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EGYPT : Historical
The River Nile, lifeblood of Egyptian civilisations throughout the millenia, can still count paddle steamers amongst the numerous vessels plying its waters.

The river has attracted tourists for many years and Nile cruises take visitors to some of the greatest archaelogical remains on the earth.
British tourists in the 19th century were the driving force for the construction of paddle steamers. In 1869, 28 years after organising his first escorted outing to nearby Loughborough in the English midlands, Leicester-based Thomas Cook & Sons, had hired a paddle steamer to take a tour group to the first cataract, the rocky shallows (with rapids and small waterfalls) near Aswan, on the Nile. This pioneering tour was successful enough that the new paddle steamer Beherah was hired for a second trip in January 1870. At the time transport along the Nile was by traditional dahabeah sailing boats traditional or old steamers were were operated on an irregular basis by the government-owned Azizeeh Company.  Later in 1870, a fortnightly timetabled service was instituted using the Beherah and four smaller steamers leased from the government. With growth in demand, a two-tier service became established : the larger vessels on tourist cruises which allowed guests, usually wealthy European tourists, to visit riverside attractions at numerous stops en route and an express service calling only briefly at these places. A second service was instituted to the second cataract in 1874, running from Aswan to Wadi Halfa in northern Sudan along the stretch now largely transformed into Lake Nasser.  

They went on to built their own hotels, including at Aswan where a change of steamers was needed to travel further south, and had a virtual monopoly over the tourist trade in the area under contract to the Khedive's government. They also gained exclusive contracts from the Egyptian Governement for the carriage of officials and mails and opened their own shipyard in Cairo.
In 1884 many of the paddle steamers of the fleet were requisitioned by the British Governement to transport a relief force, primarily made up of Egyptian troops, towards Khartoum in Sudan to try and relieve the siege of the city by Mahdi insurgents. The company could not offer its usual tourist programme and most of its fleet were seriously damaged in the doomed operation, although none of Cook's steamers actually reached Khartoum. Claiming compensation from the British Government, in 1886 the company embarked on a large fleet rebuilding programme.
Most of their vessels were assembled in Cairo with parts brought in from Britain. Two were built in France and their completed hulls were towed to Egypt.

The full conquest of Sudan under General Kitchener, who had been part of the earlier attempt to relieve Khartoum in 1885,
and Egyptian Khedive Abbas II took place in 1898 and was sealed by victory at the battle of Omdurman. Thomas Cook & Sons once again were involved in transporting troops but with railways now constructed for certain parts of the route, their role was limited to the more peaceful Egyptian section of the Nile between the railhead at Al Balyana and Aswan 

The Anglo-American Nile Navigation Company entered competition as tourists from the USA became particularly numerous. This company operated particularly large sternwheelers. In the winter of 1905/06 Anglo-American was taken over by the German-owned Hamburg-American Company along with their steamers Puritan and Mayflower and four others, whilst a new American concern, the Express Nile Navigation Company entered the market with their new steamers Virginian and America. The Hamburg company also put two new steamers on order for introduction the following season as competition really began to become intense. However, it was the Thomas Cook operation which was to prevail.

Thomas Cook's fleet was to suffer further decimation when the Royal Indian Marine, on behalf of the British Governement bought their paddle steamers to serve in Mesopotamia from 1916. The operations were nationalised in 1949 and the remaining vessels were sold off to local dignitaries. Sudan remained in the ownership of a leading politician until transferred to the newly-established Eastmar travel organisation in 1955 

Thomas Cook Fleet

Acknowledgements : My thanks to Paul Smith, Archivist at Thomas Cook Travel  for his kind assistance including the use of vessel photos from the company's archives. Thanks also to Stuart Cameron and the Scottish Built Ships Database

The above publicity can be dated to between 1890 and 1892

The side-wheel fleet comprised these steamers in 1904 :      (scroll down for the fleet as it stood in 1925)

For First Class passengers only :

Prince Abbas (Fairfield, 1886, 160x20 ft)
Tewfik (Fairfield, 1886, 160x20 ft), - originally named Prince Tewfik
(France 1886, 236x30 ft)
Amasis (France, 1886, 170x20 ft) - originally named Prince Mohammed Ali
Rameses the Great (Fairfield, Glasgow, 1889, 221x30 ft)
Rameses III (J McArthur, Paisley, engines by Bow, McLachlan, 1893, 200x28 ft)

Express steamers 
under contract to Egyptian Governement to carry mails, government and military officials

Cleopatra (J McArthur, Paisley, engines by Bow, McLachlan, 1888, 140x25 ft),
Nefertari (J McArthur, Paisley, engines by Bow, McLachlan, 1888, 140x25 ft),
Amenartas (J McArthur, Paisley, engines by Bow, McLachlan, 1888, 140x25 ft)
Hatasoo (J McArthur, Paisley, engines by Bow, McLachlan, 1890, 160x25 ft),

Smaller Steamers
often used for long private charter to the wealthy 

Memnon (1904, 131x19 ft)
Serapis (125x18 ft)
Oonas (110x18 ft)

Seti (100x18ft)

Prince Abbas, Amasis, Rameses III, Cleopatra, Nefertari,  Amenartas and Hatasoo were taken to Mespotamia in 1916 and owned by the Royal Indian Marine (who were in charge of the British campaign in the region). Rameses III was lost to fire at Amara on the River Tigris in 1916.
Tewfik and Rameses the Great were lost to fire in 1916 at Bouraq shipyard whilst being prepared to be sent to Mesopotamia

Paddle Steamers : 1904 Fleet

Above : Prince Abbas

Above : Amasis

Above : Hatasoo on war service

Above : Memnon

Above : Serapis.

Above : Oonas

Above :  Seti was used as a floating hotel at Aswan until 1894 when Thomas Cook purchased a hotel on the shores of the Nile

The side-wheel fleet comprised these steamers in 1925 :

Large (high-season services) : 

Egypt (Thornycroft, 1907, 230x32 ft),
Arabia (Thornycroft, 1911, 236x32 ft : 236 GRT),
Sudan (Bow, McLachlan, 1915-1921, 236x32 ft).

Small (generally sold for group charter) :

Memnon (1904, 131x19 ft),
Chonsu (125x18 ft),
Serapis (125x18 ft),
Oonas (110x18 ft),
Seti (100x18 ft), 

Sudan (in operation) and Memnon (derelict) still exist (as at January 2020)

For more about Egyptian paddle steamers see this report by Alan Dumelow on the Modern Luxor website

Paddle Steamers : 1925 Fleet

Above : Sudan

Above : Memnon

Above : Chonsu.

Sternwheelers : 

Rosetta -  Stern quarter wheeler (Ferguson, Port Glasgow, 1917, 220x30 ft) former British Army Hospital Ship "SP13", in Cooks fleet from 1922
Damietta -  Stern quarter wheeler (A&J Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow, 1917, 220x30 ft) former British Army Hospital Ship "HP15", in Cooks fleet from 1921

Delta (159x27 ft)
Thebes (150x26 ft)
(90x17 ft)

Rosetta and Damietta were originally intended for military hospital service on the Tigris in World War I but were in Alexandria at the time of the armistice. It is understood from research by Alistair Deayton that they were lengthened and converted from side-wheelers to quarter-wheelers for Nile service.


ROYAL YACHTS (Paddle Steamers)

1849 : Sayed Pacha : Built by Caird of Greenock for Mohammed Said

1865 : El Mahrousa  (converted to turbine steamer in 1905 and still in existence) and Bordein, both by Samuda Bros, London, for Khedive Ismail Pacha

1894 : Safa el Bahr : Built by A&J Inglis of Glasgow : 690 GRT : 220 x 27 ft : Triple Expansion 18, 29 and 48 in x 46 in

1926 : Kased Kheir : Built by JI Thornycroft in Southampton in kit form for King Fuad. 237 ft 9 in x 32 ft

Kased Kheir was used to take the deposed King Farouk into exile in 1952. In 1958 it was used as a hotel annexe. The Navy Hotel  - Kased Kheir in Cairo now has a smaller modern vessel moored outside.

Quarter-Wheel Steamer Karim

The British Army, still in Egypt after World War I brought over some paddlers - one of which became a Royal Yacht, and now a luxury river cruiser.

A steam-fired paddler, built in 1917. She is understood to have been built to a design of the Lytham Shipbuilding & Engineering Co for use on the Rivers Tigris and Eurphrates in Baghdad for the British Army. A number of vessels were sent to Iraq, but possibly six (one of which which became Karim), went for use in Egypt instead. Soon afterwards she was used by the then Sultan, later King Fuad I of Egypt and later by his son and, after the republican revolution, state presidents.

She has been in regular passenger service for public cruises since refurbishment in 1991. The 45.8 metre long vessel has 15 luxury cabins and is equipped for 30 passengers. Her normal schedule is for 7-night cruises from Luxor to the Aswan Dam at Lake Nasser and is operated by local company Spring Tours.
She has stern-placed side wheels, the so-called "quarter-wheel" arrangement, which can be operated independently and are driven by two compound engines.

Karim 5.jpg
Photo kindly supplied by Mr Morsi Shehata, General Manager of Spring Tours

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