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Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff [Kindle Edition]

Rosemary Mahoney
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: £4.99 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
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Book Description

Rosemary Mahoney was determined to take a solo trip down the Egyptian Nile in a small boat, even though civil unrest and vexing local traditions conspired to create obstacles every step of the way. Starting off in the south, she gained the unlikely sympathy and respect of a Muslim sailor, who provided her with both a seven-foot skiff and a window into the culturally and materially impoverished lives of rural Egyptians. Egyptian women don't row on the Nile, and tourists aren't allowed to for safety's sake. Mahoney endures extreme heat during the day, and a terror of crocodiles while alone in her boat at night. Whether she's confronting deeply held beliefs about non-Muslim women, finding connections to past chroniclers of the Nile, or coming to the dramaticm realization that fear can engender unwarranted violence, Rosemary Mahoney's informed curiosity about the world, her glorious prose, and her wit never fail to captivate.

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'Mahoney, who has been rowing for 10 year, brilliantly juxtaposes an account of her own palm-blistering hours on the Nile....with the diary entries of two Victorian travelers-Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale.' Lisa Fugard, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

'Sensuous and richly textured writing and an eye for vivid and startling details' NEW YORK TIMES

'Utterly frank; sometimes rather scary; often extremely witty, brave and revealing in its generalizations; and above all essentially kind' - Jan Morris

Book Description

An exciting and amusing adventure that offers a fresh view of Egypt in the past and the present - by a prize-winning author.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 683 KB
  • Print Length: 286 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 031610745X
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (11 July 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #736,765 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant travel book. 27 Jun. 2012
This is a powerful story: the journey is often challenging but Rosemary is a deep and honest woman who can stay focused on the task ahead of her and who knows what needs to be said, described and confessed... She is skilled, not just at rowing but also as a writter and this is what gives her story the impact that will stay with you for a very long time.
Every aspiring woman traveller should read this book for its beauty and wisdom and every man should get to know Rosemary's story for its unique feminine message.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good advice 27 Mar. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very good book mostly about how Western women are percieved and misunderstood by the majority of Arab men. It's well written and informative on a number of subjects including Florence Nightingale and other early travellers. I was able to identify sites from the descriptions in the book and this rounded out facts given by tour guides.
Don't expect hints on rowing but do take the advice on what to wear,say and behave when in Egypt.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Living in Egypt and familiar with the Nile this book brought a very real and vivid picture of travelling on the Nile. It brought into sharp focus the very different place of women in Egyptian society. The sights and sounds along the ebb and flo of the river punctuated the account with a sense of being in Luxor and sharing the journey forst hand. An account well worth sharing
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More about making arrangements than rowing. 8 Jun. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've learned some depressing information about Egyptian people and their lifestyle but there is little about rowing that's interests me. The author could not row alone but otherwise it will interest river boaters. I think the rest of the world would be better to visit first. The author rows a lot near her home in America but there is no story about that.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  61 reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent travel without leaving home 24 July 2007
By Armchair Interviews - Published on
The single word that summarizes this beautiful book is "exquisite." It is an exquisitely written travel diary, a brief and inquisitive glimpse into an alien world and culture, in a land that has entranced travellers, tourists, and adventurers for centuries. The result is neither patronizing nor rose-tinted, but compassionate, human, often perplexed, and occasionally fearful.

An accomplished rower, Rosemary Mahoney sets off to fulfil her long-time ambition to row down part of the Nile. Most regard her as stir crazy for even thinking about such a feat, particularly as a woman, in an Egypt paranoid about tourists travelling alone.

Her greatest difficulty turns out to be the seemingly simple task of procuring a boat. Having spent days in Aswan, trying to persuade somebody, anybody, to sell her a small craft, she eventually meets a gentle Nubian felucca captain, who agrees to let her use his boat on condition that he sail his felucca at a distance behind her for protection. Having successfully completed this leg of her trip, she travels to Luxor where she buys another boat and travels a farther stretch of the river to Qena, this time completely alone.

The real treasures in this book are the accounts of Rose's encounters with ordinary Egyptian people, from the giggling group of Nubian village girls, to the creepy Jimi Hendrix look-alike felucca captain. Her conversations with some of the Egyptian men make for wonderful reading. Their mixture of mischievousness, naivety, and malignity; their bizarre and unhealthy obsession with sex; their `doublethink' attitudes to Western and Muslim women, all offer a unique insight into the minds and culture of the people that is accessible, refreshing, and humorous.

Rosemary Mahoney's descriptive powers are at times breathtaking. Her language is simple and yet evocative: the reader can feel the tension in a room, hear the tone of voice in a conversation, see the baked skyline, and feel the oppressiveness of the heat. She has an unusual ability to capture the trivial detail that conveys the essential substance of a situation.

Armchair Interview says: This is one talented writer--and is a top-drawer book.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lady, please, let me help . . . 18 Nov. 2007
By Ronald Scheer - Published on
Knowing that this book is about an American woman who makes it her mission to row a boat down a section of the Nile, you may think you've got an idea of what it's about. You don't. You have to read it. Just about anything you might anticipate doesn't happen. It's a travel book that's really about being a foreigner - and a woman - in a culture where both tourists and women are regarded with a mixture of fierce protectiveness and alarm. It's easy to use the word chauvinistic to describe the Egyptian men's response to Mahoney as she attempts to buy a row boat to start her journey in Aswan. But it's far more complex than that. Along the way, she meets men of all kinds, most determined to take her under their supervision, while making over-familiar advances. Only one, a Nubian, seems to regard her with the respect she is accustomed to, and half of the book has passed before she is able to finally make an arrangement with him that lets her borrow his boat, while he follows her downstream at a distance in another. Meanwhile the few women she meets envy her freedom and her ability, as a westerner, to move about in the world as she wants.

The journey she takes in the book is not so much about what she sees along the way. Like Florence Nightingale, Flaubert, and other earlier visitors to Egypt, whose travel writings she includes in the book, she focuses on how travel "washes one's eyes and clears away the dust." Illumination comes in the form of talks with the people she meets, and what they reveal is often a kind of perplexed dismay at the cultural ironies that weigh down the spirit and generate a longing for a life that is always elsewhere. Until the final pages, rowing down the Nile itself turns out to be mostly uneventful. Then a late-night encounter with another traveler on the river galvanizes all the pages leading up to it into an eye-clearing vision of what some would call a collision of cultures. Finally, this is a disturbing book that haunts one long afterwards with post-colonial images of a world strangely adrift and - what's the word for it - foreign.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars But what about Madeleine Stein? 14 Oct. 2007
By Chez - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a rather strange take on the usual "My Trip to Egypt" memoirs written by other intrepid adventurers to the area. Most of the book is spent with the author obsessively searching for a boat in which she can row herself down the Nile - alone. The quest to obtain such a boat brings her in contact with a bevy of wild and wonderful characters - none of them keen to see the author realize her ambition.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mahoney's description of the Egyptian people - their confusion as to why on earth a woman alone would want to row down the Nile, and their often bumbling efforts to allow them to do the rowing for her. She brilliantly evokes the feeling of the Nile and the Egyptian land, so that you can almost feel the heat from the sand and hear the river in it's relentless flow. I came to love the character Amr - a gentle Egyptian with a huge heart and even bigger spirit.

Mahoney peppers her account with fascinating insights from luminaries such as Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert, both of whom had travelled to Egypt in the previous century and had each written of their own
experiences. And along with the historical points of interest, Mahoney unearths all sorts of weird and wonderful facts that won't fail to surprise and titillate the reader.

But then we come to Madeleine Stein. Here is a woman who lives and works in Egypt, speaks fluent Arabic, is obviously somewhat of an adventurer, and she agrees to accompany the author down the Nile in order to satisfy the legal requirements of the inspectors. Indeed, the book is dedicated to her. A fascinating woman by anyone's account, but what does she look like? How old is she? Who does she live with? What does she think about things? Whereas Mahoney has intricately described every other character in the book, including herself from a self snapped photo, there is absolutely no quality information on Madelaine Stein other than the bare facts of her presence. This omission was almost irritating enough to deduct a star from my review.

Other than this, an enjoyable read and highly recommended.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What A Brave Lady! 9 April 2008
By S. L. Parker - Published on
I recently returned from a tour of Egypt and a 5 day cruise down the Nile, and I've got to say that Ms. Mahoney has written one great story about this charming and mysterious country. Myself being a single woman and traveling alone in this strange land, I must say that this author is spot on with her descriptions and characterizations of everything Egyptian and there aren't enough words to say how much I enjoyed this book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone planning a trip to Egypt, especially single women traveling alone.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All for the love of rowing! 22 Nov. 2007
By P. Thompson - Published on
Down the Nile; Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff, Rosemary Mahoney, Little Brown, Hatchett Book Group, 2007.
An independent, world savvy writer in her thirties, from Providence RI, loves to row. In Egypt on a writing assignment she gets the irresistible idea of rowing down the Nile. Two years later she is back, intent on rowing herself from Aswan to Qena. Restrictions about who and where to be on the river and difficulties finding a boat seem insurmountable, and she spends the hot days hanging about the wharfs, bearing up with men's brazen questions and requests. All Egyptian men are like this, she thinks, until she meets Amr, who captains a felucca for sightseeing tourists. Amr has a 7 foot skiff, and surprisingly tells Rose to take it out whenever she likes.
The oars are cumbersome, but she does enjoy rowing about Elephantine Island, still looking for a proper rowboat. When finally she confides in Amr about the real reason she wants a boat, he tries to warn her off--police restrictions; danger of a woman traveling alone, etc. Scenes at Amr's humble home on Elephantine Island (populated by Nubians, which Amr is) with his decrepit mother and resigned, fat sister are heartrending. Seeing Rose's determination, Amr says he will follow her in his felucca part way, to a more advantageous place to buy a fishing boat. They leave at 3:30 am to avoid police checks, Rose buys herself a dilapidated, whimsically painted boat, has adventures, and writes it all up beautifully.
p. 9-- . . . . I rowed on the Charles River in a carbuncled dinghy, while the elegant fours and eights speared by like airborne swans. I rowed on the Aegean Sea and on a pond in Oregon.
p. 121-- The river had a grass-green hue at this hour and felt supple and comfortable beneath me, like a down mattress. On the track that ran along the rubbly east bank at the foot of some sandy reddish cliffs, the train to Cairo clattered and whistled, stirring up a twister of dust behind it. Herons gargled in the bushes overhanging the river. Near noon the call to prayer began to emanate from beyond great stands of banana trees all along the banks; from this distance it was a melancholy lowing sound, warped occasionally by the idle wind. I stayed close to the west bank and rowed steadily while the sun crept higher in the sky. The current seemed to move faster the farther I got from Aswan. I was breathless with expectation, happiness, and anxiety.
p. 145-- . . . . He turned the little glass around and around in his fingers; the hand blown vessel was blue and flawed and full of air bubbles, a coarse, lopsided, hastily fabricated device found in every corner shop in Egypt, and beautiful--to me at least--precisely for its roughness.
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