An Egyptian romance isn’t complete without a trip down Lover’s Lane, otherwise known as Corniche El-Nile, the strip of river-bank road that attracts hundreds of clandestine lovers every day. But after a stroll along Kasr El Nile bridge, when conversation is running dry, it’s suitors protocol to treat their beau to a trip on a shared boat up and down the Nile.
I’d taken a felluca before – if you’re considering it yourself I feel it’s my duty to issue a few words of caution. Unless you’re a fan of high risk sports, avoid high winds and under all circumstances try to distribute those of larger proportions equally throughout the boat. Fellucas are, of course, the choice of the more sophisticated passenger – you can ride for an hour from LE 50 to LE 80, depending on how much you’re prepared for a jot of fleecing.
But let’s not blow the budget completely; these public boats are a much cheaper way to enjoy one’s time on the Nile. Last Friday, after spending a relaxing day lazing on the grass at Al-Azhar Park, two friends and I made our way Downtown to indulge in a spot of aimless wandering.
Finding ourselves on the Corniche surrounded by trysting couples, and seeing it was nearly sunset, we thought we’d create our own romance by, rather precariously, hopping aboard one of these public “romance boats.
Perhaps “romantic is misplaced here – despite being a favorite for young Egyptian couples, they’re about as close to romantic as the Nasserist Party is from winning the next presidential election. They can be, however, highly entertaining, depending on what fellow passengers you’ve been blessed with.
Enter two university students, relaxing on an afternoon off, and taking a LE 2 cruise down the Nile. The two students also took the opportunity to shake a bit of booty, as said Beyonce, queen of all that is bootilicious.
The question is, does provocative belly-dancing in a mixed, public space count as haram if one keeps one’s hair under wraps?
Perhaps it was all the excitement, or perhaps they were simply overcome by the overpowering music that blares from the speakers at some ungodly voltage, a “collection of Saad Al-Saghair and Hakim.
At night, the music is accompanied by flashing fairy lights strapped round the boats like the prodigal Christmas tree. Trying to dispel images of being doubly drowned, electrocuted, and burnt alive – my neighbor’s attempts to flick his cigarette into the water nearly ended in catastrophe – do distract from the trip itself, but it’s a sure way of getting some great views of the city.
The boat cruises under bridges Kasr El Nil, 6th of October and 15th of May, before making a sharp u-turn and heading back to port. This gives you a short-lived panorama of the grassy Nile scarps and barefoot fishermen on rickety boats, with a bustling cityscape backdrop.
It’s not exactly a five-star cruise, nor a two star for that matter, but to catch a breath of fresh Nile breeze, it’s not bad. I should utter a caveat that there are no lifejackets on board, but to alleviate those bouts of anxiety, the boats brandish prayers that ward off the evil eye such as “Praise Be to God, the Faithful, and the Protected.
On the other hand, if all should fail, at least the dulcet tones of Haifa Wahbi complete with a courtier’s hand will be accompanying you to a water death.