Journal: Friday 18 November 2005
I cannot help but regard Luxor as two separate places, the East Bank and the West Bank, always divided by the wide stretch of river. While the west sleeps its peaceful sleep as a necropolis should, in contrast the east is teeming with life twenty four hours a day. Today, Jim wasn’t feeling well and we all decided to stay on this side of the river and keep him company, whether he liked it or not, spending the morning in his hotel room that he dare not leave. In England we are all part of an Egyptology discussion group, so why not carry it on here. Jim lay stretched on his bed as we talked about the walk we had done yesterday and speculated on the temples no longer there and the kings and queens who had built them or stolen them from earlier rulers. Jim is never one to stay silent for long and soon he looked better, chipping in with the conversation as much as the rest of us. We spent time also discussing our plans for he next few days when we would venture north into Middle Egypt.
But by lunchtime Jim was fading again so we left him in peace and went to have a lovely lunch in the hotel. Sam and I rarely eat at lunchtime but the food in the New Winter Palace restaurant was too tempting to resist – the salad buffet is amazing!
After lunch I went for a walk with Malcolm and Fiona. There have been a lot of changes here in recent years and many parts of the town are being smartened up. I was glad to see that the old suq was still there, although the first part of it has a new cobbled pavement and many of the stalls have been painted or rebuilt. There is even a new grand arched entrance! This is the area that attracts tourists, though they don’t often venture very far up the long street. Further along the pavement disappears and the road once more becomes a rough dirt track, littered with dubious puddles and donkey droppings. This is where the locals shop. I love this part of the suq as there is so much to see. Stalls selling bright gaudy fabrics mingle with shops selling spices of every variety. Next there may be aluminium pots and pans for any occasion, or plastic laundry baskets hanging in rows from long nails. Vendors of Galabeyas, shoes, taped Egyptian music and coffee shops line up along the street and they are all busy with their daily trade.
We walked round the town in a big loop and ended up on the Corniche. Looking across the river the Theban mountains of the West Bank were turning a misty mauve in the late afternoon and smoke from cooking fires was drifting low over the villages. Whichever side of Luxor I am, I’m always pulled by the opposite bank as though a magnet is drawing the two halves of the town together.