Journal entry for Monday 2 March 1998
On our Spring trip to Egypt, Robin and I decided to plan flight and accommodation ourselves rather than book with a travel company and we began to our make arrangements at the end of 1997. It was just as well we wanted a DIY holiday, because there were very few travel companies offering Egypt as a destination since the terrible events last year at Deir el-Bahri which shocked the world.
From my far corner of the UK, the journey to Egypt is a very long haul. I left home early Sunday evening to travel by coach to London’s Heathrow airport, arriving there at 6.0am in a rather weary state but sustained by the excitement of the coming trip. I met my friend Robin later in the morning, we checked in and eventually boarded the Egyptair flight in the early afternoon, which was only half an hour late. This is Egypt’s national airline, distinctive by the red and gold falcon’s head on a blue tail. Compared with the charter flights I had done recently the cabin accommodation was sheer luxury. Plenty of legroom in the wide comfortable seats, attentive Egyptian staff and excellent food (although I had pre-booked a veggie meal). The in-flight magazine, ‘Horus’, is written in English and Arabic and offers many very good articles to while away the hours. We felt like we were already in the country as soon as we stepped aboard, welcomed with traditional Egyptian hospitality by the cabin crew. Each aircraft is given an ancient Egyptian name, which is painted on it fuselage – Cleopatra, Nefertiti etc. In later years the different aircraft felt like old friends!
The five and a half hour flight seemed to go very quickly. We were a little surprised, though perhaps we shouldn’t have been, that the aircraft was only about a quarter full. Robin and I had three seats each and could stretch out and try to catch up on some sleep. That was the idea anyway, but who can sleep on the way out to Egypt? Very soon we could see the dim line of waves breaking on the Mediterranean shore and then the random clusters of lights twinkling along the Nile valley. A pity, but it was dark when we landed in Luxor this time. We bought our visas and cleared customs in record time and were soon in a taxi on our journey to Luxor. We cheated a little as we had already arranged for a taxi to pick us up. We were staying in a hotel on the West Bank and didn’t fancy hauling our heavy suitcases across the passenger ferry, so our driver took us over the new bridge, which had recently opened. Unfortunately, as it was dark we couldn’t see much of the bridge at this time.
By the time we reached the Gezira Hotel near the West Bank ferry dock, it was really late. I had been travelling for 26 hours by the time I collapsed into bed after a royal welcome and a ‘welcome drink’ in the rooftop restaurant. Robin and I already knew the hotel owner, Gamal Mahmoud and most of the staff from meals we had had here in the past, but we were really just too tired to socialise. But it was so good to be in Egypt again at last.