Agatha Christie published her famous book “Death on the Nile” in 1937. The plot of the book revolved around the voyage of a group of tourists on the steamship “Karnak” on the Nile, from Aswan to Luxor.
The main character in “Death on the Nile” was a friend and heiress of millions who fell in love with the wrong man. Beside her on the ship were her maid and lawyer, a novelist and her daughter, an elderly American socialite, her son, her sister and cousin, an Italian archaeologist and an Austrian doctor. Everyone boarded the ship which turned into a crime scene while sailing towards the temples in Abu Simbel.
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The temple at Abu Simbel (photo: Hanani Rapoport)
During the cruise and tour of the temples, shots were fired, a gun was thrown into the river, a valuable pearl pendant disappeared, and five passengers ended the cruise in coffins. The killer committed suicide. Also on board was a renowned Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, star of Christie’s previous books, who was asked to investigate and find the killer after failing to stop him.
The story dealt with the materials our lives are made of; Love, jealousy and betrayal. The book was an unprecedented success and sold tens of millions of copies translated into dozens of languages. Three versions of the book have been adapted into films over the years, countless versions have been staged in theaters around the world.
The story “Murder on the Nile” dealt with the materials from which our lives are composed; Love, jealousy and betrayal. The book was an unprecedented success and sold tens of millions of copies, was translated into dozens of languages and its versions were adapted into films and theater plays
When we planned the trip to Egypt, the cruise on the Nile was an integral part of the travel plan. This is how we found ourselves after four full days in Cairo flying on a night flight to Luxor in the south of the country. We already ate breakfast on the bank of the largest river, the longest in the world, the Hayar.
We had a number of Agatha Christie enthusiasts in our group who brought the book “Death on the Nile” with them and tried to identify along the journey points where the literary “Carnac”, Christie’s steamship, also stopped.
Although I have not read the book, and only happened to see the latest version produced by Hollywood about a year ago – a version which, according to film and literature critics, did the book no favors. The film version was filmed entirely in a film studio in England (our Gal Gadot played the lead role there).
I brought with me on the voyage the experiences from Taha Hasin’s book, “Alayam” (The Seas). I wanted to experience “life on the Nile” as Taha described it, through his eyes, through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy who lost his eyesight many years before, and later became one of Egypt’s greatest writers.
I brought with me on the voyage the experiences from Taha Hasin’s book, “Alayam”. I wanted to experience “life on the Nile” as he described it through his eyes, a 13-year-old boy who lost his eyesight years before and later became one of Egypt’s greatest writers
At the ship anchorage in Luxor, along the length of the makeshift pier, dozens of ships were moored, blowing diesel fumes into the air and the constant hum of the humming diesel engines. “Princess of the Nile” “Ramses” “Paradise” “Cleopatra”, all river ships sailing up the river to Aswan and others that made the way in the opposite direction to the north, down the river.
The river is large, wide and impressive in its flow, and the ships sailed in it draped in the flags of the kingdom, in a picture that looked like something out of World War II movies, an impressive armada rowing and cutting through the green waters.
The “armada” on the Nile (photo: Hanani Rapoport)
Sometimes small rubber boats were attached to one side of the ships, and pairs of local boys, a pair in each such boat, tried to shout and sell their wares, cotton underwear, to the passengers on board, at a height of several dozen meters above the water.
They threw the garment in a sealed bag into the hands of the buyer who measured the goods and felt to feel if the cotton was good for him and if the size was good for him. Then the happy buyer put the Egyptian bills into the bag and tossed it back into the trained hands of the “fisherman”.
In the evening we reached Isana, where the upper part of the Nile began. The height difference between the point we arrived at and the point we continued our way south to was about seven or eight meters, and we made this height difference in a floatation chamber. A “natural” elevator which is a huge chamber that is filled with river water on one side while the other side is sealed, which causes the ship to float to the height required to continue the journey south to Aswan (Esna Lock).
The river is large, wide and impressive in its flow, and the ships sailed in it draped with the flags of the kingdom, in a picture that looked like something out of World War II movies, an impressive armada rowing and cutting through the green waters
We dozens of ship passengers stood on deck, a mid-month moon as orange as the yolk of a fresh egg hung above the palm tops. The ships arranged themselves in two lines and every pair of ships that entered the cabin turned off the crackling diesel engine. The water burst into the floatation cabin and after about twenty minutes, the captain blew his horn and signaled his sailors to release the ropes – and we continued on our way south to Adapo, where the armada of Nile ships stopped to allow the crew to serve dinner to the passengers.
Moon on the Nile (Photo: Hanani Rapoport)
In the morning we woke up again to the flowing river and the ships passing through it to the next anchorage. And along the way, just like a hundred years ago and more, the view along the river remains unchanged. The green fields, the bamboo and straw arbors. A donkey takes his steps into a large date plantation. Rice fields, orchards, a green strip between the river and the desert. The lifeblood of Egypt. Irrigation canals leading the water from the river into the nearby villages. Mosque minarets and the voices of muezzins calling for prayers five times a day. And the children, children played football on a sandy field by the big river.
At the entrance to the town along the platform, dozens of riders with carts and horses were already waiting for the crowds to disembark from the ships and took us as in Noah’s Ark, couples by couples, for another tour of another temple of an ancient king or queen. The horses are not young, the carts have long since had no place on the road, but no one really cares.
And I can’t help but think again of Taha Hossein’s days in a village near the Nile. He didn’t play football, but did he stand by the side of the field and hear the voices of the screaming boys? To that mosque on the horizon, the one with the pink minaret, would that child go, leaning on his brother’s shoulder, to hear the preacher every day?
And I can’t help but think again of Taha Hossein’s days in a village near the Nile. He didn’t play football, but did he stand by the side of the field and hear the voices of the screaming boys? Did he go with his brother to that mosque in the horizon, to hear the preacher?
And again on the ship. Tomorrow we will arrive in Aswan. This will be the end of the journey on the Nile. And it was impossible not to look at the hanging moon at night and think again of the thirteen-year-old boy who would wait for darkness to fall, for dinner time, in order to then go outside his house, smell the fresh cabbage, hear the voice of the rabbit sneaking through the reeds in the fence around his house.
The chill of the night and the hum of the diesel engines, the stars in the sky, was something magical in those hours. It is not for nothing that Taha wrote with so much love about his life in the village. Life is not easy for a blind child, one of fourteen children. I couldn’t escape the thought of the transition the little one made when he accompanied his older brother who took him with him to a madrasa near Al-Azhar in Cairo, after we had experienced the bewitching vast volume – the capital Cairo.
After four nights on the ship we arrived in Aswan. We saw endless temples. Pyramids, cartouches, wall paintings, mummified mummies thousands of years old, obelisks with inscriptions written in calligraphy. Rare historical treasures, the kind I have only seen in museums around the world.
But the experience of sailing on the river; The nights of the full moon and the wonderful sunrises, the “golden hour”, that magical twilight hour between sunset and darkness, which enveloped the child’s world at the end of the day.
Plantations on the banks of the Nile (Photo: Hanani Rapoport)
And like him, millions of children who grew up and grow up to this day, between the water and the desert. Children whose only concern is what they will eat for the next meal. And yet, they are children who play soccer with drink cans, a rag ball or a leather ball that they inherited from an older brother who left home for the big city, either for higher studies or to look for a living in the big city. Children who ride to school on a donkey and have not heard of the traffic jams in the big city hundreds of kilometers away.
The chill of the night and the hum of the diesel engines, the stars in the sky, was something magical in those hours. It is not for nothing that Taha wrote with so much love about his life in the village. Life is not easy for a blind child, one of fourteen children
The end of our journey was also in the port of Aswan, where we got off the ship. On the platform, the police did not wait this time to stop the killers and collect the bodies. And Poirot, the detective, who then continued from “Death on the Nile” to Christie’s next detective novel, the nineteenth book “Appointment with Death”, retired already in Christie’s last book, in 1975.
Two days later we flew back to Tel Aviv from Cairo International Airport.
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