Sailing on a Traditional Egyptian Dahabiya Boat: Everything You Need to Know

Yes! That’s your answer when considering a Nile cruise on a traditional Egyptian dahabiya boat. Skip the big cruisers(all 400 of them) in favor of this smaller, slower, more personal experience. The rich and famous used to cruise the Nile on this type of boat a hundred years ago, and after decades without them, modern people can enjoy this means of travel once again. 

Here is everything you need to know about what to expect, what to eat, and what makes the dahabiyas so special. And yes, there’s wifi on board!

Our Boat: The Minya

We sailed on the Minya, which means “Happy Bride.” The distinguishing factor about the dahabiya is the sails. Dahabiyas have one large sail in the front, or one in the front and another in the back. The sail on the front of our boat was attached to a 24-meter (79-foot) tall mast, and it looked massive and amazing when it was unfurled.

Because of the current and the wind situation, the dahabiyas can sail on their own, but it’s actually faster to be pulled by a tugboat most of the time. You’ll see one associated with each dahabiya you see on the Nile. We loved the slower pace of the dahabiya, compared to the cruise ships, and it was incredibly peaceful, even with the tug boat motoring on out in front. This was the best “forced relaxation” (the only kind of relaxation Steve and I get) that we’ve ever experienced. 

These traditional Nile riverboats are the best way to sail in Egypt!
More here: How to Travel Egypt Like a Pro

The Deck

This is where Steve and I spent the vast majority of our time onboard. The deck was incredibly spacious, open on all sides, but covered overhead to keep out the sun. There was a pleasant breeze while the boat was moving, as well as plenty of seating to enjoy it wherever and however we wanted. We worked out here with a view of the Nile every morning, ate every meal here, and simply watched the riverbank pass by. We saw camels, water buffalo, beautiful birds, and millions of date palms along the way.

Not into relaxing? There were also games onboard for guests to entertain themselves. We could choose from card to chess to backgammon and more. This is also a golden opportunity to like, read an actual book!

Sunny deck chairs, ready to go.
A view down the deck.
Plenty of seating for maximum comfort, including a hammock.
Favorite morning coffee spot.
Keep reading: The Traveler’s Guide to the Nile in Egypt

Below Deck

We wanted to spend as much time as we could up on deck, but looking back, I wish we’d spent a little more time below! The salon down below was light, open, and airy, and it would have been nice to dine there our last night, as it was mighty chilly outside in mid-January! There was plenty of comfortable seating to enjoy, as well as windows to open and watch the riverbanks go by.

Dining Table for chilly or hot meal times.
Seating area for chilly mornings and evenings, or very hot days.
A few items of note and a lending library.
Very Art Deco in the hallway.
Read on: The Ultimate List of 30 Trips to Take in Your 30s

The Cabins

There were seven rooms, or cabins, on board. Four of them had two beds for sharing the cabin, two had one large bed, and the largest cabin at the back had a large bed, extra space (almost twice the size of the other rooms!), and a balcony. We were in one of the rooms with one large bed, and I was actually shocked at how large it was, especially for being on a boat. 

All cabins were located below deck, with windows just a few feet above the water. This was so pleasant, especially because we could choose to have the windows completely opened, close the screen panel, and/or close the shutter panel for more privacy (because those birds are nosey).

Need the windows closed? Each room also came with an air conditioner, so you can keep your room as cool or as toasty as you like. Even better? There were multiple outlets to charge our devices as needed, both in the cabin and around the ship!

There was actually a lot of space in this room, on either side and in front of the bed.
An extra chair for our convenience.
The closet, while narrow, also boasted several shelves and efficient places to hang clothes on each wall.
Each day, we came in to find a towel animal on our bed. This one was a crocodile!
Read on: Books to Read Before Your Trip to Egypt

The Bathroom

Would you believe me if I told you the bathroom on this boat was one of my favorite bathrooms on the whole trip? First of all, the water pressure and temperature were amazing and the shower drained beautifully, which is not often the case in even nice hotels around the world! The shower was also fully enclosed, so no water got on the floor outside the shower. In my experience, this is also not the case in so much of the world, especially Europe, the Middle East, and Asia!

The less-than-ideal part, and really the only con of this experience, was the fact that toilet paper had to go in a trashcan, not in the toilet. The upside was that daily housekeeping was included in our stay. Complimentary toiletries were also included, and I was surprised to see that the dahabiya’s toiletries were the exact same as the toiletries at the 5-star Old Cataract Hotel where we’d just come from in Aswan!

The bathroom was surprisingly spacious, and I especially appreciated the hanging storage solution to the right.
The sink and shelves were also large and provided storage often not available in hotels. The toiletries are 5-star quality.
The shower was easily large enough for two, and the water pressure and heat were perfect!
More here: Why Egypt is a Safe Place to Visit (even as a woman!)

The Food

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were included every day of our cruise, and every meal was delicious. The Minya uses only fresh, organic ingredients, and everything is made onboard. One of the best parts of the cruise was the ability to smell each meal as it was being prepared!

This huge spread was just one of our fantastic meals onboard!
Keep reading: The Ultimate List of Things You Can’t Do in Egypt

What You’ll See

Nile cruises mostly go between Aswan and Luxor, and guests will see the same sites whichever direction they go. The nice thing about cruising on a dahabiya instead of a larger cruise ship is that the dahabiyas can take you to more sites because they’re smaller. Everything you’ll see is unique and historically significant, and some of them will surely surprise you!

Going from Aswan to Luxor, you’ll first stop at Kom Ombo and the Temple of Sobek. Get ready to see some mummified crocodiles and medical carvings here. You’ll also take a short hike to see Gebel Silsila, the Temple of Horemheb, and the rock quarries where the stone to build the ancient Egyptian temples came from. 

You may also walk through a local village and farm before sailing on to Edfu to see the Temple of Hathor and Horus. There is so much hieroglyphic writing in this temple, it’s considered a stone library. Your last stop will be Esna, which is a temple with one of the most well-preserved examples of color inside a temple, and which is still an ongoing restoration project.

Sailing from Luxor to Aswan? You’ll see these sites in the reverse order!

The Temple at Edfu is so covered in hieroglyphics, it’s sometimes called a “stone library!”
More here: Everything You’ll See on Your Dahabiya Nile Cruise

What to Bring

You can bring anything you want on your dahabiya Nile cruise, but there are a few things you won’t want to forget or leave behind. 

Bug Repellent

Even in winter, when temperatures dipped way down into the 50s Fahrenheit overnight, we still got a few bug bites! (It’s also good to keep your windows closed in the evenings.) It’ll certainly be worse in the warmer months. In any case, check out these travel-friendly bug repellent wipes!

Good Shoes

I know you want to look cute in your Insta photos, and you bought new gladiator sandals for your trip, but honestly, rural and ruined Egypt is not the flat experience you hope it will be! Not to sound like a total grandma, but you’ll be climbing on limestone, walking through desert sand, and possibly balancing between irrigation ditches to go watch the sunset on the other side of an island. You want some solid shoes! 

These are my tried and true travel shoes that are both sturdy enough for a day of walking around temples, and pretty cute. 

Light Jacket or Sweater

You may not want an extra layer most of the year, but in winter (the high season), you will almost certainly need a little something to protect you from the nighttime chill and the breeze the dahabiya creates when sailing. Even my hot-natured husband was glad he brought his favorite sweatshirt!

Also helpful: How to Pack for Two Weeks in Egypt in a Carry-on


This part is really important. Do not skip the tip, and make sure you are tipping appropriately. You won’t need to tip all along the trip every time someone refills your water or serves everyone dinner. Everyone on the boat pools their tips at the end of the trip, and one person gives it to the captain after breakfast the last morning. The captain and crew have a predetermined formula for who gets paid what, so you don’t need to worry about tipping everyone individually.

How much is the right amount of tip? Generally, since you’ll be on the boat three to four days with everything included, plan to tip about $80-100 USD per person. Once the money is pooled, take 30% from the total amount and give it to your tour guide, who was probably amazing! You can tip in USD or Egyptian pounds (EGP), whichever you prefer. 

You may also need to explain this to the others on the boat. It can be awkward, and the crew and tour guide may be cagey about how much is the right amount of tip. This information came straight from Egypt Elite, the leading tour company in Egypt, so you can trust it!

Your crew and tour guide are working harder than you may think to make sure you have a memorable and authentic experience!
Essential info: Your Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Egypt

More Information about Dahabiya Boats

For even more information about the dahabiya boats and the sailing experience, check out You’ll get more details and photos to really fuel your wanderlust. You can even contact Egypt Elite right from this website to book your dahabiya experience!

Dahabiya boats don’t look like any others we’ve ever seen!
Read next: Why You Should Visit Egypt with Egypt Elite

Want more? Get everything you need on my dedicated Egypt Page!

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3 responses to “Sailing on a Traditional Egyptian Dahabiya Boat: Everything You Need to Know”

  1. […] Luxor Temple has been an ancient Egyptian temple, a Christian church, and a Muslim mosque! And the many statues of Ramses saw and heard it all. Every statue of him the temple is made of granite from Aswan, and interestingly, his ears are always shown. This symbolizes that he listened to his people all over Egypt. Built in 1,400 B.C., it’s made of sandstone from the Gebel el-Silsila quarry. You may have see it on your Nile cruise! […]

  2. […] Eat this here: Your Ultimate Guide to Sailing on a Traditional Egyptian Dahabiya […]

  3. […] The opposite direction: Cruising to Luxor on a Traditional Dahabiya Boat […]

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