Journal: Wednesday 27 October 1999
The century is coming to an end and so is my visit to Egypt. As I often do on my last day, I got up early to watch the sunrise. Sitting out on the balcony in the mild morning air, I couldn’t see the sun but its effect on the Theban Mountain over the river was magnificent, turning the quiet riverscape to a misty blue with the glowing pink reflection of the rising sun on the distant hills as a backdrop. A few hot air balloons drifted lazily, high over the West Bank and I wished I too had that birds-eye view over this land that I love.
Staying in the luxurious Sonesta Hotel has been great, though we don’t seem to have spent much time taking advantage of its amenities. I have been down to the swimming pool only twice in the two weeks we’ve been here and then only to sit in the shade and read for a while, or to watch the feluccas sail by on the river in the late afternoon. Oddly enough, the thing that has impressed me most about this hotel, are the ladies toilets in the pool area. The first time I used these was hilarious. They are self-flushing! As this is the first time I have come across this innovation in Egypt, or anywhere else for that matter, I just couldn’t work out how this was happening. Was someone watching me in my cubicle? The taps on the hand-basins turn on by themselves too. Isn’t modern technology wonderful?
What a land of contrasts Egypt is. Here I am in the glamorous surroundings of a brand new five-star hotel, tickled by the novel plumbing, while my Egyptian friends on the West Bank live more or less as they have done for hundreds of years in what we in the west would consider very primitive conditions. It’s true that many now have satellite television, though sometimes no running water in their homes and it is this more than anything else that will change these people forever. How can they watch glossy ‘soaps’, American TV shows and music videos day after day and not become discontent with what they have. Very few people here have a telephone in their homes, but I’ve noticed on this trip quite a few cell phones appearing, glued to the ears of the younger men. How they love to talk!
Jenny and I spent the morning on the West Bank saying goodbye to Egyptian friends before going back to Luxor for lunch at the Amoun Restaurant, where we met David. I regret that we didn’t manage to arrange any trips with my friend Sam who arrived a few days ago, but that’s often the way things are here. It’s not always easy to make plans, especially to travel outside Luxor.
Our coach arrived to collect us from the hotel at 3.00pm for a six o’clock flight – much too early in my opinion and it meant waiting for hours in the gloomy departure lounge of Luxor airport feeling very sad to be leaving, as usual.