The felucca ride to Banana Island is a popular trip from Luxor. But where is that island? „Felucca? Banana Island?“ the touts at the Luxor Corniche shout every time they spot a tourist (even in quite a far distance). “No thank you, no Banana Island for us today” we usually decline politely.
Is Banana island really an island?
„There is no reason to go there. It’s very touristy. You walk through some banana trees, and then you sit down in chairs like in my garden and eat some bananas, that’s all“, Mustafa from the Villa Nile House had confirmed our suspicions. But as it happens, we have to check out the Banana Island trip this time for the guide book research. To save time, we decide to take a motorboat instead of a felucca. Once we are on the Nile, there are a number of feluccas sailing in our direction, towards Banana Island. It is obviously a popular excursion. As the water level of the Nile is low at this time of the year, we go past a lot of plastic rubbish lying on the shores; large hotel blocks loom on the other side of the river. We stop just a few kilometers upstream on the West Bank, where a number of feluccas are already parked. Balady, our captain, escorts us to show us the “island”. “But it’s just the West Bank, why is it called an island?,” we ask: “There is no other Nile arm beyond.” “Oh yes, it’s surrounded by water on all sides”, Balady insists. Well, maybe it should be called “Banana Continent” then, instead of Banana Island. But of course, there is a small irrigation channel somewhere beyond the Banana plantation.
The banana plantation
And at least the Banana part of the promise is perfectly true. There’s a proper banana plantation you can wander about leisurely, with a traditional round dovecote in the centre and a tiny pond next to it. In the corner of this, a lonely crocodile is hunched: shedding crocodile tears about his confined living conditions?
Finally, we get out onto the terrace of the attached café, where several groups of Western tourists are drinking tea and an extended Egyptian family has just ordered 18 Pepsi light. With our 5 LE entrance fee, we get one kilo of complimentary bananas for the way home.
On further inquiry, it turns out that there are currently three different “banana islands” in the Luxor area, none of them on an actual island. Presumably, it is nicer in spring and summer when the water level is higher, but for felucca rides we would recommend Aswan instead, or even Cairo.