Of all the wonders of Egypt â€“ the glittering pharaohnic treasure, the magical ancient temples, the astonishing tombs, the warmth and hospitality of its people â€“ the river Nile reigns supreme. Without it, Egypt would be nothing but dry sand and rock. Its blue waters running north for 4,000 miles, created by rain falling in Ethiopia, are the life blood of Egypt. Indeed the river drains 10% of the entire African continent.
Despite Egyptâ€™s massive and growing population, long swathes of the river remain largely undeveloped and sparsely populated, though all of it is flanked by agriculture. As we floated down the river we witnessed the activities on the riverbanks, many of which, we sensed, are unchanged since people first inhabited the Nile valley.
Here, fellow traveller, Steve Wiltshire, surveys the scene from our small riverboat, the MS Doma:
Local people fish from small boatsâ€¦
â€¦ and are always happy to see you:
All the way along the river we saw small wooden craft including many simple sailing vessels:
The rich soil of the mudflats is perfect for growing crops. No need for expensive tractors when you can use oxen for ploughingâ€¦
â€¦ and donkey carts to fetch and carry the produce.
Uncomplaining, hard working and easy to maintain, donkeys really are the unsung hero(in)es of Africa!
From the vantage point of our boat, we glimpsed everyday life in the mudbrick riverside houses.
Women do the washing in the riverâ€¦
and the washing upâ€¦
and hang out the clothes to dry in the sun.
I was fascinated by what I was seeing on the banks of the Nile, but of course I couldnâ€™t stop the boat to paint one particular scene. Instead I made this study of the many of the different elements which we kept seeing; the shallow cultivated terraces rising away from the river planted with bananas, cane, animal fodder and huge palms, the mud cliffs and the reeds. And always the looming lion-yellow dunes and mountains behind this narrow strip of great fertility:
I have an idea to work this (or something very like it) into a completed painting.