Egypt - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 86
Friday 6th June
This morning was our last formal guided tour with Ehab (or Bob as he is often known as) but it was also one of the best. He had told us not to leave Egypt without seeing Dundara. Having visited the temple, I have to agree with that sentiment. It’s a fair bit bigger than the other temples we’ve seen and the most intact also. It’s also unique in that there are several levels to explore, as you can crawl down through the very small hole into the crypt as well as ascending the staircase up to the top to walk around on the roof. There are also plenty of chambers to explore and let your mind freely run through. The usual stunning array of hieroglyphic decorations filled every last square inch of column, wall and even ceiling space. It was without a doubt one of the very best sites that we’ve visited and is a fitting conclusion to our sightseeing odyssey here in Egypt.
We pretty much had the entire temple to ourselves today. Ehab has been somewhat depressed about the lack of tourists visiting the sites in general but even more so with the meagre turnout today. He told us that in times past, you could barely stand still due to the huge crowds of people that flock through the temple every day and that you might even have to queue up for an hour or more to get the opportunity to go down into the crypt. Today, the temple was a ghost monument with just three tourists and two guides to fill the huge halls and passages.
In nineteen ninety-seven, there was a terrorist massacre at Hatshepsut temple here on the West Bank. Several Islamic extremists apparently came down the mountain towards the huge crowds at the temple and open fired indiscriminately with machine guns. Fifty-seven people died and the gunmen was chased and shot dead by the authorities. Since then, tourist travel through the Nile valley has been severely restricted and you can only travel to the pharaonic monuments in one of two convoys that depart from the main cities each day. Getting onto one of the convoys can only be done through an agency and it must be organised in advance. Even in the years following the massacre, the convoys would consist of literally hundreds of vehicles. Today, however, just two vehicles made the one-hour trek from Luxor to Dundara.
The reasons for the drastic drop in the tourist trade are more to do with the recent world events that those of nineteen ninety-seven, however. The alarmist and sensationalist media of the West has painted a picture of the Middle East that is causing people to abstain from visiting here en masse. The war in Iraq and the war on terrorism are largely to blame and the economy here in Egypt is suffering as a result. As usual, pretty much everything I heard and saw on the media regarding Egypt and the Middle East prior to our visit here is as far removed from reality as it possibly could be.
We returned from Dundara with yet more photos and even more fond memories and are now relaxing in our hotel room after having ate at McDonalds and having wandered around the streets for a bit. Later, Ehab will take us back to the silversmith factory to collect out completed order. I’m looking forward to seeing just how well they have made everything.
Once again, Ehab escorted us around town this evening and we returned to the silversmith factory to collect our decorated cartouches. They all looked fantastic with the exception of one of them that looked a bit untidy due to one of the hieroglyphic symbols having melted a little in the heating process. It was not a problem as the skilled artist replaced the offending symbol there and then in just a few minutes. It was actually quite a treat to see the craftsman work his trade right in front of us.
Most of the remainder of the evening was spent up on the roof with the three of us watching the sun set over the Valley of the Kings just on the other side of the Nile from where our hotel stands. We parted company with Ehab soon thereafter and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. This gave us the opportunity to write a nice thank you letter for him for all he has done for us. We have decided to tip him well as he has definitely been bay far the very best guide we’ve had anywhere on our trip.
As predicted, our travel plans have already changed again and we will depart Luxor tomorrow morning to spend two nights in Hurghada instead of one. There isn’t really anything else left for us to do here that would be any better than what we’ve already done so we will take advantage instead of another location with more than one night in the same bed. Since yesterday, we’ve been trying to convince Ehab to join us in Hurghada for a brief holiday. He’s been giving it some serious consideration also and we hope he will decide to go and spent some more time with us. We will miss him.