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 more I learned about the Nile, the less forbidding it seemed. I had so often imagined rowing on the Nile that doing so had begun to feel less like a fantasy and more like a memory that only wanted its corresponding action rightfully exercised.

Two years after my first visit, I returned to Egypt, determined to find a boat and make my trip on the Nile. In an effort to acquaint myself with the stretch of the river that I was interested in rowing, I once again spent four days on the deck of a cruise ship, traveling - this time from Luxor to Aswan - with a pair of binoculars pressed to my face, examining every island and shoal, observing the currents, trying to gauge the swiftness of the river's flow, watching fishermen at sunrise laying their nets. When rowing upriver, the fishermen hugged the shore, where the current was less intense and occasionally even eddied in reverse. Their boats sat low in the water, were flat bottomed, were made of steel, were on average twelve to fourteen feet long and three feet wide, and were roughly the shape of a Turkish slipper, narrowed at both ends but slightly higher and finer at the bow. As oars they used long, coarse, bladeless planks that resembled nothing so much as clapboards ripped from the face of a derelict house. They used not the U-shaped metal oarlocks I was accustomed to, but vertical pegs of wood or steel to which the immense oars were lashed with a length of prickly twine. The current never appeared swift enough to vex or deter these fishermen. They maneuvered their boats with breathtaking precision and finesse, making sudden one-hundred-eighty-degree turns with a simultaneous and contrariwise two-wristed snap. From Aswan to Cairo, the Nile bed falls little more than five inches per mile, which means the river offers a relatively slow, peaceful ride. In my observation, the current was swift but never roiling; there were no rapids to speak of other than those tossed up by the boulders of the first cataract above Aswan; and while there were shallows treacherous enough to stop a misguided cruise ship, none was shallow enough to prevent a small, light, flat-bottomed boat from smoothly proceeding. As for the dangerous ships Egyptians had warned of, there were no ships on the Nile that I could see, other than the plodding, festively lit cruise boats equipped with swimming pools and dance floors and packed with vacationing Europeans. (The size of these cruise ships was trifling compared to the hulking tankers I regularly marveled at on Narragansett Bay.) There was never a threat of rain. There was the possibility of a khamaseen, a hot southeasterly wind that whips dust out of the Sahara and renders the air a stinging, opaque mass,* but this was April and just in advance of the season for that. There was a large lock at Esna that looked complex and possibly like trouble for a small boat, and a few bridges that did not. As for crocodiles, there were, the captain of my cruise ship had dismissively confirmed with a dry laugh, no crocodiles whatsoever in the Nile below the High Dam.

In planning my rowing trip, among my greatest worries was unwanted attention from the Egyptian police. In terms of freedom and accessibility, the Nile was a far cry from an American river on which any psychopath could, without hindrance or permission, indulge in any half-baked boating scheme he was capable of devising. I had been told that in order to travel alone on the Nile, I would need police permission, that such permission was not likely to be granted, and that if by some miracle permission was granted, weeks of bureaucratic wrangling would follow; I would have to come up with a considerable amount of money in fees; and that, in the end, if they let me go, the police would insist on sending an officer with me for my protection.

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: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Tom Jackson
    Growing up in Mumbai in the '70s, I still remember herbs kept fresh in small glasses of water, ...
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

    Cruel Beautiful World
    by Caroline Leavitt

    A fast moving page-turner about the naiveté of youth and the malignity of power.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

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

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    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.