Journal: Friday 22 November 1996
Last year the taxi ride to Dendera Temple was a nice trip and we thought we’d like to do it again, so booked our friendly taxi-driver Tayib for a 6.30am start. What we (or Tayib) hadn’t realised was that the police convoy had recently been introduced for journeys to Dendera. We all had to line up at a meeting point in Luxor and wait around until 8.00am. There were many coaches and taxis as we headed north towards Qena, but most of them turned off on the road to Hurghada and the Red Sea resorts.
The idea of the convoy was that all foreign tourists should travel together under the protection of armed police in case of any trouble. What this trouble was in 1996 was undefined. What it meant in reality was that there was a police truck, with sirens blaring, at the head and tail of a long line of vehicles all travelling at over 100km an hour. The convoy left at regular times each day, which to my mind meant that any sniper with half a brain would know exactly where and when to wait and be able to pick off as many tourists as he could. Just like a fairground shooting gallery. That’s if we didn’t have a high-speed traffic pile-up first. Any other traffic on the road had to quickly pull over to avoid being mown down. It was an uncomfortable journey and I know our driver was just hating it.
Another problem with the convoy was that we were limited to the time we could spend in the temple. We were allowed exactly two hours and anyone not back by the designated leaving time was in serious trouble with the police. Robin, Lucy and I tore around Dendera Temple like we were on a mission. Most of our time was spent in the rooftop Osiris suite, which was very similar to the structure at Philae Temple in Aswan. I also wanted to look at the carvings in the Ptolomaic birth-house as there were reliefs of the hippopotamus goddess Tauret I had read about. I did enjoy seeing it again but it would have been nice to spend quality time there like we had last year. On a positive note, it meant that the temple was once more officially open to tourists (though not many at that time) and the café and bazaar were open, enabling a few of the local people to scratch a living again. We left Dendera on time, only to sit in our taxi at the Qena checkpoint for an hour waiting for the Hurghada convoy to catch us up. All we could think about was the extra time we could have spent in the temple, had we been allowed.