The Nubian on the Nile

Back from good old 2012. Had many photos in this series, one of which one a small prize. So i decided to do a photo story on this Egyptian, the Nubian salesman…

As you go ‘up’ the Nile (this is a unique river as it flows upwards – south to north) from Aswan to Luxor, there is a place called Esna where the water level suddenly drops. A ‘lock’ or an enclosure made on the river enables any vessel to sail without toppling – once a ‘ship’ is in the narrow lock, the water level in the lock is the same level as it was when the boat entered the enclosure, and then is slowly decreased so that it comes to level with the water on the other side (i.e. the side towards Luxor). Finally the vessel is released. This cumbersome process can take hours at times as vessels after vessels line up…

The Lock at Esna

Enter the mobile salesmen. The Nubians.

As our boat The Nile Festival (this vessel sadly caught fire last year – thankfully no one on board was injured) was entering the lock, we noticed dozens of ropes being lassoed onto our boats. Through the windows of our rooms, we could see ‘locals’ dressed in kaftans. However they didn’t seem to be your ordinary Egyptian.

The boat-salesmen seemed to herald our way into the lock.


The Nubians, as I later learnt, are from Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. These particular ones were from the little village nearby. They were ‘salesmen’, not unlike the jovial (sometimes irritating and persistent) ones we here in India come across. Each one was accompanied with another who was in charge of rowing. Once our boat proceeded into the lock, they didn’t let go. Instead they followed us, trying very hard to sell their goods, throwing them up onto the deck, three floors up and managing to catch cash and unsold goods that were thrown from above – all without losing any to the Nile.

They had anchored themselves firmly to our boat

I saw this particular one through the window of my room. His sallow skin, cheeks sunken in, teeth stained with tobacco and eyes pleading with the tourists on the deck to buy his products. Though at first I was put off with the constant yells of “Senorita Senorita” in his ‘shrewd’, harsh voice, it was when I decided to really look at him that he struck me as pained, even scarred.





This was the photo that won me a prize 😀


He was flinging things up at the deck
He was flinging things up at the deck


When the lock opened to let us in, he too like many of his colleagues followed us right to the other side, until our boat, catching up speed, left the boatmen away…


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