Of Turkey, Stuffing, Feta and Feluccas!

13 10 2008

“Did you order a pizza?”                         (Felucca on the Nile, Egypt)

It is believed that one of the first Thanksiving celebrations in North America was made by explorer Martin Frobisher in 1578 in gratitude for having survived a long journey in search of a possible Northwest Passage. However, for centuries before the arrival of Europeans, various First Nations had long given thanks for a good harvest and bountiful crops. Today of course, Thanksgiving is synonymous with family, turkey, autumn colours, the onset of crisper temperatures…and a mighty feast.


Food remains integral to most significant events, family get-togethers, religious festivals or simple celebrations. Whether weddings, birthdays, holidays or marking the end of a fast, there’s nothing like a good spread of food especially when surrounded by friends and family…and sampling new foods is one of the great highlights of any travel.


For all the great meals I have had whether in the fine restaurants, jungles, beaches or the bush, it is sometimes the most simple that remain the most memorable. One of those was on a felucca on the Nile in Egypt.


We had chosen to spend several days sailing down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. The felucca is a simple wooden sailing vessel that has been used since ancient times to transport goods and people along one of the world’s great rivers. The boats are small and comforts for travellers are spartan with the deck used for reclining, sightseeing, cooking, eating and sleeping. The shade of a canvas awning, occasional breezes and a bucket of river water from the Nile are the only relief from the blistering heat of the Sahara, but the rewards far outweigh any lack of luxury.


The feluccas zig-zag across the width of the river to catch the breezes and along the way pass remote Egyptian villages, local fishermen and children playing along the shore. We passed abandoned quarries once excavated by the ancient Egyptians to build their temples and monuments, and rarely-visited archeological sites. At night, we tied ourselves to the bank before settling down on the deck serenaded only by the gentle lapping of water on the wooden hull and the splash of jumping fish.


Despite the deprivations, it was idyllic and not one of us would have exchanged our spartan existance for the buffet tables, air conditioning and swimming pools of the luxury cruise ships that churned past at night.


It was the food that perhaps most surprised us all. The two crew would busily prepare our meals as we sailed along surrounded by the towering dunes of the desert or the minarets of rural mosques. Amid the heat, a lunch of the freshest feta cheese, mint, tomato, cucumber slices, lemon juice and a hint of olive oil was like manna even for a rabid carnivore and not only sated our hunger but left us feeling utterly refreshed and rejuvenated.


After several days with only the occasional dip in the Nile to wash away the cobwebs, we arrived in Luxor. Although once more graced by comfortable beds, hot showers, flush toilets and all the food choices imaginable, all of us were grateful for our wonderful days on the Nile and the simple foods upon which we feasted.



Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan



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