Journal: Saturday 11 October 1997
Luxor was changing. Since I arrived, I’d noticed a difference in the town. It was the 75th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and there were many events scheduled to commemorate it. The most prominent event was the performance of Verdi’s opera Aida against the stunning backdrop of the Deir el-Bahri Temple of Hatshepsut, starting on October 12th and running for eight days. There were many dignitaries expected for the opening night, including Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, and his wife, Suzanne along with opera fans from around the world. Luxor had been smartened up for the event. Everything standing still had been painted white; curb-stones, tree trunks, buildings, even the tourist police were still wearing their white summer uniforms. All of the hotels were full and the Corniche in the evenings was bustling with people strolling around. The thing I noticed most was the tightened security which, with only two days to go until Aida, was starting to get scary. There was an air of tension in Luxor which made me uncomfortable. I had a strong feeling that something horrible was about to happen. Maybe I was more anxious because we were spending a lot of time on the West Bank and often coming back late at night. The local ferry, crossing the river after dark, was accompanied by armed police in a motor launch. There seemed to be guns everywhere – much more so than usual.
We had tried again to get to the Montu temples at Tod and Medamud, but we were not allowed outside of Luxor in a taxi on our own. Medamud is only a few kilometres to the north of Karnak, but there were police roadblocks which we could not go through. The same for Tod, which is about 20km south of Luxor.