At the outset of her new book, Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff, Rosemary Mahoney assures us she has no desire to die. She simply wants to row 120 miles down the world’s longest river, an unaccompanied Western woman gliding along the coffee-colored current, alone with flamingos and minarets. But the Nile isn’t just any river; local police will never allow her passage, she is told, and Egyptian fishermen might become “crazy” at the sight of a foreign woman adrift.
A year earlier, 58 tourists had been killed in a terrorist attack at Luxor’s Temple of Hatshepsut; this was no time for a foreigner to go it alone.
Thankfully, the Rhode Island-based writer isn’t easily thrown. Mahoney’s chronicle of her 1998 rowboat journey is an engaging and thoughtful travel memoir by a woman who decides to take on the Islam-West divide by way of a river and ends up turning gender and cultural biases upside down.
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