A different kind of Nile cruise

When thinking of a Nile cruise, you probably have fancy boats, lots of tourists, expensive tickets and peaceful sailing in mind. Not in Cairo, though! The city has something completely different to offer and it involves wild dancing, very loud Egyptian music and lots and lots of lights. Party time!

Cairo is home of 12 million people and every day, another 10 million people commute to the city for business. So it’s not hard to imagine that the streets get crowded sometimes…  But even better than watching the topsy-turviness from your hotel balcony, is getting out on the streets yourself. So instead of heading to bed (we had to get up early in the morning to catch our plane), we decided to have a short walk instead. From Tahrir square we ended up on the Corniche, Cairo’s riverside promenade. This is where the locals seem to gather around in great numbers, to cool down after a long, hot day in the city. It’s past midnight when we arrive, but the promenade is still buzzing with people. I bet this city sleeps even less than New York!

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The view on the Nile and the 6th October bridge, from the Ramses Hilton Hotel on the 23nd floor. Not bad, eh?

And the noise, coming from the crazy traffic and the music along the promenade:

Music & lights filling the night

On the Corniche people are selling food, drinks, toys, clothes and accessories as if it were two o’clock in the afternoon. There’s people meeting up with friends or having a little stroll with the family, couples sitting along the shore and watching the boats. Oh yes, the boats! They’re decadently bedazzled with colorful lights shaped in stars, hearts, fish and flowers and they’re all glowing in the dark like giant fireflies gone wild. A pretty amazing and overwhelming sight! And then there’s the music, accompanying the flickering lights through dozens of speakers, on land and on water. With every ten steps you take there are different tunes and voices coming at you, an enticing mixture of chanted hymns, folk music and energetic poppy beats. And all around, no Western tourist to be seen.

20 minutes of wonderful chaos

Right then and there in the cacophony of colors, crowds and chorals, we’re asked to step on board for a little cruise on the Nile. Why not, right? We pay 20 Egyptian dollars each (I’m quite sure they didn’t charge us much more than the locals), we are given the choice between a cruise ‘with music’ or ’no music’ (music, of course!) and while the captain starts a quest to find two beers for my fellow thirsty companions (I reckon you can find just about anything here in Cairo city, no matter what the time is), people start joining us on board. Families with babies and little children, groups of friends of all ages, women and men. All the seats are faced towards the middle of the boat and as the engine starts and the music kicks off, the men start to put up a show in the centre, dancing unrestrained as if their lives depended on it. Out-of-this-world! Throughout the next 20 minutes the music gets louder, the lights flash faster and the dancing gets wilder. The whole time I must have sat there with my eyes wide open, smiling like a Cheshire cat. I even danced along for a bit! It’s a different world for sure, but a great one. Try it sometime, it will be one of the highlights of your trip. And you’ll even appreciate the noise more when it keeps you awake at night…

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