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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, had hired two paddlers for his tours of the Nile. They went on to built their own hotels and had a virtual monopoly over the tourist trade in the area. After 1885 they really began to expand their own fleet and for the 1896 season, the Anglo-American Nile Navigation Company entered competition as tourists from the USA became particularly numerous. 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 heat up - just as it had done, for example, on the Firth of Clyde only a few years earlier.

Thomas Cook Fleet

The Thomas Cook fleet at its zenith comprised three different sizes of steamer built in the 20th century to complement earlier vessels. There were also a number of much smaller vessels : dahabayas, launches and tugs.

The fleet in 1904 comprised these steamers :

For First Class passengers only :

Rameses (236x30 ft),
Rameses the Great (Fairfield, Glasgow, 1889, 221x30 ft),
Rameses the Third (J McArthur, Paisley, engines by Bow, McLachlan, 1893, 200x28 ft),
Amasis (170x20 ft),
Prince Abbas (Fairfield, 1886, 160x20 ft),
Tewfik (Fairfield, 1886, 160x20 ft), - originally named Prince Tewfik
Memnon (1904, 131x19 ft)

Express steamers for first class and "native" passengers : 

Hatasoo (J McArthur, Paisley, engines by Bow, McLachlan, 1890, 160x25 ft),
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)

Rameses III, Cleopatra and Amenartas were taken to Mespotamia in 1916 and owned by the Royal Indian Marine (who were in charge of the British campaign in he region). Rameses III was lost to fire in at Amara 1916.

Steam Dahabeahs

Serapis (125x18 ft)
Oonas (110x18 ft)
Nitocris (103x15 ft)
Mena (100x18 ft)

Thomas Cook's fleet also included a number of steel-hulled sailing dahabeahs and tugs.
Rameses the Great and Tewfik were lost to fire in 1916 whilst being prepared to be sent for war service in Mesopotamia for the Royal Indian Marine.
Prince Abbas, Rameses the Third Nefertari, Hatasoo, Cleopatra, Amenartaras were sent to Mesopotamia.
Rameses the Third was destroyed by fire at Amara on the River Tigris in 1916

The fleet in 1925 comprised these steamers :

Large (high-season services) :
Egypt (Thornycroft, 1907, 230x32 ft),
Arabia (Thornycroft, 1911, 236x32 ft),
Sudan (Bow, McLachlan, 1915-1921, 236x32 ft).
Rosetta (Ferguson, Port Glasgow, 1917, 220x30 ft) former British Army Hospital Ship "SP13", in Cooks fleet from 1922
Damietta (A&J Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow, 1917, 220x30 ft) former British Army Hospital Ship "HP15", in Cooks fleet from 1921

Medium (off-season services) :
Delta (159x27 ft),
Thebes (150x26 ft)

Small (generally sold for group charter) :
Memnon (1904, 131x19 ft),
Chonsu (125x18 ft),
Serapis (125x18 ft),
Oonas (110x18 ft),
Fostat (100x22 ft),
Seti (100x18 ft),
Scarab (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.
Fostat was a sternwheeler.

with thanks to Thomas Cook Travel (Archives Department) for their kind assistance and also the Clydebuilt Ships Database 

Above :  Prince Abbas. Photo supplied by kind courtesy of Thomas Cook Travel Archives via Stuart Cameron

Chonsu Thomas Cook.jpg

Above : Chonsu. Photo kindly supplied by Paul Smith, Archivist, Thomas Cook Travel Archives.

Serapis Thomas Cook s.jpg

Above : Serapis. Photo kindly supplied by Paul Smith, Archivist, Thomas Cook Travel Archives.

Oonas - Thomas Cook s.jpg

Above : Oonas. Photo kindly supplied by Paul Smith, Archivist, Thomas Cook Travel Archives.

Memnon - Thomas Cook 1s.jpg

Above : Memnon. Photo kindly supplied by Paul Smith, Archivist, Thomas Cook Travel Archives.

Memnon and Sudan still exist and it is believed that Eqypt and Delta survive but are laid up
For more about Egyptian paddle steamers see this report by Alan Dumelow on the Modern Luxor website :


Many ships on the Nile, including paddle steamers, can claim to be "Royal Yachts". Many came into rhe ownership of the Egyptian king from private comnpanies, including Thomas Cook. Some were genuinely built for the king. Others have assumed former "royal yacht" status in recent years as a marketing tool by owners selling their ships to the international tourist market even if this claim is spurious. Few will know and even fewer will be bothered or able to do the necessary research. Some current claims have to be treated with scepticism other than to say that in theory, all ships were ultimately in some way under the ownership or patronage of the king

Kassed Kheir is one luxurious paddle steamer which does appear to have been a genuine royal yacht, described in this article after research by Alan Dumelow

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Paddle Steamers of the Past

Egypt : Sidewheelers
Egypt : Sternwheelers