Spirit Quest Tours is honored to have been the first American company to offer this unique and exclusive experience as a part of "Quest for the Truth IV" in May of 2008. 

Join us aboard the Afandina once again, by special arrangement!  Click here for all the details.


AFANDINA: a breath of fresh air

The revival of the
traditional way of sailing along the Nile

By Robert Bauval

In this brand new millennium
in which we all live in there is a growing concern about the future and
wellbeing of our planet. Responsible people are showing more and more concern
for the threats that are looming high: global warming, pollution, and depletion
of our energy resources. Many successful businessmen from different countries
have begun to ‘pay back’ by sponsoring ‘green’ projects, from the building of
commercial jet planes to natural and organic farming. Yet how often we forget
that the most important and vital of Nature’s gifts are the water that we drink
and the air that we breathe. Without water and air we cannot live, nothing can
live, not even the most robust of creature or plant. My friend Mohammad Nazmy,
President of Quest Travel in Cairo, has decided to do his bit. He is a man with
a vision; and this vision is to remind us of how important the air, clean air,
is to all human beings and all life on earth. He has decided to ‘pay back’ with
the ‘Afandina’ Project: the building of a traditional Nile ship powered by the
desert winds as in the days of old to carry his share of foreign visitors along
the ancient river. With his jovial nature and altruistic passion for the world,
Mohamad Nazmy is truly the ‘Al Gore of the Nile’. 

Greg Roach, Halle Eavelyn and Mohamed Nazmy


“I have invested in this
project nearly all the profits I have made in the last ten years,” says Nazmy,
“because as a tour operator I have witnessed the ever growing pollution of our
cities and countryside caused by the massive growth in traffic, especially the
shipping traffic on the Upper Nile. I am not saying that we do not need to run
Nile cruises with motorized ships, but surely three hundred ships with
multi-thousand horsepower motors is not a sustainable economy. We sooner or
later will have to look into the alternatives for the sake of our children and
the good health of our land. Afandina is a step in the right direction and I
hope that it may inspire others to follow suit and look for solutions to this
problem of air-pollution.”


The Afandina

Since time immemorial the
ancient dwellers of the Nile Valley have been acutely aware of the preciousness
of water and the air. The Nile was sacred, and its waters were personified by
the god Hapy. And so, too, was the air, which was personified by the god Shu
who held up the sky-goddess with his hands. ‘Egypt is the gift of the Nile’,
wrote Herodotus, the Father of history. For without the Nile, the longest river
in the world, the land of Egypt would be dry as a bone, a lifeless arid desert
hardly fit for habitation. Yet with the blessing of this river, Egypt is, since
at least 15,000 years ago, an elongated 1000 kilometers valley so lush and so
fertile that it can truly be called a paradise on earth. But Herodotus should
also have added that Egypt –indeed the whole planet– was also the gift of the
air, that wonderful unseen life-giving element that, perhaps like Herodotus, we
all take so easily for granted. With the growing pollution of our cities (Cairo
is classed high on the WHO list) caused by fumes spouting out of factories and
the ever increasing number of motor vehicles on the roads, the air that we
breath, that priceless and irreplaceable manna from Nature, is being made more
and more  impure each day that

“For years I wanted to do something about this threat to our environment, and yet I was also aware as a tour operator that the Nile cruises are the major attraction of our tourist industry. Egypt much depends on the revenue from tourism, and we cannot simply cancel this very popular commercial resource. Yet surely there was an answer, a suitable compromise to this problem. One day in Aswan as I pondered on the solution to this problem, I saw a felluca with its tall sail fully stretched by the wind, sailing silently on the Nile. And although I had seen fellucas such as this one thousands of times, this time I had an inspiration. I would build my own ship, a ship powered only by the force of the wind. I would build a Dhahabeya, a traditional Nile sailing ship, and call it ‘Afandina’ (literally ‘our king’), a reminder of quieter days before the onslaught of mass tourism.” 

There are, of course,
already a few Dhahabeyas on the Nile already. But ‘Afandina’ is a Dhahabeya
with a difference: it’s the first of its kind to
have a full steel hull for maximum security and durability. It combines the
best from the past and the present. ‘Afandina’ will have a fully trained crew
of nine. Its captain has already been chosen: a experienced sailor from
Aswan,  Reis Mohammad Magdy. He
explained to me that ‘Afandina’ is unique with its special thick steel hull to
tackle sand banks and the strong eddies. Reis Magdy has years of experience,
from sailing fellucas
in his
boyhood days to larger dhahabeyas
his manhood. He knows the Nile and the prevailing winds like his own family.


Upper Deck

The ‘Afandina’ took more
than two years to build. At the peak of the construction stage Nazmy employed
over 50 workers  –carpenters,
welders, painters, electricians, fitters, upholstery makers, cabinet makers and
other artists—on and off. They clearly all are proud to have participated in
this project and they adore Nazmy. “He treats us like family”, says Reis Magdy.
“He not only pays our wages but takes care of us and our families if we fall
sick or injure ourselves. He is our very own ‘Afandina’!” (‘Afandina’ means a
‘protector’ or ‘soter’ of the Greeks).


Dining Room

Boats are known to have
existed in Egypt since at least the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2850 BC). Even as
early as the Pyramid Age (c. 2500 BC) the construction of boats had reached a
level of perfection so high that it astounds the modern visitors to Egypt. The
supreme example is, of course, the wonderful ‘sun boat’ of Cheops, the builder
of the Great Pyramid of Giza. When it was discovered in 1954 in a pit south of
the Great Pyramid, it was in a completely dismantled state. It had to literally
be rebuilt like a giant jigsaw puzzle. No-one was quite sure how to proceed.
Finally a master boat builder was found, Reis Ahmad Youssef, who put it all
together, as if, intuitively, he knew exactly how it was built 4500 years
ago!  Another nearby pit contains
another boat, but the Supreme Council of Antiquities has decided to wait for
the right technology to be available, as in this case the wood of this second
boat is in a far more dilapidated condition than the first.

When the celebrated queen
Cleopatra VII took the mighty Caesar on their honeymoon up the Nile it is said
that their ship was 300 cubits long (about 125 meters) and was decorated with
the finest furniture and the sails draped with the finest silk. It is on this
trip that the young queen (she was 21, Caesar was 52) got pregnant with the
future Caesarion. Dhahabeyas were used till the 1930s when they finally gave way
to the much larger modern motorized Nile cruisers, those massive floating
hotels that we see today, to cater for the booming tourist industry. Yet the
dhahabeyas remain a deep nostalgia to all those who are old enough to remember
the times when they graced the Nile with their tall sails and elegant lines.


State Room

“When I launch ‘Afandina’ in
autumn next year,  says Nazmy, “I
have decided to invite a special group of VIP guests from all over the world:
authors, philosophers, scientists and, of course, Egyptologists. I want them to
experience my love for Egypt and to share the splendor of the Nile as it must
have been done in ancient times. I want them to sense the tranquility, the
majestic beauty of this sacred river and, of course, the many marvelous temples
along its banks. I want to revive one of ancient Egypt’s most splendid and
loved of yearly festivals, the ‘Sailing of the Goddess Hathor of Dendera’.
There are ancient inscriptions and drawings that tell us how, in the month of
September, this journey took place along the Nile when an effigy of Hathor,
goddess of beauty and love, was put on a ship at Dendera and sailed  160 kilometers upstream to Edfu, there
to be united in a sacred marriage to the god Horus. The journey began at the
new noon and lasted fourteen day till the full moon. It also involved the
rising of the star Sirius, the star of the Nile. It must have been magical,
like a fairy tale on water, with a flotilla of ceremonial boats sailing along
the Nile. And so I want to use ‘Afandina’ as the flag-ship to re-enact this
ancient festival and journey each year. This will not be simply a typical
touristic Nile cruise but a unique cultural experience, an unforgettable
journey along the Nile for all who will participate.”


The real pleasure, of course,
will be sailing leisurely with only the power of the wind, and with only the
sound of water flapping on the hull of ‘Afandina’ as it travels along the
Nile…and, of course, the thrill of approaching the ancient temples with the
tall sails fluttering in the breeze like in the ancient days. ‘Afandina’ will,
of course, be equipped with all the mods and cons expected by seasoned 5-star
travelers, says Nazmy. It will carry a maximum of sixteen guests plus the crew.
Nazmy has employed a qualified chef for the kitchen, and wants everything to be
perfect to the last detail. The rooms, which will be ergonomically designed for
maximum utility and comfort, will not have numbers but names of the last royal
family of modern Egypt. “I am not a royalist”, jokes Mohammad Nazmy, “but I am
proud of our past, the pharaohs, the Khedives and even the last kings of Egypt,
Fuad and Farouk. They are part of our 5000 years culture, and I want to honour
this.” But even if ‘Afandina’ will have the best that modern technology allows,
Nazmy says that ancient ways and traditions will also be respected, such as
using lanterns in the evenings for dinners on the open deck, and obtaining
fresh food organically grown, and cooked and baked in the traditional manner.
‘Afandina’ will also be equipped with a library with books on ancient and
modern Egypt, and Nazmy is planning to even have a mini planetarium with
astronomical software and a telescope for stargazing at night in the crystal
clear skies of Upper Egypt.


The Library

“I don’t want my guest to
only see Egypt with their eyes”, he says proudly. “I don’t want them to herded
around with cameras like we see on other tours. I want them to taste Egypt with
all their senses, to feel Egypt with their souls, to be part of its magical
past as well as its present, and to experience the Nile as it should be
experienced: with open hearts. I have traveled in many countries of the
world, and seen many of their wonders. But there is nothing that compares to
Egypt. The last of the seven wonders is still here, the Great Pyramid. And the
Nile still retains its mystery and magic. I want my quest to experience all
this in the best possible of ways. ‘Afandina’ will be their ‘home away from
home’ and yet, at the same time, it will be for them an exotic, sensual and intellectual
experience that they will always remember with joy.”


Spirit Quest Tours is honored to have been the first American company to offer this unique and exclusive experience as a part of "Quest for the Truth IV" in May of 2008. 

Join us aboard the Afandina once again, by special arrangement!  Click here for all the details.