Journal: Monday 13 March 2000
While we were out and about in Luxor a few days ago, Jenny and I met a girl who was staying in a hotel called the Nefertiti, which she said was cheap and quite good. Always on the lookout for decent budget hotels, this morning we went to investigate. The Nefertiti is somewhere down one of the little side streets in the area around the suq and it took us a while to find it. We had a look around and were shown into a couple of the rooms, which were cramped but adequate (I’m being kind here) and probably about the standard one would expect for EL15 (£1.50) a night for a double room. After thanking the hotel manager for showing us around we decided to go up onto the roof for a cup of coffee. There seemed to be quite a lot of floors and as we climbed and climbed up the dark winding staircase to the top of the building, Jenny and I decided that the hotel was not for us. For a start we guessed that it would be very noisy being in the position it was in. Hot and breathless we slumped into a couple of cane chairs and ordered our coffee which turned out to be a cup of warm water and a packet of powdered Nescafe (another black mark). Then I turned around to look over the wall. The whole of Luxor Temple was laid out before us in all its glory in a vista which must be practically unique. We could see right down into the open courtyards and onto the roofs of the chambers – what an amazing view! I gave the hotel a gold star just for that view.
A young friend of mine, Ibrahim, has been trying to teach me Arabic for the past couple of years. His own grasp of English is excellent and we will occasionally spend an hour or two together when he will give me lists of words and phrases to memorise and then test me on them at a later date. Gradually my knowledge of the language is increasing little by little so that I am able to understand conversations and even contribute now and then. People I meet who don’t know me are often quite impressed by my command of Arabic (which is mostly total bluff!). Today Ibrahim’s mother, Hyat, had invited Jenny and I to lunch at the family home near Karnak and Ibrahim came to our hotel to collect us and take us there in a taxi. Their pretty house is quite large and the brightly painted front door is reached through a little garden. When we arrived we were welcomed by Ibrahim’s mother, who everyone calls Haga, a title of respect as she’s made the pilgrimage to Mecca. We were also introduced to his younger sister Sayla who was just as welcoming though a little shy. In the reception room we were brought a tray of tea and we all chatted for a while before being shown over the rest of the house, right up onto the roof that has a lovely view over to Karnak Temple and where the family’s chickens are kept. Afterwards, Haga provided a superb meal of traditional Egyptian dishes and Jenny and I both felt we had eaten far to much by the time we left. What a lovely family.
Being so close to Karnak, Jenny and I decided to walk over there for a quick look around. I had forgotten that the entrance route has been recently changed and part of the surrounding land fenced off which meant quite a long hike around to the front of the temple. It was mid-afternoon and a perfect time to have a look at the reliefs on the Third Pylon as the light was just right to show them at their best. These reliefs are very shallow and it is sometimes difficult to pick out detail, but today they looked very good and I took several photographs of the Barque of Amenhotep III with what is believed to be a tiny figure of the future Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). After looking around the rest of the Sanctuary area the crowds were beginning to thicken, so we left Karnak to take a taxi back to our hotel.