Journal entry for Saturday October 24 1998
Being an Egyptology student meant that I was eligible for an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which I had held for the past couple of years and which gave a 50% discount on site tickets and travel. I had recently heard that young people, even though not students, could also get one of these cards from an office in Luxor, so Kit and I went across the river to investigate. We first went to a photographers and Kit had some passport photos done, which I knew he would need for an identity card. As this cost only LE9 for eight photographs, I decided to have some taken as well and they were much better than the passport photos I had done at home. While waiting for them to be ready we went to the Amoun Restaurant for lunch, where we knew our friend David would be and probably Sam too and we spent a pleasant hour chatting and making plans for future site visits together.
The Luxor Student Office at the time was in the Venus Hotel, along the road from the New Emilio on Yussef Hassan Street, a typical low-budget Egyptian hotel which looked dark and gloomy and I would not have wanted to stay there. The office was on the top floor and luckily we managed to get there just before it closed for the afternoon, though the clerk didn’t seem too pleased about us showing up at closing time. He tried to get us to come back later, but we were polite though persistent and he eventually agreed to make out an International Youth Travel Card for Kit. This cost LE40, the same as a student card and was worth every piastre! We were delighted to have achieved our aim so quickly and were just leaving when we bumped into Mustapha, someone I knew from the West Bank and couldn’t get away without agreeing to sit and drink tea with him. By the time we walked down to the Corniche and got the ferry back across the river it was mid-afternoon.
We had planned to visit several monuments this afternoon, but as it was so late we went straight to Medinet Habu for a quick look around the temple. Inside, the temple was full of workmen putting up lights and laying red carpets in the First Court. Dozens of plush red chairs were stacked up ready to be arranged and everyone was bustling about. When I asked one of the guards what was going on he said that the temple was closing early today because the King of Spain’s daughter was having a party here tonight. While I’m not against parties in general, I didn’t think an ancient place of worship was an appropriate party venue and besides, we hadn’t been invited. After being almost thrown out of Medinet Habu, Kit and I went over to the Rameses Cafe for a drink and ended up staying to eat there in the evening and spent a couple of hours talking with friends Nubi and Salah. Nubi said he would see if he could get permission for us to see the Dra ‘Abu’l Naga tombs of Roy and Shuroy, which have recently been restored but are not yet open. As we left Habu, loud amplified western pop music was just beginning to play inside the floodlit temple.
Back at the Gezira Hotel there was a party going on too, for someone’s birthday and we went up to the roof restaurant to watch the floor show for a while. There were a lot of people on the roof tonight, because ‘Explore’ tour leader Tayib had brough his current group for dinner. Parties here are always great fun with lots of Egyptian music and dancing and tonight the chef, Samy, was outrageously dressed in a gold lame catsuit for his Nubian dance routine. Kit is a musican and soon he was up with the band trying out their instruments and playing along.