Nothing quite beats a relaxing sail on the Nile at sunset with your family, some snacks, and a bottle of wine. I’ve been on 7 felucca sails so far, 6 of which in Cairo, and 5 of them with my kids. We wanted to go again today with our visitors, but it was surprisingly cold and overcast and we thought it looked like rain (it didn’t end up raining). So we decided not to. We’ll try again on Sunday and see if we’re lucky. Thankfully, they did do a 3 night cruise on the Nile on a dahabiya, so they have experienced Nile sailing.
A friend recently asked me about taking kids on feluccas, so I thought I’d write a bit about that experience. I wrote a blog post after our first felucca sail where we had Sweets and Treats cater. Since then, the other 4 with kids have been self-planned with no pre-booking. It definitely makes it easy for spur of the moment decisions or cancellations.
All of my experiences come from the Maadi dock (except one sail in Aswan). Departing from Downtown will be similar, though obviously parking and dock location vary.
When to Sail:
You can sail any time, but we love doing it at sunset. In the winter that means for a 5 pm sunset, we try to get to the dock about 4:20. In the summer, sunset is closer to 6:30 pm so we go later. You’ll want at least 30 minutes before sunset for your photos and to watch the sun go down.
How Long a Sail:
We find with the kids (currently 5.5 and almost 3), that 1 hour is often plenty. Maybe 1.5 hours. Longer than that and they get antsy and bored.
These are simple sailboats with no bathrooms on board. Near the dock in Maadi is a Total Gas Station with decent bathrooms.
Food and Drink:
Unless you arranged for catering, you need to bring all of your own beverages, food, dishes, etc. There is seating (long benches along the sides) and a table in the middle. That’s it.
My toddler tends to wear a leash on the boat so we can keep him away from edges. One sail I forgot it and he did great without it. My 5 year old doesn’t wear any safety gear. You will rarely find safety gear on board. Wear little ones and put toddlers or others who don’t listen well in life jackets, puddle jumpers, or on a leash. Luckily the Nile is very smooth, you don’t move fast, and shore is never too far away.
What to Bring:
*Leash or life jacket for little ones
*Beverages, including bottle openers if needed. We love to bring some sparkling cider for the kids as a special treat
*Glassware–we prefer nonbreakable ones and tend to bring our pewter goblets. Kids + glass + boat =disaster in our experience
*Trash bag–bring a small grocery bag for all the trash that happens
*Napkins and/or paper towels to clean up spills or messy hands
*Snacks–for summer sails, we pack dinner for the kids (and heavy snacks for the adults) due to timing. For winter sails we just pack snacks as we’re back home by 6 pm. Think low mess snacks like cheese and crackers (don’t forget a knife), easy fruit, carrot and cucumber sticks, cookies, etc. Some people like ordering delivery to their house right before and bringing that along.
*Jackets, hats, gloves in winter–when the sun sets and the wind picks up, it can get very chilly on the water. Last December we did a sail and it was COLD. Winter jackets, hats, gloves, and still chilly. The wind is a killer and deserts lose their heat fast when the sun goes down.
As of Nov 2018, felucca sails cost 150le per hour for a private sail. Tipping the captain is customary. We tip 50le for our typical 1-1.5 hour sail. Tip to the captain prior to docking and then pay the guy in charge when you get off the boat.
If coming from Maadi, we find it easiest to drive to the Total Gas Station, then u-turn to head back into Maadi on El Nadha. Park on the street right near the gas station. This gets you headed the right way for the return and you can walk down to the Corniche, cross at the light, and then walk north on the Corniche for a short distance.
If taking a taxi, getting dropped off at the gas station and crossing the street like under “Parking” is easiest due to traffic patterns.
You’ll see the felucca sails a bit north of TGIFridays. Go down the flight of stairs to the dock and tell the man in charge how long a sail you want. He’ll direct you to a boat. Once on, the captain will push off and set sail. If there is wind you’ll get to really sail. If there isn’t wind, you drift and move a little bit. It’s fun either way! Eat, drink, and be merry. You may need to tell the captain when you’re ready to head back.