Journal: Monday 25 October 1999
This morning Jenny and I walked along the Luxor Corniche to the Mummification Museum, a relatively new museum that I hadn’t visited before. It is housed by the river in a very modern building which is entered down steps to river level. Unfortunately when we got there it was closed and we didn’t have a ‘plan B’. Wandering back towards the temple I noticed that there were some new traffic signs. Traffic lights, an innovation here in Luxor, had appeared a little while ago, but needless to say Egyptian drivers still acted as though they weren’t there and it would seem that these signs have been erected to try to encourage responsible behaviour on the road. I wondered why they were written in English….
We cut up through the covered Tourist Bazaar near the Etap Hotel, where prices are supposed to be fixed and shopkeepers are not allowed to hassle tourists. This bazaar is more relaxed than the local suq, although prices do tend to be higher. It is crammed with stores selling souvenirs – jewellery, tee-shirts and tourist galabeyas, papyrus painted with Tutankhamun’s golden mask and lots of brass and inlaid furniture. Young Egyptian guys stand outside their shops trying to attract foreigners without appearing to hassle. It must be a hard life, especially with people like me who never buy these mass-produced souvenirs.
After a coffee in the Amoun restaurant we continued on to the local bazaar which is much more lively. After the first couple of hundred metres where tourist stalls are most common the suq becomes a market place for local shopping. Men sit outside coffee shops smoking shisha and arguing while black-clad women squat on the ground beside their baskets of fruit or eggs. Small flocks of goats or sheep wander around untended and donkeys pull flat carts laden with fruit or vegetables, trying to avoid the boys on bicycles who zig-zag in and out between the stalls. Further along the pavement becomes a dirt road with missing covers from the manholes that always seem to be overflowing with sewerage. There are many bargains to be had in this part of the suq, where everything from bolts of fabric to crockery as well as food can be found. There are bicycle repair shops, tailors with their treadle machines who can run up a galabeya or shirt in an hour or so and many shops selling genuine shishas (water-pipes) rather than the tourist ones. The only thing I really dislike about this part of the bazaar are the haunches of dark fly-covered meat which hang outside the butchers’ stalls. If I wasn’t already vegetarian, I’m sure I would become one after a trip through the local suq.