Thursday, June 04, 2009

Down the Nile, Rosemary Mahoney

Rosemary Mahoney, Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2007. paperback, 269 pps
excluding bibliography and reading group guide.

Rosemary Mahoney is a rower by choice. She likes it. She first began to row from a Casco Bay Island in Maine where
she used to live to the mainland. She continues to row where she now lives in Rhode Island. Having been to Egypt
a couple times before, Mahoney became enamoured of the Nile itself as well as with the folks who live along side it.
She decided that she wanted to row part of the Nile.

The problem is that (most of Egypt is Muslim and there are a few Coptic Christians thrown in for good measure) as a
woman in Egypt, Egyptian men did not believe that she should or could do much strenuous work. She found the purchase
of a skiff to be very difficult. She ran into an Egyptian man who did allow her to row his boat around the hotel
where she was staying at. The friendship between her and Amr resulted in her being a guest in his home on Elephantine
Island. At long last, she was allowed to row his boat partway up the Nile with his felucca sailing behind her. At
a halfway point, she takes her leave of Amr and succeeds in buying her own skiff. She rowed the rest of the journey

rosemary Mahoney has written a fine book. The rowing is essential to the story but also a backdrop. Through her
experiences, she illustrates the difficulties that vastly different cultures have in understanding each other. She
also quotes from the travels of several other Nile travelers-- among them Florence Nightingale. Florence Nightingale
was far more than the nurse I had learned about in grade school. For me, the book got off to a slow start, the middle
was excellent, and the ending was rather anticlimactically and suffered a certain lack. At any rate, this book comes
recommended to armchair travelers looking for something a bit different. I also must admit that Down the Nile seems
to me to be very much chick lit and not something that the average man would appreciate.

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