Luxor was a nice surprise but for the none of the reasons I anticipated. People had told me I definitely needed to go to Luxor to see The Valley of the Kings, The Temple of Hatshepsut, Karnak, the Luxor Temple and others. All incredible and great to see but for me the best thing about Luxor were the people and the boats. I love the large taxi boats that carry people from East Luxor to West Luxor. Big garish metal boats. The way they do the seating on these boats in Luxor is awesome too. Long benches with big colorful cushions to sit on and large pillows for your back. The seat itself is so broad you almost are forced to slip your shoes off and make yourself totally at home, so I did. I always took my shoes off and sat crossed legged on these boats…so comfortable for someone whose feet can rarely touch the floor while sitting:)
My hotel was in West Luxor. It is very quiet there, a few restaurants and a few hotels. I meet some locals almost immediately who are eager to practice their English and end up having a great time with this group. All men of course because I have found that the women don’t hang out a lot outside and even if they did, they would not be hanging out with me for any reason:( These men work in tourism and it has been very slow for them since the revolution in Egypt four years ago. I hope people return to Egypt soon. Anyway these men make sure that I have a good time in Luxor. We take several boat rides, eat dinner on one of their private sailboats and believe it or not drink wine. I did not think Muslims could drink so I ask them about it. They explain on rare occasions they do. I find out that the 3 days I’m there must be a rare occasion:).
The second day in Luxor I have arranged a tour of the historic sites. The person on duty at the hotel informs me that my guide is outside waiting and ushers me to his car. I walk out to find a battered jalopy with dents all over it and the sputtering engine thats saying, just let me die now. He opens the front side passenger door and I get in. The guides name is Peter and he’s one of the 20% in Egypt that’s not Muslim. In back sits an young Englishman who is living in Cairo teaching English as a second language. He has lived in Cairo for two years. His name is Rob and he is lily white. The sun and the heat become intolerable. Even me with my olive complexion I can feel myself frying. At one bathroom break I look in the mirror and my cheeks are bright red and my throat so dry I feel like I will die if I don’t get water soon. Poor white Rob is really suffering in the heat. He is caked in sunscreen and lathers it on throughout our excursion. The sites are interesting but the heat is so excruciating I just want to go back to the hotel. On our tour we learn everything still cost to get in even though we paid for our trip. I don’t have a lot of cash left on me and ask the driver if I can go back with him to the East side where he will drop Rob off so that I can use an ATM machine. They have none of these on the quiet west side of Luxor. The ride is 45 minutes of hellish hot but I manage to achieve my goal. Rob gets money too for now he’s not only broke but owes the guide too. Here we are in a beat up, falling apart car and now the tourist have become destitute to boot. What a crew!
That evening Khaled, Mussa, Hamdi and I go out on Mussa’s sailboat and have dinner. This is so much fun because surprisingly enough these young men have cooked dinner for me. I’m kind of shocked in this world of machisimo that men would cook. We hook up to another tug boat sort of thing that is carrying us and other boats up the Nile. There are no motors on these boats so the tug boat takes us up and then the currents will bring us back. We are carried for a while and then we stop and the the men secure our boat on the sands. They begin to place the food all around and it’s delicious. It’s beef tanger, rice, salad, bread and wine. It’s interesting because they make me my own plate but they eat out of the pots using the bread to dip into the tanger and they have no plates. I of course assume it is because I’m a woman and it might not be proper to eat after me or something. I later learn that once again, I am wrong:) They were just being thoughtful and trying to accommodate my western style of eating:) These men were all much younger than me by at least 20 years or more. Two were married. They wanted to learn more English so we spoke in English throughout dinner. Sometimes they would talk to one another in Arabic and I would just focus on the delicious food and occasionally stop to enjoy the stars or the reflection of city lights as they danced on the black night waters of the Nile. The soft breeze and the air felt wonderful. This was in sharp contrast to the earlier part of my day so I relish every moment.
The last day in Luxor I spent on the East side riding in a horse and carriage looking at all the sights of the city. My favorite part of this ride was going through the market. The thorough fair was barely big enough to accommodate the horse and carriage and sometimes the vendors would have to slightly raise their umbrellas to let us pass. I took a hundred pictures because life in that market was so colorful and sometimes the smells were incredible. I kind of felt that I was already getting a taste for my next country, Morocco. It was great!
I make it back to the East side and my new friends take me to Banana Island where we have dinner. My plane leaves at 12:00pm and they offer to take me to the airport too…This was so much fun, making new friends and laughing through bad english (mostly mine:)
Luxor…new friends, boat rides on the Nile…nice surprises!