Journal: Thursday 14 October 1999
It is always a joy on the first morning when I wake up in an Egyptian hotel room with the sun shining brightly through wide sheer curtains to step out onto the balcony and look out over the River Nile and the West Bank mountains. We had an early breakfast sitting in the open air on the terrace overlooking the pool. The choice of food was enormous and I was only sorry that I can never eat much at that time of the morning. But the coffee was good!
Jenny and I walked down the road into the main part of Luxor, browsing in shops along the way. Jenny was already getting the hang of bantering with Egyptian tradesmen. We stopped at several bookshops but resisted the urge to buy anything so soon. Outside Aboudi’s bookshop we met Shakespeare. This is a character I have known for years, an Egyptian entrepreneur who seems to be able to assist with practically anything. His faultless English is constantly interspersed with quotes from the bard, William Shakespeare, which can be quite amusing and he is genuinely helpful and honest, especially in finding ways to relieve tourists of some of their money, while not ripping them off. Jenny wanted to go for a sail so we agreed to meet Shakespeare later for an hour’s trip on the river. All around town I was stopped by people who just wanted to say hello or to invite us for a glass of tea, so it took quite a while to reach the Amoun restaurant at lunchtime, where we hoped to meet up with my friend David, but he wasn’t there. After a long cool drink of lemon juice we went sailing for an hour and a half with Shakespeare, who entertained us all the time with funny stories, before dropping us off on the West Bank.
Although I always feel at home in Luxor I am even more so on the West Bank and felt a little guilty that I was not staying at the el-Gezira Hotel this time, where the staff were almost like family. I must go and visit them soon. Jenny and I took an arabeya up to the taftish and walked along the track leading to Medinet Habu. We resisted going into the temple this afternoon and instead went to visit my friend Nubi who told us that he had just returned from Cairo and was leaving again tomorrow to do surveying work for Dr Mark Lehner at Giza. At Nubi’s home we had tea and talked with his wife Zeinab, his mother Haga and played with the children for a couple of hours. I was so glad not to have missed Nubi before he goes back to Cairo. Before leaving Medinet Habu we stopped at the Rameses Cafe to say hello to my friend Salah and the rest of the staff and to gaze for a while at the magnificent facade of the Temple of Rameses III.
Late afternoon saw us on the passenger ferry, Jenny’s first experience of this unique mode of travel and she loved it. The sun sets with amazing speed in Egypt and by the time we were walking past the New Winter Palace Hotel it was already dark. A Sufi dancer was entertaining a group of tourists in the entrance and after watching him for a while, twirling and spinning fast enough to make me feel quite dizzy, we wandered up the road to the Sonesta. Back at the hotel we booked a trip to Dendera for Sunday on a small cruiseboat called the Lotus Boat, as it seemed a nice way to enjoy travelling on the river and seeing the temple too.