Several houseboats stand moored on the banks of the Nile River in Cairo, Egypt, on June 27, 2022. A government push to remove houseboats from Cairo’s Nile has reduced their numbers. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Several houseboats stand moored on the banks of the Nile River in Cairo, Egypt, on June 27, 2022. A government push to remove houseboats from Cairo’s Nile has reduced their numbers. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

A partially demolished houseboat sits on the banks of the Nile River after being moved from its moorings on July 1, 2022. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

A partially demolished houseboat sits on the banks of the Nile River after being moved from its moorings on July 1, 2022. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Iklas Helmy, an 88-year-old owner of a houseboat in Cairo, Egypt, sits on her veranda. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Iklas Helmy, an 88-year-old owner of a houseboat in Cairo, Egypt, sits on her veranda. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Iklas Helmy’s houseboat is shown from the riverbank garden. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Iklas Helmy’s houseboat is shown from the riverbank garden. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Iklas Helmy sits in her bedroom on her houseboat. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Iklas Helmy sits in her bedroom on her houseboat. (AP/Tarek Wagih)

Goodbye, Floating Houses

Posted: September 1, 2022

Some residents of Cairo, Egypt, need to think twice before stepping off the front porch. They’d wind up in the drink! They live on houseboats on the Nile River.

But now lawmakers in Egypt say, “Get these houseboats off the Nile!”

And people must obey, whether they want to or not.

Desert borders Cairo on three sides. No wonder people want to live on the water! Houseboaters can watch the passing Nile River, with its water taxis, fishermen, and rowers. Even a family of ducks pedals by once in a while.

But with houseboats gone, more businesses can come to the waterfront. The string of houseboats sits across from a fancy island called Zamalek. It seems authorities want more fancy and less houseboat.

Houseboaters mourn the loss of their homes. Iklas Helmy is 88. She owns a bright blue houseboat. She was even born on a houseboat! She asks, “You’re going to take my entire life away to build a café?”

Egypt is unique—not for its shiny skyscrapers, but for its sandy old history. Egypt boasts pyramids and mummies galore . . . and these things need protection. It can be hard to build new stuff without disturbing the old stuff.

And houseboats? They’re not ancient. But they are part of Egypt’s history. The boats look a lot like those that floated in Paris, France, in the mid-1800s. Back then, Egypt’s ruler, Ismail Pasha, tried to copy the architecture he had seen in France. For a time, Egyptian writers and filmmakers put houseboats in their movies and books.

But not everyone loves the boats. Ayman Anwar is a government official in Cairo. He says the houseboats are like old cars whose licenses have worn out.

Why? Egypt’s history didn’t stop with the ancient pharaohs. God is still at work in the people in this part of the world.