Excerpt from Down the Nile by Rosemary Mahoney, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Down the Nile

Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff

by Rosemary Mahoney

Down the Nile
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2007, 288 pages
    Sep 2008, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Diane La Rue

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The River That Flows the Wrong Way

ON THE DAY that I hoped to buy a rowboat in Luxor, Egypt, I was awakened, as I had been every morning in Luxor, by a Koranic antiphony drifting from the Islamic boys' school next door to my hotel. With all the zeal of a Baptist preacher's, a young boy's amplified voice shrieked repeatedly in Arabic, "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his witness!" and a shrill chorus of his schoolmates howled the words back at him. I got out of bed and went to the window - at 7:00 a.m. the glass was already warm as an infant's forehead - and discovered that during the night many colorful cloth banners had been strung above the corniche, Luxor's Nilefront boulevard. In hand-fashioned Arabic characters, the banners read, "Welcome Mister President of the Government, Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, the Leader of Our Victorious and Progressive Destiny." Scores of teenage Egyptian soldiers in black uniforms, woolen berets, and white plastic spats lined the avenue in the ninety-eight-degree heat, more or less at attention, rifles at their sides, evidently awaiting the president's arrival. Profiting from a police barricade, the usually hectic street was, for once, mercifully quiet. Across the glittering ribbon of the Nile, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings lay blanketed in the pink morning light.

I dressed and went downstairs to the lobby, where the hotel manager and two of his employees sat shoulder to shoulder on a couch before a flickering television. All three men wore white turbans and gray gallabiyas, the traditional Egyptian gown, and, in one of the more baffling manifestations of traditional Egyptian fashion, heavy woolen scarves wound around their necks, as if against an arctic wind. No matter the time of day, the lobby of this hotel was always exceptionally dark, and through the gloom the three men looked like consumptives recuperating in a sanatorium. They were watching an American film in which jeering, sweaty-faced Confederate soldiers were busy abusing a group of morose black slaves.

With an apology for interrupting their entertainment, I asked the hotel manager why President Mubarak was coming to Luxor that day. Without looking away from the television the manager replied, "To open new hospital and sex tomb."

I studied his long brown nose, his luxurious black mustache. Surely I had misheard him. "Sorry," I said, "to open a what?"

"Hospital and sex tomb," he said dully, scratching his chin.

The hospital sounded likely enough, but the idea of a "sex" anything being publicly celebrated by the Egyptian president was preposterous. In this Islamic nation, sex, strictly forbidden outside marriage, was not a subject for public discourse or civic celebration. Human flesh, particularly women's, was to be concealed, and though in Egypt the assumption of the veil at puberty was officially a matter of individual choice, many Egyptian women wore the hijab, the veil that fully concealed the head and neck, and a surprising number wore the more forbidding niqab, a drape that covered mouth, nose, forehead, sometimes even eyes. Chaste Egyptian women were reluctant to have their photograph taken, because multiplying and displaying their image in this way was considered unseemly. Before my first trip to Egypt, I had been counseled to keep my arms and legs covered, not to wear shorts, and never to touch a man in any way except to shake hands. I had been endlessly informed by people who had experience in the matter that purity, chastity, and piety were Egypt's prevailing sentiments, and that foreign women who came to Egypt and dressed in a provocative way (there are, in fact, many who do) would be considered promiscuous, unprincipled, fair game for harassment and disrespect.

Copyright © 2007 by Rosemary Mahoney

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Crossing the Horizon
    Crossing the Horizon
    by Laurie Notaro
    In Crossing the Horizon, Laurie Notaro takes us back to a time when flying was a rare and risky ...
  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.