Journal: Thursday 14 January 2010
Breakfast consisted of a very lazy morning with several cups of coffee on the roof terrace of the Villa Mut. It’s a lovely roof, part shaded by a colourful awning. There are several tables, upholstered chairs, sofas and sunbeds made from cane, a tall fridge full of soft drinks and even a tiny plunge pool, though empty at present.
The villa overlooks the high mudbrick wall that surrounds the whole of the Precinct of Mut (pronounced ‘Moot‘) and from the roof we could see all the little groups of temple buildings which used to be partly hidden by scrubby grass and camel thorn. Though I have visited the temple many years ago, it has been officially closed since the 1970s while excavations and restorations are taking place.
My memories of the Mut Precinct are hazy and while I recall many statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet and one or two other scattered blocks with reliefs, no overall plan of the temple was fixed in my mind. So it was exciting to see the whole area laid out before us and from the height of the third story roof terrace we could even see clearly the shape of the vivid green, crescent-shaped sacred lake, ‘Isheru‘. To the west of the lake are the remains of a temple of Rameses II, with large deep hieroglyphs engraved into the stone of the low rear wall. Beyond the lake, towards the north I could see several tall round columns that I don’t remember and it looks like much of the main part of the Mut Temple have been cleared or rebuilt. And Sekhmet is still there, hundreds of sisterly look-alikes lined up on the edges of a large square area in various stages of ruin. It looks like the excavators might be here at present as I could see several little clusters of people moving around.
Beyond the Mut Precinct I could see the huge gate of Karnak’s Tenth Pylon and above the trees, the top of Hatshepsut’s obelisk. Last night we listened to the music and dialogue from Karnak’s Sound and Light show – three times in different languages, though the coloured floodlights were hidden behind the trees. Today the sun is shining and to the west I could just make out the peaks of the Theban Mountains in the hazy light across the river, above the houses that surround us. Local people came and went along the dirt track in front of the villa, mostly donkey-carts and motorcycles and a little flock of scrawny goats picking at the rubbish on the roadside mingled with a few woolly black sheep nibbling at the long grass. Because the large area of the Mut Precinct acts as a buffer zone, everything seems to be at a distance and muted, including traffic noise from the nearby flyover that leads to the airport road. It felt very peaceful after Cairo.
Most of the day was spent relaxing on the roof. Rachad the villa’s owner, came and went a few times delivering one or two things that we had asked for, including an iron and ironing-board. I asked about the internet connecton we were spposed to have and he tried to connect, then after a phone call he told me that the D-Link service provider was down and should be back soon. Later the electricity went off for a while and the villa was in darkness so Sam & I took the opportunity for a siesta.
In the evening we went for dinner at Maxim’s near the Isis Hotel and Abdul and one of his brothers came too so it was quite a little party with the usual great food. We discussed the trips we wanted to do while we were here. Driving through Luxor I could see some of the massive changes since I was last here and it seems like half the town has gone, with wide roads replacing little narrow streets. Luxor is beginning to look very smart but I think it will lose its charm and character. The Corniche now has several sets of traffic lights and is lit by millions of tiny blue LED lights that are draped over every tree. There is also a new one-way system that means driving anywhere in Luxor takes three times as long.
After dinner we went to the Horus coffee shop in the bazaar and stayed until 12.30am. Sam and I were of course the only women in this local café where rows of men sat at the little metal tables and drank tea, smoked shisha and played noisy games of dominoes or towla, an Egyptian form of backgammon. They seem to get very excited by this and there is a great deal of friendly (and not so friendly) shouting and bantering. Another brother of Abdul’s came by to say hello and we sat chatting and generally watching the world go by. Walking along the road I found a bank that was still open late at night and I finally managed to change some money, so I feel solvent again. By the time we left I was feeling very chilled in the cool night air and I was glad to finally get to my warm comfortable bed back in the Villa Mut.