"Once you live on the Nile, you will never return to the shore," says Madame Ikhlas Helmy, who was born and bred in one of the oldest houseboats and now owns one of the smartest. 
It's a world apart. The history of the awamat or 'dahabiehs', as they are sometimes called, goes back even further than Ikhlas can remember.
Most of them are moored in an area called Kit Kat, once the name of a nightclub frequented by King Farouk. Ikhlas laughed and said: 
"The Nile is like an imperious king. When he is angry, the waves are high but when he is content, the water resembles a pool of oil. "

Despite her obvious love of the water, upon her marriage to a wealthy socialite, Ikhlas reluctantly moved to an apartment on the posh island of Zamalek. 
"It was like a prison," she said, explaining: 
"My husband loved the Nile too but he wasn’t pre- pared to live on it. After his death, I moved back."
The golden days of the Nile houseboats may be long gone and their future is far from assured...
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