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Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff
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Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,242 Ratings  ·  232 Reviews
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 ma ...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published July 1st 2007 by Little Brown and Company
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Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book combined several of my favorite things: a travelogue, an outdoor adventure, a strong female narrator, and as a bonus, there is some astute social and cultural commentary. In short, I developed a major girl-crush on Rosemary Mahoney while reading about her experiences in Egypt.

I had come to Egypt to take a row down the Nile. My plan, inspired by a love of rowing, was to buy a small Egyptian rowboat and row myself along the 120-mile stretch of river between the cities of Aswan and Qena.
Jan 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The review I wanted to write was going to describe the rape of Egypt's artifacts (circa early 1800s) when it became popular for European travelers to visit the African nation after 1000 years of rule that virtually barred foreign visitors from the area. Visitors looted mummies, bones, art, and artifacts. They thought nothing of it. They didn't see themselves for what they were - grave robbers, thieves.

I was also going to reference the fact that both Gustav Flaubert and Florence Nightingale visit
Emily V
Jan 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
The author is a traveler of the most dangerous kind: uninformed, uninterested and unresponsive. Her "odyssey" is not only outside of the cultural norm, but is dangerous and illegal. She neglects to consider that perhaps the resistance to her project was for her protection as opposed to a blatant rejection of female independence. Clearly, a foreign man would have met the same fate. She brags that in America, any "psycopath could...indulge in any half-baked boating scheme he was capable of devisin ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
A Spanish proverb comes to mind as I begin any travel:
As You Go Through Life ...
... travel lightly. You are not traveling for people to see you.
... travel expectantly. Every place you visit is like a surprise package to be opened. Untie the strings with an expectation of high adventure.
... travel humbly. Visit people and places with reverence and respect for their traditions and way of life.
... travel with an open mind. Leave your prejudices at home.
... travel with curiosity. It is not how far
Howie Rosen
Jul 10, 2009 rated it liked it
It might seem like a stretch to say that Ms. Mahoney's travel experience on the Nile resonated with my own family vacation to Costa Rica, but that's what happened time and again. Unquestioningly, the best part of her trip was luxuriating in the moment, while rowing in a skiff, on a remote part of the Nile, without the interference of a guide or any other mettlesome native--no small matter in Egypt, particularly for a tourist of female persuasion. Some of the loveliest parts of Costa Rica can be ...more
Beth Asmaa
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
After my reading some harrowing sea fiction and some magical realism, this story about a woman's solo boating journey between the Nile towns of Aswan and Qena was stunningly journalistic. The author Rosemary Mahoney is nonetheless a good storyteller, relating social situations, historical accounts by previous Egyptian travelers, and especially her own experiences before and during her waterborne journey in a rowboat. She frequently quotes from earlier Nile tourists especially Florence Nightingal ...more
Eszter Faatima Sabiq
An American woman decides to row down the Nile from upper Egypt and writes about her impressions of the country during the trip. I did enjoy the descriptions and her brief interviews with the people she met but her attitude is bordering intolerable to me. She speaks with mostly rural, uneducated, impoverished people then generalises her findings to the whole of Egypt, not even mentioning once how the Egyptian society is structired along the lines of class, education, region, wealth, occupation a ...more
Oct 12, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was intriguing, partly because it was not so much what I was expecting--a sort of travelogue--as a picture of the plight of women and the hypersexualizing of men in a sexually repressed society. The reader is as frustrated as the writer by the obstacles to going "Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff, " which turns out to be a nearly impossible project for a woman.
Mahoney is very intellectual and a lot of the enjoyment, for me, was the interspersed quotes from Flaubert's and Nigh
May 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, memoirs
One of my favorite genres is the travel narrative: Paul Theroux, William Least Heat Moon. I like living vicariously plus the insight a good travel writer provides into a (to me) exotic locale. Mahoney did both in this narrative. One could say there’s too much here on her struggle to obtain a boat in the face of the Egyptian (male) cultural prejudice against women acting independently. Time after time she faces these obstacles (Where is your husband? But I can take you!, etc.). As Mahoney felt at ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Boston native and avid rower Rosemary Mahoney, once an assistant to playwright Lillian Hellman, has led a peripatetic life, and her writing reflects the breadth of her travels and the depth of her thinking on cultural matters. Previous efforts include The Early Arrival of Dreams, the author's experiences in China just before Tiananmen Square; The Singular Pilgrim, a spiritual travelogue; and Whoredom in Kimmage, a treatise on Irish gender roles. In On the Nile, the author writes beautifully of t

Jenny (Reading Envy)
This wasn't quite what I was expecting - I really thought more of it would be about the journey itself, but the story leading up to it is interesting too.

"In Egypt, a Western woman would never truly be a woman, nor did she quite approach the status of a man; instead, her identity was more like that of a pleasant but irrelevant animal like, say, a peahen or a manatee."

Monica S.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An amazingly inspiring and vividly visual book. Reading it, you are with her in every moment, seeing and experiencing her surroundings, feeling her fears and enjoying the peace and serenity of the scenic river and the tranquilty of her quiet rowing. Loved it.
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: travel buffs
This is a good book for anyone who has a secret (or not-so-secret) wish to get out of town a little bit more. This is the true tale of the author's quest to row up the Nile in spite of the fact that even procuring a boat in Egypt is a difficult task for a woman.

The trip itself isn't really the focus of the book; it's more about the people she meets along the way and her trials as she tries to navigate a very different culture. She's an excellent writer, and this book can be a quick read. I love
Janice Booth
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could have given this book 10 stars. Rosemary Mahoney's true life account of an American woman attempting to buy a boat then row it down the Nile was as visceral as it was beautifully written. I have never been to Egypt but Mahoney brought me into that world and I was there with her in the heat, swatting at bugs, overhearing the awkward and frustrating conversations with boatmen and other Egyptian characters that were scarily real. I don't want to say too much and qualify this review as ...more
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a non-fiction account of the author's journey down the Nile in a rowboat. A great deal of the book is about the difficulties of a woman in Egypt even buying a boat. The book is peppered with historical and geographical tidbits of the area. Personally I felt too much of the book dwelled on Florence Nightingale and Gaustave Flaubert's account of their experience down the Nile. The first hand accounts were very riveting though. the author's joy, frustration, anger, fear , and satisfaction a ...more
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book, neatly and tightly written. It's funny and upsetting in turns, which I guess is pretty much how things are when a woman endeavors to row a boat up the Nile alone... if only the Egyptians would leave her alone for five minutes. The episode at the end of the book took me by surprise in its intensity, but boy, did she impress me with her analysis after the fact. Worth reading for anyone interested in traveling to places where the culture is just plain "other", or for those who like ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book for those interested in a western woman's solo travels in current day Egypt; there's actually very little rowing in the story, as opposed to her desire to do so. I've seen reviews where she's been seen as culturally chauvinistic, but I could imagine the frustration of being classified as an "honorary man" there. I've given it four stars for the high quality of the writing.
Dec 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
The author is uptight, humorless and not very likeable. It's difficult to understand why she travels, since she apparently does not enjoy it very much. She expects the worst in people, and imagines danger around every corner. A most unsatisfying read.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Armchair travel! Rosemary Mahoney likes three things : 1. rowing 2. the Nile 3. being alone. So she wanted to do some rowing, by herself, on the Nile. This proved easier said than done; just finding a rowboat locally that she could borrow or buy, was quite a time-consuming undertaking. When she did find one that would suit, the boat's owner, Amr, insisted on following her in his boat, sincerely concerned about her well-being. She tolerated his well-intentioned hovering, but was very eager to get ...more
Jim Buck
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rosemary Mahoney invites her readers to share the adventure she set out on in 2006. As the title states, she rowed solo down 120 miles of Egypt's legendary river from Aswan to Qena. She not only brings this adventure to life through words, but places it within the broader context of Egyptian history (esp from Napoleon to the present) and culture as well as the history of Westerners touring Egypt. While Egypt's millennia of ancient history is beyond the scope of her book, Mahoney is great at vivi ...more
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Down the Nile is about Rose Mahoney's adventure as she rowed down part of the Nile. It was well written, and full of interesting observations about Egyptian culture. Since I love to canoe, this book about a trip down a river captured my imagination. She includes some some excerpts from some famous people who traveled to Egypt many years ago, including Florence Nightingale, Flaubert, and Winston Churchill. There was an extensive bibliography at the end of the book for anyone looking for historic ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book very interesting in the descriptions of life in Egypt, and the in the comparisons of historical figures that cruised on the Nile in years past. This lady wanted to row, by herself, down the Nile, and the book follows all the problems she encountered because she was a woman alone in Egypt.
Momo Lambkin
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
For a light read, this book packs quite a lot of well researched details. I especially loved the references to Florence Nightingale and Flaubert's memoirs, and the detailed but not cumbersome details. perfect book to read before travelling to Egypt.
Gail Henry
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
A most interesting read. Very well written and interesting on so many levels -- as travel book, as historical record, as impressions of what it is to be a tenacious woman in a very restrictive society. I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
entertaining at first but couldn't finish it...gets very bogged down...I skipped to the last few pages and very anti climatic; her descriptions of the way animals and kids were treated were very matter of fact and that bothered me a lot
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-story, travel
Having been to Egypt, I loved this book, especially when it is about a woman doing things that women are not supposed to do, according to some people. Floating down the Nile is an absolutely wonderful feeling. I would do it again.
Katherine Silva-sampaio
Nov 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
A third of the book was excerpts from other people’s accounts of the Nile. Then when it was her own writing it all seemed highly judgement of the Egyptian people. The author came across as privileged and unappreciative of her journey.
Steve Comstock
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
One of the best travelogues I have read in a long time. Rosemary Mahoney is curious and inquisitive, soaking up every detail of her landscape and the culture that dwells in it, and filtering those details through a remarkably well-read and well-informed perspective.
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Imprinted Lives: Down the Nile: alone in a fisherman's skiff/ Rosemary Mahoney 2 3 Sep 20, 2014 12:35AM  
Study Questions 2 15 May 14, 2008 01:40PM  
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Rosemary Mahoney (born January 28, 1961 Boston) is an American non-fiction writer.

She grew up in Milton, Massachusetts, andgraduated from St. Paul's School (Concord, New Hampshire). She worked briefly for Lillian Hellman.

She has attended Yaddo.

She has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Elle, National Geog