Journal: Saturday 21 March 1998
In the morning I went to visit Shahata, the married daughter of my Egyptian ‘adopted’ family, who had just come home to Geziret with her new baby. It had been a difficult time for the family with Shahata in the Luxor hospital for a few days. At least one family member would stay with her at all times, while others would visit regularly, taking food for her meals, which were not provided by the hospital. It was also an expensive time for them because Shahata had to have a caesarean operation for the birth, which the family must pay for at a cost of several hundred Egyptian pounds. But now she was back in her mother’s home with her beautiful baby and I was taken into the family room where Shahata was lying on a bed, the tiny bundle snuggled up in her arms. It seemed to be traditional for a new mother to go home to Mum and Dad for the period of the confinement, while her husband stayed in his own home. I would have liked to take a proper gift, but as I had no money, I gave Shahata some fruit I had bought for her at the local market and would send something else later from England. Shahata was still tired so I spent some time helping her sister Mona with her English homework and playing with her little brother Ahmed, who was a terrible cheat at marbles and several cups of tea later, I left to go back to the hotel.
In the afternoon Robin and I went over to Luxor on the ferry. First stop was the Egyptair office to confirm our flight home – the second time for me and hopefully this time I would make it further than Luxor airport. After Robin had done some last-minute shopping, we had dinner at the Amoun Restaurant with David and his friend Dawn, another English ex-pat, while watching the world go by on Karnak Temple Street. Early evening is usually the busiest time in the streets of Luxor with street vendors shouting their wares to flocks of passing tourists. Today it was relatively quiet because there were few tourists here, but all of the Luxor population seemed to be out and about, on bicycles, packed precariously into minibuses, perched on laden donkey carts, or families just out for an evening stroll. It was very entertaining. After dinner David took us to meet Mostyn and his wife Samia, good friends of his, who lived in an apartment in Luxor. They were a lovely family of Coptic Christians, with two little boys who were being coached in English by David. Mostyn owned a papyrus shop, which we promised to visit as soon as we could. Several of his beautiful hand-painted papyri hung on the walls of the apartment along with many framed Coptic icons. Mostyn, who also painted religious frescos and was currently working in the Coptic church in Luxor, proudly showed us photographs of his recent work there. He was a very talented artist.
As we crossed the Nile on a late ferry back to the West Bank, I sat on the top deck and gazed back over to a floodlit Luxor Temple. It was quiet on the river at this time of night and the dark, still water reflected all the lights from the Corniche in broad strips of colour like a woven tapestry. This would probably be my last river-crossing before I went home.