Monthly Archives: March 2019

A great ball and a near drowning

In January 1869, exactly 150 years ago, Miss Riggs joined Thomas Cook’s very first tour to Egypt and the Holy Land. Travelling overland, the journey would take three months, there and back. Miss Riggs kept a diary of her adventure and I am going to be posting from it over the coming weeks. This is day thirty-nine.

Thursday, 4 March
Landed at 2 p.m., drove to Shepherds Hotel – not a bed to be had in the place. All the hotels full; a great ball taking place that night intended for the Prince and Princess of Wales; parties came from Suez, Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said, paid for by the Viceroy. So all Mr. Cook could do was to obtain leave for us to sleep on the steamers another night … Capt. Reis came on board next morning but all the officials had been discharged. Louis the steward who was so attentive was present; he received £3 from us, Hassan £1. At Thebes we gave the sailors a Napoleon – they bought a sheep. Mr. Cook quite well now; he was nearly drowned on the Nile one Sunday when bathing with several of our party.

After three weeks onboard, sleeping in cupboard-sized cabins, Thomas Cook’s must have been desperate for a decent bed on dry land. How disappointed they must have been to find not a single hotel room vacant and to have to return to sleeping on the boat. This would be a recurring problem in the history of tourism to Egypt – at various times well into the 20th century Nile steamers were pressed into service providing for visitors who couldn’t get a hotel room.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Nile steamers, Travellers' tales

Nothing to report

TCA_D_Riggs_1869_0042

In January 1869, exactly 150 years ago, Miss Riggs joined Thomas Cook’s very first tour to Egypt and the Holy Land. Travelling overland, the journey would take three months, there and back. Miss Riggs kept a diary of her adventure and I am going to be posting from it over the coming weeks. This is day thirty-eight.

Wednesday, 3 March
On the 3rd March we had a narrow channel to make and alternately our steamers grounded for ten hours. Once our captain had taken the rope from the Beniswaif and in a passion he let it into the water – a quarrel on both sides and the Beniswaif steamed off and left us in the lurch. Very passionate captains – danced about in rage – Arabic most vociferous. In the evening they would make it up and play chess, smoke pipes and sip coffee. We had 3 or 4 pilots and if we had not threatened to go ashore and take the train, or telegraph, we should not have been off even next morning … So much for Nile travelling where nothing can be believed or depended upon.

After Thursday 25 February Miss Riggs did not make another diary entry for a full five days. During this time she and her fellow members of Cook’s party were onboard their two hired steamers making their way down the Nile from Luxor back to Cairo. We can only assume they made no stops and Miss Riggs found nothing about life onboard of sufficient interest to bother recording it.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Nile steamers, Travellers' tales

Back down the Nile

TCA_D_Riggs_1869_0041

In January 1869, exactly 150 years ago, Miss Riggs joined Thomas Cook’s very first tour to Egypt and the Holy Land. Travelling overland, the journey would take three months, there and back. Miss Riggs kept a diary of her adventure and I am going to be posting from it over the coming weeks. This is day thirty-two.

Thursday, 25 February
Rose at 2 in the morning to see the Southern Cross and called others – moonlight night and stars brilliant. To bed again and at 6 heard the paddle were started – being now on our return journey – stopped at Esné a little – at Luxor Mr. Cook went on shore for letters. Our return journey was quicker on account of the tide but slow in another way; we grounded so often every day and then our steamers had to assist each other. Hours would be wasted in that manner with ropes and sinking anchors – the Nile considered very low.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Nile steamers, Travellers' tales

Riding the rapids and wonky donkeys

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 13.30.56

In January 1869, exactly 150 years ago, Miss Riggs joined Thomas Cook’s very first tour to Egypt and the Holy Land. Travelling overland, the journey would take three months, there and back. Miss Riggs kept a diary of her adventure and I am going to be posting from it over the coming weeks. This is day thirty-one.

Wednesday, 24 February
Walked to bazaar in the village at 8 o’clock and took camel to Philae (7 miles the land route to Philae). Some had donkeys but they fell down very much. Rode several miles on camel, most pleasant movement when it goes for a quick walk. When all collected at the river we took a dahabeah to the Sacred Island of Philae – so hot – sat inside from the sun; some sat outside on top of saloon. Several oars men very slightly dressed – they sang to their strokes – great many hands but not much work. Walked down to the edge of the cataract, foaming and rapid but not nearly so deep a fall as I expected. 9 or 10 naked arab men there ready to plunge in and float upon logs down the rapids for backsheesh. Philae ruins very pretty; a great many pillars inside the ruins.

Our other party arrived while we were there; several had decided upon doing the falls – 15 fr. each for going down rapids. I returned back on a donkey – visited some marble quarries en route – donkey fell right down in a moment very disagreeable. Rode through lovely palm groves, splendid green. Crossing sand, donkey down again so walked the rest.

Many other travelers beside Miss Riggs mention the local boys who would dive into the torrents at the First Cataract and ride the rapids on logs for baksheesh. This evidently wasn’t as easy as the locals made it seem: in 1861 a young Englishman attempted to copy them and it was ten days before his lifeless body resurfaced. Because of the cataract, Aswan was as far as the steamers went – the river here was impassable for large boats. Travellers with their own dahabiyyas could opt to have them carried overland and put back into the Nile south of the rapids so that they could sail on up to Abu Simbel.

1 Comment

Filed under Nile steamers, Travellers' tales