If you are planning to read Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney and if you wish to be surprised by the events of the story, do not read past this paragraph. I will tell you that I enjoyed reading it and think it brings up interesting questions about Americans who travel to less developed nations. With the right group of people, it would be a great discussion book.
Mahoney never tells us precisely when she took her journey. It may have been 1998 because she refers to the 1997 attack on tourists in Luxor as being the previous year. I suspect she spent several years considering how she wanted to write the story.
The idea of her adventure started on a previous trip to Egypt. As she sat on a cruise down the Nile, she had an inspiration:
"Unable to leave the ship, with its planned itinerary and guided tours, I realized I might as well be watching this wonder from behind a glass wall. What I wanted really, was not just to see the Nile River but to sit in the middle of it in my own boat, alone."
Mahoney comes back to Egypt later to wander around the waterfront of Aswan, looking for a boat to purchase. No one wants to sell. The fallucah captains would rather take her on a private cruise and earn many American dollars. Most of the Egyptian men with whom see speaks ask her more questions than she is willing to answer, as she knows the local police would not allow her to row alone. She eventually settles for a rowing trip accompanied by a fallucah with its captain, a deckhand, and a friend, but she keeps scheming to get what she really wants - to be really alone on the river.
Eventually she gets what she wants and has a rotten time. When her situation becomes dangerous, she reacts badly and starts asking herself questions. Why do Western tourists think that they have the right to flaunt local authorities in third world countries? Why do they belittle local beliefs and customs? Why do they make unreasonable demands of the poor locals to satisfy their irrational dreams? What is the source of Western arrogance?
Down the Nile is not the happy story readers might expect from having read other travel adventure. Instead, it is a confession and appeal for more responsible tourism. As I stated above, it could spark interesting discussion.
Mahoney, Rosemary. Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff. Little Brown, 2007. ISBN 9780316107457