Nudity on the Nile


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 nineteen.

Friday, 12 February
All on deck this morning in good time – sunrise lovely and air beautiful – on board all day. Dog mummies found in this neighbourhood ar Shekh Fodl. Today passed the Convent (Sittina) of Our Lady Mary the Virgin – the monks swim off shore to the boats passing. One got up on our steamer – they come for backshish – quite naked – they are Xtian Copts.

The incident of the naked monks is one that crops up in other accounts by Nile travelers. But if they are collecting baksheesh were did they put it? One account supplies the answer – they would pop the coins into their mouths for the swim back to shore. On future cruises Cook advised ladies to remain in the boat’s salon when it was passing the monastery.

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