As we entered Luxor from an early morning flight from Cairo (awakening at 3:00 to prepare), we passed by a swath of open earth. In a glimpse, we knew it was the avenue of the sphinxes. The avenue is right through the middle of town. In fact, they have torn down any structures in town that lie in the path of the marching sphinxes (including homes).
Because it wasn’t time to head to our cruise ship just yet, we head out and decided to brave the unknown, and trekked through the streets, accosted by all sorts of hagglers. Even to cross the street we teamed up with the veiled women to get the timing right for crossing between whizzing traffic. The trick is to pause between the moving vehicles and then rush forward to the next lane (of which there are none; because everybody goes willy nilly through the streets. The best cars and the wily drivers win!). It is a free for all. So we survived passing Kaleshers horse and buggies.We were harassed quite a bit, with people asking us if we wanted to buy things, if we needed a guide, or if we wanted to go to the souk. A little beggar boy said ‘come to my house, my father is sick.. why did you only give my 19 cents?” We walked down to the ave of the Sphinxes. It is a working excavation site and is probably as long as Bonita Dr. or much longer. Dusty dust, ancient rubble, groups of men, chipping, digging, prying, etc. Probably the whole city sits atop temples and antiquities.
We made it back to the boat and after check in we met with our guide Amr. We went first to Karnak, the largest temple. The ave connects Karnak and Luxor, and allowed the husband statue in Karnak to be taken to the wife statue in Luxor every July 19th, the start of the year. Luxor temple was less impressive but it had some Christian paintings over the hieroglyphics. It was also buried in sand and a mosque was built atop it. Back to the boat at night, the temple was lovely in the evening. Boats are arranged so that you must go through the other ones to get to your own. They are connected by planks of wood.
Day 4: Valley of the Queens (2 tombs, 1 with a fetus and full sarcophagus, and one other). The temple of Hatsheput. Then Valley of the Kings. Tomb of King Tut, Ramses IX, and someone else (I forgot who). The colors were astounding. When I thought of Egypt, I thought of sand colored walls, now i think of such rich colors, stars on the ceiling, headless slaves, and stories through pictures. Lovely. Then the incident…
All interesting events in time have names to mark their occurrence. Sort of a shortcut to remember them by and to bring them back to life from their past into present existence. This event happened to occur on the same day that we entered the tomb of King Tut and is affectionately known as ‘the incident’. It all started as a curious intersection of unrelated events that created a tapestry of rich intrigue, but lacking in reality.
It began with an interplay with the local merchants that beck had so carefully staged to reduce their fierce bargaining skills to children’s play. She had enlisted us to become the willing pawns in their shrewd game of milking the tourist out of their Egyptian pounds before they are shuttled off in their air conditioned coaches to their awaiting river yachts on the Nile. I began the ruse by pretending to be amazed by the first merchant that approached me with an armful of scarves, golden jewels of Nefertiti, and a hint of possible real artifacts from the tomb of king tut that his great grand father hid away when he worked for as a porter in the 20s. I shyly aquest to his demands to enter his store, a 10×10 cubicle crammed from floor to ceiling with every conceivable item that china could produce and mark with the seal of Egypt, guaranteeing the authenticity and promise it had been made by local craftsmen. Feigning an air of helplessness as only a young and innocent woman could, I called for help to my father. Enters Linton to help me. Linton speaks one word ‘no’. But the merchant, with years of experience dealing with tourists, continues his onslaught of merciful-less badgering but this time directed to Linton. As the object of attention shifts from daughter to father, I scoured the small shop for any real treasures that could be found amist the junk strewn in the store. A galabaya tucked in the back – the right size. I gave Beck the signal and she quickly appeared as of out of thin air to confront and conquer these merchants from hell. We leave victorious with the prize of 100% Egyptian cotton Galabaya.
Linton notices as we make our way through the throngs of merchants still struggling with the trio for our last dollar, that there are no tourists amounts the merchants arguing on WHO will milk them of their cash. Not a one! Where are they? Why are we the only ones? Panic sets in – are we late? Linton shares his concerns with us and as we rush to the end of the bazaar I catch a glimpse of the tour bus driving out of view and around the bend. “Gosh darn it” remarks Linton to his compatriots. Disappointed and discouraged regarding this predicament, we started to strategize as to the next step.
Beck with her Eagle eye and well developed third sense found the one and only taxi in the valley of the kings. Again, the master bargainer started the process to get the best price possible. The crafty taxi driver, who’s father and father’s father, and his father before him were grave robbers and he followed in their footsteps, asking a Pharaoh’s ransom for a ride back to our river boat that was leaving in 20 minutes. Still Beck persisted in beating down the pirate to a price we could live with. The car, a vintage classic from the 1920s spring to life and promptly sputtered out and died. A second try, and we were off. First coasting and then gaining speed. The stop signs became mere suggestions and pedestrians jumped out of the way. As we talked with the taxi driver, we realized he thought we asked him to take us to his house, so we could take a pleasure ride in his row boat. NO! cried Linton, his favorite word in Egypt. The driver slammed on the brakes.
I happened to spy our bus ahead and suggested the driver speed up to catch our run away bus. The next thing we know, he pulls over to a gas station to pill up with petrol. We of course are a bit distressed at this turn of events. I came up with the idea that we might be able to call out tour guide to let him know the situation. I found the number to the boat, called them, and then got Amr’s number. I call and he answers with ‘WHERE ARE YOU? WE ARE STILL AT THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS WAITING FOR YOU!’ All along, we had been chasing the wrong bus! There are multiple MISER TRAVEL buses and ours was still back at the valley of the kings waiting for three lost travelers. Well, Amr was relieved that the lost three were found – and on our way to the boat.
As we were no longer in such a rush, we all sat back and listened to the driver babble about being an Elqqurina (sp?) and that his great grandfather was a porter for Howard Carter (who discovered the Tomb of King Tut). As he talked, the taxi slowed and we enjoyed the lush green fields of alfalfa, wheat, and sugar cane. Before we knew it, another MISER TRAVEL bus passes us and now the race is on…. again. If we could flag down the bus driver we could stop the bus and be on our way. But, of course, a donkey cart, and a banana sales man slow our progress. It seems that the closer we got to our bus, the more obstacles were thrown in our way… a group of school children, a quick police check point, etc. Never letting the bus out of sight we resigned to just following into the city and over to the docks. Without any more events, we followed the bus through the bustling city to the docks and right to our ship, and then, to our dismay, right past it and further in the wrong direction. Again, we were following the wrong bus! We finally convince the taxi driver to stop and after a walk back to our boat, we are finally home! We faced an unhappy Amr later in the day, having never lost a tourist before, he was embarrassed and angry!
… later we Sailed to Edfu and spent the day on deck. Waiter loves the origami tips, I think we are interesting to him. Evening was a Galabayea party… it was not fun. Dancing and pass the bottle game. Parents left early and I tried to stay to talk to people but it was too loud.