August 1st, 2nd 2010
Took the overnight train from Cairo. Bought a 1st class seat but it’s just a cabin with 6 seats (3 facing 3) and was crammed in there with 5 other tourists. Was very cold on board as well as uncomfortable, as the seats had no head support to lean against, worse in the middle as the sides had a wall to lean against. I was constantly waking up trying to keep my head warm. Ended up wrapping my long sleeve undershirt around my head and sleeping (barely) on my arms on my lap. Welcome to Egypt.
Luxor had even more hotel/tour solicitors at the train station. The moment I stepped out, a swarm of them came toward me asking if I had accomodation and if so, where at. I brushed them off very quickly and a few still chased after me. Let’s not forget the next wave of solicitors, the taxi drivers. I ended up telling one hotel guy that I was at the Boomerang and he said the hotel he worked for, the Nubian Oasis, was next to the Boomerang. He told me to follow him and I hesitated but did. He took me through some alleyway and I stopped to ask him where we were going, he said it was a shortcut. I kept my distance behind him just in case but turns out, it really was a shortcut and he took me to the Boomerang. I guess I should’ve tipped him but I didn’t because I didn’t ask for it, he had insisted on taking me there. I dislike those who force their services upon you and expect you to be grateful.
Boomerang Hotel was pretty damn nice for US$8/night. It was opened March 2010 and looked it. Nice, clean, decorative. The single room (with A/C!) I booked had two twins joined together so it was like a king. Showers (it’s a shower/toilet combination) were nice although I do question the person who designed it since the toilet paper was located close to the ground, the shower floor had no barrier to prevent water from spilling outside if someone showers carelessly. So I basically took care to shower in the corner where the drain hole was located. The hostel owners were an Aussie/Egyptian husband/wife duo but the Aussie wife was in Australia at the time so Mohammed was the guy running the show.
I was going to take my time to explore Luxor so I booked for three nights. The first day, I explored Luxor Temple. It was in ruins and was small. Ran into a guy who claimed he worked for the temple and he insisted on showing me around. I thought, ok, if he worked for the temple, why not. Guy took me around showing me random pictures, got me to touch a few and then touch my head for luck, etc. After a few minutes of non-sensicle shit, he asked for baksheesh. I told him I only had E£1 and he looked disappointed. A guard at the temple came up and asked for baksheesh too (where the f*** did he come from? He didn’t do anything but watch) but I told him I didn’t have anything. That same day, I visited the mummification museum which was decent but overpriced.
Next day was spent on a tour of the West Bank, which included the Valley of the Kings/Queens, which would have been better if our guide wasn’t such a lazy bitch. She was knowledgeable but she spoke very fast, usually briefed us on the area, then told us to walk into the tombs ourselves while she waited in the shade outside. How should we learn anything about the hieroglyphics in the tombs by ourselves? Of course, maybe the tombs were too narrow, crowded, and it was difficult to keep the tour group together. Maybe she just wanted us to have the freedom to check things out separately. I didn’t get to appreciate a lot of places I’ve visited in Egypt because I didn’t understand what it all meant.
I should mention something about Egyptian work ethic. It’s not just me but even the LP guide has mentioned it. Egyptians are very lazy people. Anyone will realize this as they travel throughout Egypt. In addition to the chaotic ticket lines at train/bus stations where people cut line incessantly, the ticket sellers will not only take their time selling tickets but sometimes stop to take breaks as people are waiting. They will stand there, chat with coworkers, drink tea, smoke etc in front of the line of people. This is accepted practice. If only train/bus stations would learn how to maintain order (form lines, have updated sign boards of train/bus times, better computer systems) maybe this country wouldn’t be so backwards. Maybe their once glorious empire has come to an end because of this work ethic and lack of good leadership. They need more efficiency, they need education, they need proper leadership. They need a lot of things to be honest but I don’t think the Egyptian people care to take their country forward. They just accept that this is life and stay complacent. Oh well, who am I to say anything, I am just an observer who’s only here for 2 weeks, if they want to live this way for many generations, counting on their glorious past to continue bringing tourism, that’s their problem.
I spent the next day checking out Karnak Temple around 7 am (lots of places open at 6 am or sometimes, 5 am, to allow crowds to visit during the cool period of the day). The place was already full of tourists. Karnak was one of the cooler sites I’ve visited in Luxor, a very impressive, massive temple that makes you wonder, again, how it was all built. I really need to read up on engineering of those times.
One of Gabriel’s (a guy I met in Cairo, who travelled with me to Luxor) and my favorite drinks was sugar cane juice from a shop located around the corner from our hotel. I’ve tried sugar cane at various other places and this was the best. I also enjoyed eating at a local roast chicken joint. Half a chicken, rice, salad, potatos, bread was only E£20 which was a bargain for such a satisfyingly delicious meal. I had it three times. There isn’t quite a lot of variety I find when it comes to Egyptian food, at least from the restaurants I’ve visited. All basically had the same line up, the same prices, the same upselling scheme (touch anything you did not specifically order, it’s extra). There isn’t much of a point trying a particular dish at several locations because they’re all the same. Just stick to a place you like. Maybe it’s just my tastebuds.
The souks were filled with aggressive solicitors. If there are 5 shops in a row, selling the same exact things, and I reject the 1st one, what makes the other 4 shops think I’d buy the same item from them? But they still try anyway. These guys don’t have a clue that Western tourists prefer not to be hassled. If they see a shop that doesn’t solicit aggressively, they usually stop to have a look. Otherwise, the aggressiveness usually scares people away. If only they knew…
(Shop selling unidentified dried produce)
(“Souks”, or market, at night)
(Locals hanging out late at night)
(Shannon and Gabriel, at our local sugar cane stop)
(“Kofte”…looks a lot like something else doesn’t it…)
(“Don’t try anything funny cuz I’m watching you…”)