Journal: Wednesday 18 March 1998
Wednesday morning was a little clearer and the horrible wind that swept everything before it had weakened overnight, so Robin & I crossed the river on the ferry to the East Bank to meet up with David at the Amoun restaurant for a coffee. Some of his English ex-pat friends were also there and we sat for a while and listened to the lively conversations. Like many true Egyptians they were all wannabe agony aunts – they like nothing better than a good problem to get their teeth into, especially if the problem belongs to someone else! After some time the conversation came around to food, as it usually does and someone announced that a new supermarket had opened near the Emelio Hotel. David needed to go food shopping and suggested that Robin and I went with him to inspect the new shop, so we trudged up the road to Sharia Yussef Hassan. By Luxor standards the supermarket was very good, clean and bright and carried a lot of stock. But they all reminded me of English small-town supermarkets of the 1960s. I bought some of the hard salty cheese that I liked and would pick up some rolls and yummy date slices from the bakery for lunch. On the way back through the bazaar I also bought some tomatoes and tiny bananas, and was pleased to be able to use my Arabic now for shopping. I had learned many new words on this visit so far.
When we got back to the West Bank we made ourselves a quick lunch at the hotel from our fresh provisions and then took an arabeya up to the Ramesseum. We had no plan today and decided first to wander up the dusty track that curves around a small hill, to Deir el-Medina, past a level patch of ground where some boys were playing barefoot football, with their galabeyas tucked up high. When we arrived at the Temple of Hathor, we realised that we should have bought a ticket first if we wanted to go in. However, after chatting with the guard for a while and hovering by the ostraca pit where so many interesting fragments had been found giving a huge amount of important details about the lives of the workmen, the guard beckoned us over to the temple gate. At first he seemed uneasy about letting us in, but then agreed to show us inside without a ticket. Once inside we were his captive audience and he took great delight in showing us around his temple, pointing out reliefs of gods and kings. The three Ptolemaic sanctuaries were especially nice and although blackened with age were well-preserved. I loved the soft pink and blue paintings on the Hathor pillars in the vestibule, it seemed such a feminine temple. After we had said goodbye to the guard we walked back to the main road the way we had come and caught another arabeya to Gezira. This is certainly a good way to travel around on the West Bank, each journey costing only 25 piasters (about 2.5 English pence).
In the evening Robin and I splashed out on a meal of tomato soup, bread and babaganoug (a tahina and aubergine dip) at the Tutankhamun Restaurant. With coffee afterwards it cost us all of LE7.50 each, the equivalent of 75p in English! Later still we were entertained on the roof terrace of the Gezira Hotel by the staff, with Egyptian music and dancing. A lovely day.