Journal: Wednesday 13 December 1995
After a short walk along the Corniche and lunch on the cruise boat we were once more steaming down the river, this time going north, back towards Kom Ombo. Another lazy afternoon watching the fascinating life on the river banks. Every now and then I saw groups of black-clad women at the water’s edge balancing large clay pots on their heads and walking gracefully along as if the heavy pots weighed no more than a sack of feathers. The women seemed so accomplished at this traditional daily task that they had no need to hold on to them. Sometimes a donkey pulled a flat wooden-wheeled cart along a track, driven by a young boy swinging his legs and swishing a palm frond, moving no faster than his ancient ancestors would have done. As we cruised passed Kom Ombo to our right, the elegant temple still perched enticingly on its hill, but from this more distant view I could also see the smoke-stacks and factories of the modern industrialised town behind. Further down river as the sun began to set, fishermen were silhouetted against the banks, knee-deep among the bright green rushes. Sometimes they were so far out in the river on narrow strips of land that they appeared to be walking on the calm silvery water. Tiny red and green fishing boats began to appear further out in the current, one man beating the bottom of the boat with a stick to attract the fish, while another cast his nets in a wide dripping arc. Everywhere, white egrets soared above the fishermen waiting for discarded morsels. Occasionally a great heron flew at river-level among the reeds, huge wings outstretched on some errand of its own, or perched grandly on the lower branches of an overhanging tree. While my companions slept on sun beds on deck I was riveted to this water-bourn rhythm of life in the Egyptian countryside. A sense of calm had washed over me with the gently moving river, more powerful than a tranquiliser.