Almost one hundred years old, the Steam Ship Sudan is the last witness to the Belle Epoque days of Nile cruising. In its wake floats the visionary spirit of Sir Thomas Cook and the history of cruises on the legendary river.
1869 The Suez canal is created, opening the maritime trade route between Europe and Asia. Egypt’s economy and tourism immediately benefit. Thomas Cook, the visionary British entrepreneur, seizes the opportunity to explore a country boasting thousands of years of history and a uniquely comfortable climate and way of life. Convinced that this potential would appeal to the British aristocracy, Cook and his son (Cook & Son) organise the first cruise on a boat rented from the Khedive, or vice-roy.
1876 Egypt becomes a British protectorate. Cook further develops his Nile cruises. In 1880, he obtains the concession for all tourism-related river sailing. In 1884, his vessels are requisitioned for the military campaign in Sudan, and return seriously damaged. The British pioneer therefore launches his own fleet of steam ships. Prince Abbas, Tewfik, Rameses are built in Scotland, and the parts later assembled in Cairo.
1899 Cook extends his empire along the Nile banks with the construction of the Old Cataract Hotel at Aswan, designed to cater to cruise passengers obliged to stop off on their way to the great temples of Upper Nubia, reached on another ship. The Aswan dam, inaugurated in 1902, changes the situation, and the numbers of tourists rises constantly.
1911-1921 Cook builds a new fleet of faster steam ships, composed of the Egypt, the Arabia, and theSudan. They reduce the length of a Cairo-Aswan voyage to 20 days, and eager tourists flock on board.
1922-1935 The Sudan and Nile cruising in general enjoy a golden age. Diplomats, businessmen andarchaeologists pay handsomely to discover the fabulous sites of Ancient Egypt. In 1933, Agatha Christie embarks, accompanied by her husband, on an archaeological mission. During the cruise, the grand dame of mystery is inspired to write Death on the Nile.
1939-1991 The Second World War rings the death knell of tourism in Egypt. The Sudan lies abandoned anddocked for more than 50 years. In the early 90s, with the advent of more democratic tourism and a new boom in Nile cruises, an Egyptian shipowner relaunches the Sudan for a German tour operator, but the vessel is once more abandoned.
2000 Two directors of Voyageurs du Monde discover the Sudan in a pitiful state. They join forces with the Egyptian owner and after six months of refitting work the vessel is ready to sail.
2006 Voyageurs du Monde take complete command of the ship. Major work is carried out to modernise it and restore it to its former glory. The Steam Ship Sudan sets sail once more to explore the Nile and its historic attractions.
2011 In June, as every four years, the ship is put in dry dock for a complete overhaul. This year, the motors have been entirely renovated, bringing significant improvements in energy consumption and soundproofing. The kitchens have also been refurbished, and a vast organic vegetable garden is being laid out along the Nile banks to supply the restaurant.