Journal entry for Tuesday 20 October 1998
Despite having had little sleep for 48 hours, Kit and I were up at 7.00am. Outside in the street the dogs were barking and the morning bustle had begun with the gas-man banging out tunes with a stick on the sides of cylinders on his heavily laden donkey-cart. We were on the first floor and I couldn’t wait to fling open the balcony doors and get my first view of the River Nile, a shining silver mirror dotted with little fishing boats and glittering in the early morning sun. After unpacking we went up to the roof restaurant for a breakfast of rolls, with cheese, tomato slices and hard boiled eggs, little packs of jam and honey and endless cups of coffee.
We had planned a lazy day to introduce Kit to Egyptian life, so as soon as we were ready we took the local ferry over to Luxor. This took quite a while as I met several old friends on the short walk down to the ferry dock and introduced my son to them. They all wanted to know all about him and harried him with the usual questions ‘Where you live?’ and ‘Which football player you like?’ Unfortunately that was a non-starter for conversation as Kit is as disinterested in football as I am. We had to decline many offers to take us over the river on a felucca or motor boat before we actually boarded the ferry. Kit was fascinated and couldn’t take his eyes off the various types of boats milling about on the water, studying the build and sails of each one. I could see that probably more than one felucca trip would be taken before our visit was over. He was so captivated by it all that he didn’t even notice the little group of teenage schoolgirls stealing shy glances at him and giggling to each other behind their hijabs. There were also a few joking comments from some of the men on the ferry about Kit being my ‘husband’, which rather flattered me!
We walked a little way along the Corniche, past Luxor Temple and bought some mugs in which to make our tea and coffee back at the hotel (I never travel anywhere without my little kettle). Next stop was the Amoun Restaurant for lunch and to meet up with my friend David, who lives in Luxor. Afterwards we went with David to the Foriegners’ Cemetery, near the bridge on Sharia Karnak. David had a part-time job as a sort of keeper at the cemetery and called in once or twice a week to tidy up and generally keep an eye on it. The cemetery is a peaceful secluded place, an oasis on a hot day, built I believe, in the 19th century at the time of the ‘Grand Tour’ when foreigners came to luxor for months at a time. The graves are mostly for French and English ex-pats and there were a few old and leaning headstones, but many of the graves were just concreted over plots covered in weeds and shrubs. It is a shady place with tall trees and surrounded by high walls and we sat on an old bench and had a glass of tea made by an Egyptian friend of David’s who lives in a little room there. David explained that there had been a lot of damage by storms and flooding in 1989 when many of the old trees had been blown down and that they had also a lot of trouble with packs of dogs there recently. It was rather a sad neglected place, but David was doing his best to restore it to how it had been in more glamorous times.
Afterwards we all decided to go to the Novotel for coffee and we sat in the lovely terraced gardens overlooking the river and spent a pleasant couple of hours discussing the Amarna Period – a slice of Egyptian history that I had been studying and which was one of David’s favourite periods. Poor Kit was probably feeling a little left out of the discussion but I noticed that he was taking it all in and seemed keen to learn as much as he could.
Back on the West Bank later in the evening Kit and I had a wonderful dinner at the Tutankhamun Restaurant where the owner, Hag Mahmoud did his best to introduce Kit to just about every Egyptian dish he could produce. And all for LE25 (£2.50) each! Strolling slowly and contentedly up the road back to the hotel we passed a new coffee shop and I heard my name being called. There were some English friends, Bob and Jennifer, who had recently built a house here, sitting with some Egyptian friends, Hassan and Mandour. We stopped to say hello and ended up spending an hour or two drinking coffee and playing dominoes, which bears little resemblance to the English game of that name! If this seems like a day spent eating and drinking – well, that’s often how a lazy day in Egypt is and it was a good introduction for Kit to the pace of life here in Luxor.