Journal: Tuesday 4 November 2003
Most of our little group have been to Egypt before and we decided to go our separate ways today. Sam told me it’s been unseasonably hot since she arrived here a few days ago – too hot for her – but apparently the weather has now cooled a little, though it still feels quite warm to me coming fresh from the English winter. I spent the morning walking in Luxor, saying hello to street traders and others I knew and just getting into that lazy Egyptian pace of life. Aboudi’s book shop was my first stop and I bought a copy of Florence Nightingale’s ‘Letters from Egypt’ that I found half-price, it would make a good read on my travels. There was nothing else new to interest me thank goodness. I think I took home enough books from my last trip to keep me going for a while.
After stopping at the pharmacy to stock up on necessaries for the desert, I met Sam at the Amoun Cafe for lunch, where I love to sit at the pavement tables with a cool lemon juice and people-watch. After a while Kevin walked by – if you sit here long enough you see everyone you know eventually. He joined us for a drink and then Kevin and I decided to take a taxi to Karnak, not wanting to totally waste a day here without seeing any monuments.
It’s a couple of years since I was at Karnak so it was exciting to see what work had been going on. Not expecting to be visiting Karnak today I didn’t have my camera equipment, only my little Pentax compact (I never go anywhere without it) so I didn’t bother taking many pictures. It was actually nice to walk around and look at things with my eyes instead of through the camera lens. Karnak was very hot and humid and the main part of the temple was crowded with tourists when we arrived, so I walked around the peripheral monuments at the edges of the complex where most people don’t go. When I met up again with Kevin near the 7th Pylon we managed to persuade the guard to let us through to look at the 8th, 9th and 10th Pylons and we also spent some time looking at the nearby block field. The crowds had thinned a little by mid-afternoon but were beginning to trickle back as the sun got lower and the day cooled but by then we were both feeling tired, so we were glad to make our way back to the hotel.
Dinner at Maxim’s near the Sonesta Hotel was somewhat of a celebration, a lavish three-course affair. Sam had booked a table in the restaurant and we all went as a group to enjoy our first meal together. We spent a leisurely couple of hours over the meal, good food as always here and good conversation too, with all of us passionate in one way or other about Egyptology. We spent a lot of time talking about our long-anticipated Western Desert trip and the sites we would be visiting. Sam is the only one of us who has done the New Valley route before a couple of times so it was all familiar to her and she was able to give us a good idea us what to expect.
When the others went back to the hotel Sam and I went off to sample Luxor’s ‘night life’. OK, maybe not the bars and discos for us, but we did end up sitting in a smart new Egyptian coffee shop down a side street near the Sonesta Hotel for an hour or two. Our friend Abdul, who would as usual be our driver on the coming trip, came by with two of his brothers who Sam and I also knew and we again discussed the route we would take. Well, it’s rude to leave too early so it was once more Midnight by the time we got back to the New Radwan. Hurray! My plumbing is fixed but there’s no hot water. After a very hot day I had got cold sitting in the coffee shop and had to ask for an extra blanket for my bed.