Egypt - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 84
Wednesday 4th June
All the Germans had long since disembarked and were already enjoying the treasures of Luxor by the time we awoke this morning and we consequently had the entire boat to ourselves, along with our guide. We had a leisurely breakfast; although it wasn’t really what we had expected, and we checked out to get our air-conditioned microbus ride the sixty or so kilometres to Luxor. Since the terrorist massacre at one of the Hatshepsut temple here in Luxor in 1997, no tourist is allowed to travel freely up and down the Nile valley between the various tourist sites. Movement is strictly restricted to convoys of vehicles that must be arranged in advance. This is apparently also why we had to travel in a convoy from Aswan down to Abu Simbel the other day. We passed numerous police and military checkpoints along the way, which are now commonplace here in Egypt. The terrorist atrocities along with other world events are largely to blame for the drastically reduced tourism trade nowadays here.
Our drive along the Nile valley, parallel to the great river, took just about an hour and we checked into our fifth floor room of the three-star hotel. There is a nice view of one of the largest Coptic churches in the country and the room is comfortable and fairly typical of the type of accommodation that we are now used to.
The three Australian girls that we met in Aswan also arrived here today and their room is just down the balcony from ours. Quite coincidentally, we also met the America writer that we had befriended in Cairo here. He and his girlfriend joined our small group for the tour of the temple of Karnak this afternoon. Perhaps the lack of tourists in the country has increased our chances of bumping into the same people several times.
Our sightseeing for the day was scheduled to include the temple of Karnak and our guide, once again, gave us the full run down of all the important facts about the hieroglyphs and over various features. He was a little off balance in his delivery, however. For the past few days, he has been our private guide, to all intents and purposes, and has steadily been building upon the various bits of information that he has been providing to us. Since there were some new members of the tour group this morning, he kept having to backtrack to accommodate these newcomers that had not yet had the advantage of all the knowledge that he has imparted to us over the past few days. Still, it was a very enjoyable day and the temples of the pharaonic era remain captivating – both historically as well as photographically.
We managed to find an Internet café where we could hook up the laptop and I duly dispatched another sequel to our world travel saga to the masses. Ellis and Yasmin are finding our travels very interesting and I have been exchanging some e-mail with them over the past few days.
Ehab, our trusty guide, decided he would add an unscheduled tour especially for the two of us and took us this evening to the temple of Luxor. He specifically wanted us to see the temple at night whilst it was nicely lit up. This tour was a freebee (although we still had to pay the E£20 for the two of us [students] to get into the temple) and an extremely kind and generous gesture on his part. Whilst we were walking around the temple and Ehab was delivering his various speeches, we noticed a film crew that was apparently working on a piece for the Discovery Channel. Ehab commented on the somewhat sad fact that it’s the people who watch programs such as the Discovery Channel in foreign countries that actually know more about Egypt and the Pharaohs than the local population does.
We got some really fantastic photos of the temple of Luxor before calling it a night and walking into town to visit the silversmith factory to place our order for the cartouche pendants. Unfortunately, today marks the fortieth day after Easter (at least the Easter that is celebrated by the Coptic Christians here in Egypt) and all the staff at the silversmith factory had just left to go to the churches for the various ceremonies. Instead, we went to a local restaurant and I bought us all a meal as we sat around the laptop showing Ehab the various places around the world that we have visited. Since it is extremely difficult for Egyptians to obtain an Egyptian exit visa, he may never leave the country and was quite obviously thrilled to visit the other countries through our photos. What was particularly poignant were the photos of the various Pharaonic monuments from around the world, such as the Egyptian section of the Louvre in Paris that we visited earlier this year. Also very interesting was the obelisk in Concord Square at the end of the Champs Elise in Paris. This is apparently the sister obelisk to the one that now stands alone right here at the Luxor temple. The two of them stood here together up to a couple of hundred years or so ago when one of them was presented to France as a gift from Egypt. Far too many of Egypt’s treasures have been given away over the years and it is a sad fact that of the several dozen obelisks that once stood proud here at the various temples of Egypt, only seven of them remain here in the country.
There is much more I could write about but the hour is late and we have another early start in the morning when we will tackle the West bank and the Valley of the Kings, amongst others.