Journal entry for Tuesday 3 March 1998
The el-Gezira is a small Egyptian family run hotel in the village of Gezira, the place you pass through when you get off the public ferry. Robin and I chose this hotel because of its friendly atmosphere, its proximity to the ferry and the ease of getting to the monument area. Luxor consists of two halves divided by the River Nile. The East Bank or town, has it’s big tourist hotels and the temples of Luxor and Karnak, while the West Bank is mostly rural farmland separated by irrigation canals and dotted with small villages. It is the West Bank which contains the majority of the ancient monuments, the King’s Valley and the temples of many New Kingdom pharaohs that I love.
The el-Gezira Hotel was built only two years ago, in 1996. It is small, with only 11 rooms and with a wonderful rooftop terrace from where there is a fabulous view across the Nile to Luxor Temple. The staff will bend over backwards to ensure that guests have everything they need. I instantly felt at home here. The back of the hotel overlooks a little backwater of the Nile, a small house surrounded by palm trees where two camels were tethered in the yard and chickens ran around squawking. This became a familiar view during the weeks I stayed there as I spent a lot of time on the roof. In the evenings there was quite often a party going on, sometimes with tour groups from other hotels, or perhaps just for whoever turned up. There was always something going on. And most of all the food was excellent, especially when Samy the chef made his wonderful ‘Nubian Pizza’!
On our first day in Luxor Robin and I didn’t do very much – we just wanted a relaxing day after our long journey from England. We took an arabeya to the Colossi and walked along to Kom Lolla to say hello to some of our friends there and to sit in the Rameses Cafeteria and admire the wonderful view of Medinet Habu Temple. We didn’t even go into the temple, it was enough to be here, to watch the world go by. But few people went by – it was very quiet here on the West Bank. There were literally no tourists at this time, apart from maybe the occasional back-packer or independent traveller like us. We were told that many of the big hotels on the East Bank had closed down because there were no tour companies using them and the cruise ships were lined up abandoned on the banks of the Nile. The local people were finding it difficult to make ends meet after the ‘Incident’ at Deir el-Bahri and there was a great deal of hardship that we could see around us. Even our friendly taxi driver Ali had been forced to sell his gold teeth to provide food for his family. It was all very sad.
Back at the hotel later in the afternoon we had arranged to meet David, an English friend who lives in a village near Luxor. We all had dinner together and talked Egyptology on the roof terrace until late into the night. A satisfying day!