The Nile Bus: The Cheapest, fun Ride on the Nile
by Seif Kamel
It is one of the oldest means of transportation in modern Egypt. The Nile bus was first put into service in the 1960's. It was one of the convenient ways to travel on the Nile, and many people used it to go the to the fever hospital in Imbaba as it was the only way to go there. In 2001, the service had 35 buses with 14 stops and they operated from 6 AM to 5 PM every day of the week, with special trips on Friday, Sunday, and the national holidays, to the Giza Zoo. There are also night trips from 6 to 11 PM during these holidays. However, after the construction of many bridges over the Nile, like Kaser El Nile Bridge and the Six of October Bridge, the Nile bus transformed from a mean of transportation to a nice and cheap Nile trip as the ticket cost 50 Egyptian piaster (less than 10 cents).
I started my trip walking on the Nile side near the Nile bus station in Maspero. The place was full of people although it was 1:00 in the afternoon on a weekday. Most of the people were couples smiling and chatting with each other. The Nile is always considered one of the most famous traditional romantic places in Cairo.
I reached the Nile bus station and the place was so quiet and calm. I even thought the service had stopped because there werent many people using it this day. However, I asked a man in a uniform standing in the station if the buses were working. He told me that the Nile bus will be moving in 10 minutes going to Giza, near the Cairo University. He even turned out to be the man selling the tickets.
After I got my ticket I went near the bus to take a look at it. I still remember when my dad used to take me on a trip in the Nile bus. These buses havent changed much in the last 15 years. Although they claimed that the buses have been renovated, they looked the same way they did tens of years ago. One of the beauty secrets of the Nile bus is that they never change and always give you the feeling of the good old days in Cairo.
There are no doors. There is only a small opening and some stairs to enable the passengers to go into the bus. The bus has more than 100 seats but less than twenty-five percent were occupied. There were mainly two types of passengers.
Many of them were couples enjoying a cheap ride on the Nile, while the others were Egyptian families out with the kids for an afternoon ride. However, there were many empty rows of seats. One can sit by the window, forget about the other people in the bus, and enjoy the beauty of the Nile.
For some reason, the thing that attracted me the most in the bus was the steering wheel. It looked so old and fashionable as if it belonged to an old pirates ship. It made me want to drive the bus myself, but after a moment I thought that this was a truly childish idea. I was not alone though, as I heard several other people express the same wish.
As the bus started moving, I watched the driver trying to understand the operation of the bus. He made it seem so easy. I thought to myself this must be because he has been driving the bus for a number of years.
While the bus was still in the station, the weather was very hot because it was near noon and the chair I was sitting on was directly under the sun. However, I enjoyed watching the Nile from the window of the bus as I watched other boats and two small rowboats full of fishermen. When the boat started moving the cool air filled the bus. At this moment I began to understand why people are still riding in the Nile bus after all these years. It is a magnificent and easy way to be refreshed on a hot summer day.
The bus was moving slowly on the Nile and I wanted to take pictures of many pretty scenes we saw from the bus. At that point I found out why the bus had no doors. This is to enable people to stand on the stairs and enjoy the Nile view, the sun, and the refreshing air. I stood on the stairs and watched many famous places pass by the bus. We passed under two of the most important bridges in Egypt: Kaser El Nile Bridge and the Six of October Bridge. There were many people standing on the bridges and they even waved to us. We passed beside famous hotels like the Sheraton El Gezeira in Zamalek, Semaramis Intercontinental, Ramsis Hilton and the Nile Hilton. We saw the Cairo tower and the Egyptian television building. There is also a famous fountain in the middle of the Nile that is quite old and the bus passed around it.
Seeing other people in other boats on the Nile was also interesting, with people waving to us and we waving back to them. The most interesting scene was when we passed a small boat that had two foreign tourists sitting on the deck and enjoying the sun. They started taking pictures of the bus and they never thought any of the Egyptians on the Nile bus would have a camera. They didnt know I was there and as I took their picture, they started giggling. Watching the water passing by gave me a great refreshing feeling and made me forget about the traffic jams and many other problems. The greenery on the side of the river seemed so attractive and Cairo looked so pretty from the Nile.
I finally had to speak to the bus driver who had been staring at me most of the time. His name is Mahmoud Al Said and he has been driving the bus for 16 years now. He said that everything in Egypt has changed in the past 16 years except the Nile bus. The old man told me that he loves his job so much because riding in the Nile bus makes him forget about everything in his tough life. "I compare myself to a street bus driver and this makes me feel great!" He also added that driving the bus is not as easy as it seems. It is a complicated operation but because he has been driving the bus for so long it has become natural and easy for him to operate.
After about 20 minutes we reached the Giza station. The bus I was riding in was supposed to go to Misr El Kadeema, an old Egyptian neighborhood. However, the driver told the people waiting in the station that he had been told to go back to Maspero. I thought it was good for me to take the bus back to the station near my home. Of course, I know that the Nile Bus has a fixed schedule, but I also know that the schedule is not exactly used.
During the trip back to Maspero, I started thinking of how much I enjoyed the ride, the Nile view, and the air. This entire trip cost me only 1 Egyptian pound and I went from downtown to Giza in only 20 minutes. Its an impressive means of travel and one that more people should use. At the end of the ride at the Maspero station, the passengers had to step from the bus to another bus and then to the station. I used to enjoy these jumps very much when I was a kid and I enjoyed it in the same way now. I though to myself as I was walking outside the station that the Nile bus will always remain the best refreshing, cheap ride on the Nile and I thought that people from all over the world should come and take a ride on this magnificent traditional river bus.
Last Updated: 09/25/2005