Slow Boat to the Past -- The last 10 years have seen a revival of a kind of river travel that was almost killed by "modern Egypt." In the 19th century, the dahabeya was the gentleman's way of traveling from Cairo to Upper Egypt. Part hotel, part transportation, they were comfortable, slow, and expensive -- just about everything that Thomas Cook's mass-market steamboats weren't -- and they were favored by anyone wealthy enough to hire on for the season. Today's dahabeyas go one better, with modern conveniences to match the stately comfort of traditional wind-driven travel. Prices include full board (excluding alcoholic beverages).
Nour el Nil runs five absolutely lovely custom-built dahabeyas on 6-day/5-night cruises between Luxor and Aswan. The big "panoramic" cabins at the back of the boat are some of the most attractive accommodations I've seen in Egypt. They're not huge, but they're fitted with period furnishings and a big picture window nearly at water-level. They're perfect for a fantasy vacation or a honeymoon. Rates range between LE8,580 ($1,560/£795) per person (based on double occupancy) in a standard cabin in regular season to more than LE17,160 ($3,120/£1,589) per person in the deluxe "panoramic" cabins during high season. tel. 0106578322 or 0105705341. www.nourelnil.com.
Other options for sailing up the Nile are the Cenderella and the smaller Bab el Nil. Both boats rent out by the week, with the 10 to 12 passenger Cenderella going for LE42,900 ($7,800/£3,972) between May and September, and LE60,500 ($11,000/£5,602) for the rest of the year. The six-passenger Bab el Nil goes for LE25,850 ($4,700/£2,394) May through September and LE34,375 ($6,250/£3,183) the rest of the year. I find the fit and finish to be a little less appealing than the Nour el Nil boats, but the wooden-walled rooms are spacious, and the curvy steel railings are both romantic and functional. tel. 0105272390. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dahabieh runs converted cargo boats that may not have the sophisticated charm of some of the other dahabeyas on the river, but they are roomy, and the staff have a casual charm. At around LE12,100 ($2,200/£1,120) for a double cabin for a 6-day/5-night cruise, however, they are relatively economical without sacrificing comforts such as en suite toilets. None of the boats are particularly child-friendly, but these old cargo boats lack safety rails and are not recommended for young children. tel. 0100062221. www.dahabieh.net.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.