The felucca is a traditional Egyptian sailboat which, over the centuries and despite the modern world slowly creeping in, has remained one of the primary means of transportation for the Egyptian people on and across the Nile to this day. Rarely outfitted with any form of engine, the felucca instead relies entirely on the Nile’s current and a very convenient and predominant southerly wind that helps push the boats upriver.
..no where in Egypt is the felucca embraced quite as whole heartedly as it is in the southern city of Aswan.
But no where in Egypt is the felucca embraced quite as whole-heartedly as it is in the southern city of Aswan.
Riddled by dozens of little islands and inhabited on both banks, Aswan has no bridges or any other means to access to these places except by water. (Unless you want to drive about an hour down the road where you’ll find the nearest bridge to cross.) That leaves you with two options if you want to go exploring: 1) Take one of the local ferries or 2) Hire a boat.
After A LOT of research and reading about the many tourists who have been scammed by less than trustworthy felucca captains, one name kept coming up with nothing but praise: Captain Mostafa of the MoonShadow
Picking us up in the morning, directly from the dock at The Old Cataract Hotel where we were staying, we set off with Captain Mostafa and his crew of two helpers.
After sailing around for hours and exploring The Tombs of The Nobles, and Kitchener’s Botanical Garden Island. The crew served us tea and coffee and then cooked us one of the most simple, yet amazing meals I had almost the entire time I was in Egypt.
Here’s What You Need To Know About Hiring A Felucca
Hire A Reputable Captain
I can’t stress this point enough. Make sure you do your research and hire a captain you can trust. If you’d like to hire Mostafa like we did (whom I cannot recommend highly enough), you can contact him via WhatsApp, his number is: +20 111 083 9981
If you can book directly with the Captain
If at all possible, try to book directly with the captain of your chosen felucca rather than booking through your hotel or a travel agency of any kind. This ensures that the captain and his crew get to keep most of the money you pay them instead of having to divide it between themselves and the booking agency.
It’s not as expensive as you may think
When we went, it cost us 2,000 LE to hire Mostafa and his two-man crew for 8 hours. (That was without any haggling on our part btw, and the original price we were quoted by Mostafa.) After the trip we ended up tipping another 400 LE as a thank you (and because that’s just how things work it Egypt, so it’s better to just think of it as part of the price going in). All said and done, that comes out to only about $133 to hire a sailboat and a three-man-crew for 8 hours, complete with a full lunch included in the price.
If you’re going to haggle be informed and don’t be a jerk
Listen, there is nothing wrong with trying to get the best deal you can. But if you’re going to haggle, make sure you always keep the conversion rate in mind and do the math. While, 2,000 LE may sound like a lot, when you realize that it is only about $100, then you divide that by the 8 hours you’re getting, that comes out to around $12.50/hr you’re paying to rent a sailboat with a captain and additional two-man crew. So that means each of those individuals is only making around $4/hr. If we then deduct the amount of money they will have to spend on buying water and food supplies to feed you during your voyage, let’s say they are each only making $3/hr now. Now top that off by the fact that most captains don’t actually own their boats, so a portion of their intake has to go to pay the owner of the boat.
Basically, if you are going to haggle. Just think it through and treat people fairly. Don’t try and take advantage of them just because you want to get a deal.
It’s the easiest way to see all the sites in Aswan
If you want to visit a lot of sites in a short amount of time, hiring a felucca is the way to go. Once you board, the captain will ask you how you want to spend your 8 hours. You can either leave it up to him, or tell him the sites you’d like to visit. During our trip with Mustafa, we got to explore: The Tombs Of The Nobles, Kitchener’s Botanical Garden Island & rode a Camel up to St. Simeon’s Monastery. If I had it to do over again, I would probably switch out our visit to Kitchener’s Botanical Garden Island with a visit to Elephantine instead, since that was our last stop on the trip and things were shutting down when we got there.
Be aware of scams
As I mentioned above, there are a lot of less-than-reputable captains out there and I felt incredibly lucky to have found Mostafa. The most common scams I read about involved being quoted a very low price at the onset, and then being told a different price once you are out on the water to actually take you back, or additionally, quoting you a price and then at the end tell you that was in $ and not Egyptian Pounds. So make sure and do your research and hire a captain you can trust.