dahabiyas and they run them on a guaranteed schedule. They ran our four night cruise even though we were the only passengers. Yes, you read that right - we had the entire boat to ourselves - along with an eight person crew. It was indescribably luxurious, a charter boat experience for the cost of a  cabin.

When we first thought about a river trip on the Nile we knew we'd prefer a smaller boat, the question was could we afford it. The larger cruise ship are available at a variety of price points, with a range of amenities, but I wanted a more individual experience and I relished the idea of being able to moor at smaller rural sites.The guide, Abdullah, was among the best  guides we've had and the rest of the staff did a great job. I'm so glad that we went this way, the boat was extraordinary, tasteful, comfortable and elegant. The sails were unfurled daily though they also used a small tug to pull the boat as you can see in the photo above.
By the time we arrived at the dahabiya we were exhausted. We had seen so much in Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor, perhaps too much! I was having trouble processing all the information about different dynasties, temples and pharaohs. It was the perfect time to slow down. There is nothing "necessary" about these boat trips, you can see many of the major sites by road, though very few people do it this way. However,  there is something special about river journeys, getting onto the water in an unhurried way gives you a change to absorb what you are seeing. It reminds you to enjoy your holiday and to relax. It gave us a  chance to absorb what we had seen and to reenergize us for Aswan, which is why I'd recommend the cruise in the middle of your program  Because everything is planned for you, all you have to do is show up - which is why you have such great time!
Spending time on the Nile puts you in touch with the life blood of Egypt. The river has been at center of Egyptian civilization from ancient times. As we headed south we passed people working n their fields or fishing in small boats. It's a very picturesque journey.
Below you can see how close the desert is to the cultivated fields, this  gives you an idea of desert encroachment and how dependent Egypt is on the the  irrigating waters of the Nile.
Our berth was very comfortable, there was  a small bathroom with beautifully tiled floor and a bedroom with (astonishingly) a four poster brass bed! We were upgraded to one of the  two "suites" on the back of the boat which have a lovely private terraces. I loved reading out here on the built in bench and also enjoyed afternoon tea here several times. There was plenty of room for two and a gentle breeze from the river. I really appreciated being upgraded to this room and I'd recommend booking it.
As you can see, our room was both characterful and  luxurious. We spent most of our time between the balcony and the upper deck though there is a small  indoor sitting and dining room on the lower level of the dahabiya. As you can see the "suite" is very bright with a large picture window, an smaller window on the side of the bedroom and a good sized window in the bathroom too!
The meals were excellent and suited us very well. Lunch was vegetarian and very varied as you can see below. Frankly I couldn't believe the variety they created just for the two of us. Dinner included a simple starter and a main course, either fish or meat - often grilled, and dessert. There was also tea and cake served around 4pm so nobody was going hungry!  Another reason I picked Djed was that they own a restaurant in Luxor (Sofra) and I thought that if they owned a restaurant the quality of food on the boat would probably be good too. Luckily for us the logic held!
One night we moored at a small temple, next  to another dahabiya. It was being used  as field site accommodation  for several the archeologists, see below. Amusingly their dog was called "Carter", presumable after Howard Carter who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen.
What is so wonderful about being on a dahabiya is that in addition to visiting the larger temples  (including Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo which I hope to cover in a separate post) you are able to stop at smaller sites along the Nile. We walked to small tombs where  they hadn't seen visitors for days and had the opportunity to walk through some of the riverside villages.
I loved the tomb decorations, including some wonderful ones focused on everyday life, here are two illustrating farming practices and a grape harvest.
As you can see from the tomb decoration above and the men working in the fields below, some aspects of life in rural villages haven't changed a great deal over the last three millennia.
Getting to see something of rural Egyptian life in the company of an excellent guide was fantastic. There was a lot of variety on the trip, in addition to the ancient sites we visited a camel market and on another day we stopped at a small village and had a wonderful conversation, covering world affairs, with the man below. He saids he stays up till 2am watching world news on satellite tv. He was incredibly well informed and very interesting to talk to. With Abdullah translating, we talked about everything from the Muslim Brotherhood to US foreign policy. These experiences are what makes the dahabiya trip so fantastic. It isn't just the comfortable accommodation and the good food, it's about having an individual experience, you need to get out from the yoke of mass tourism to learn  something about the country.
I highly recommend taking a Dahabiya, this was certainly one of the highlights of our trip. Reading the guestbook it looks like everyone has a good time and I kept thinking it would make a great family trip. If you don't believe me check out these reviews. Djed has three dahabiyas, The Orient, The Zekrayaat and The Louila which we sailed on. They all look pretty similar on the website, though I only saw ours. The only discernible difference I could see is that the Louila has six berths and the others have five. I hope this is helpful to anyone considering this trip, TripAdvisor doesn't have a place to review the cruises so I found it difficult to find much independent information on these dahabiyas.
FYI I'm posting the full itinerary for anyone who would like all the details.

Day 1 • Boarding in Esna • El Kab • Quessia
Departure to Esna (50km south), home port of the Dahabiya. A visit to Esna temple and a short walk through the local markets. Sail to El Kab, the ancient town of Nekheb, to visit the remains of its temples and some of the tombs cut into the cliffs. Set sail for a small island where the boat will moor for the night. Dinner will be served on board the Dahabiya or on the tranquil banks of the Nile. First night on board.
Sail for Edfu and visit the temple of Horus, the best-preserved of all the temples in Egypt. Set sail for a small island where the boat will moor for the night, later stops will take you to small villages and the desert. Dinner will be served on board the Dahabiya or on the tranquil banks of the Nile. Second night on board.
Day 3 • Gebel el-Silsila • Kom Ombo • Maniha
Sail to Gebel el-Silsila and explore the ancient sandstone quarries and rock-cut chapels of Horemheb, Seti I, Ramesses II and Merenptah. The journey up the Nile continues towards the double temple of Haroeris and Sobek in Kom Ombo. Set sail for the island of Maniha, where the Dahabiya will moor for the night. Dinner will be served on board the Dahabiya or on the tranquil banks of the Nile. Third night on board.
Day 4 •Daraw • El Koubania, Aswan
Sail to Daraw and take a walking tour to the village to visit the markets of Daraw, once the last stop on the famous 40-day desert road between Sudan and Egypt. Sailing continues to the Nubian village of El Koubania, near Aswan. Fourth and last night on board.
Day 5 • Disembarkation in Aswan
End of the Dahabiya journey in Aswan after breakfast on board. 


Unknown said…
Thank you for your detailed report. It was just what I needed to make a decision. We will sail on the Zakryaat in 3 weeks. I hope we have as good a time as you did.
Hi Donna,
I'm really delighted that the blogposts were helpful. There was so little written about the Dahabiya trips that I thought it would be useful and I'm glad it was. Lots of people have contacted me directly over the years but they don't bother to write comments on the blog so thank for that! I really hope you enjoy the trip, it's the opposite of mass tourism, slow, relaxing and thoughtful. I just couldn't believe the integrity of a company that would run it even if there was nobody else on board it says a lot about Djed. Very curious to hear how you find the entire trip? I'd love to get back to Egypt and to see Abydos and Dendera which we missed. Bon Voyage!