One of the most incredible images I saw in Egypt was red-sailed boats on The Nile. Despite the extreme pollution and dust of Cairo, the sails seemed to filter sunlight. The Nile is still very much a source of life for Egypt- it is the country’s only perennial water source. Follow the Nile and you can see the settlement patterns of ancient Egypt, which in turn dictated the modern day transport routes. The Nile is still the life source of the country – Egypt only has less than three percent arable land, and all of this is in the Nile valley and delta. Yet, windblown sand and rapid population growth is over-burdening the river, and the amount of arable land is shrinking.
My last night in Cairo, I finally got to see the sunset on the Nile via a felucca – a traditional wide bottomed Egyptian sail boat – tour.
Apparently, I’m not the only one to be enthralled with red sails. Nat King Cole sang about Red Sails in the Sunset (not a song I’m running to add to my iTunes), as did Louis Armstrong, David Bowie, Jack Jackson and Bing Crosby. The poet Bei Dao wrote The Boat With the Red Sail.