Journal: Monday 16 October 2000
After our midnight ramblings last night Jenny and I eventually managed a couple of brief hours sleep before Ramadan was banging on the door at 4.00am, the engine of his blue and white taxi still running for a quick getaway to the airport. All was dark and silent at Kom Lolla, even the locals, usually very early risers, were still asleep. Trying not to make too much noise loading our bags into the back of the car we were soon speeding off down the empty road towards the bridge.
I’ve never returned home from Egypt yet without some sort of problem and today the problem started when we arrived at the checkpoint on the bridge. Neither we nor Ramadan had known that the police would not allow any foreigners across the bridge before 6.00am. Our flight was due to leave at 6.55am and it was at least a half hour’s drive to the airport from where we were. Ramadan tried to reason with the police. Jenny and I both tried to reason with the police. Ramadan got extremely angry with the police and even tried to bribe them. They would not relent. We all sat quietly fuming in the taxi while the police sat in their little hut smoking and drinking tea and smirking at us. We passed the time by telling Ramadan the children’s story of the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ and the troll who lives under the bridge, refusing to let the billy goats cross over. We made a game of thinking up silly questions we were supposed to answer so that we could go over the bridge. Ramadan, whose English is very basic, didn’t get the joke.
By 5.30am, we were all becoming anxious and wondered whether we should try for the ferry, which only runs about every half hour at this time of the morning. We didn’t relish the idea of getting all our heavy bags and belongings on and off the rickety boat and up the steps at the Luxor dock and would we find a taxi on the other side? Just then one of the policemen sauntered over to us and said ‘OK, you can cross now…’ It was still before the designated time, so why now and not an hour ago? They were obviously playing with us, it’s a dull life being a policeman in Egypt and they have to find entertainment where they can.
This trip has had its ups and downs. Our first few days in Cairo, which for us seems like months ago, was not a total success, though we can now look back and laugh at our mistakes and frustrations and chalk it up to experience. I’m not sure whether the West Bank apartment was such a great idea either but it did enable us to live cheaply even though I was ill for almost a week and felt cheated out of my time here. But most importantly, we were staying right in the middle of the monument area with all of those fantastic tombs and temples within walking distance and many good Egyptian friends both old and new who looked after us. What more could I ask?
It was the fastest trip through Luxor to the airport I have ever made and though we were last to check in (nothing unusual there), we still had a short wait before boarding. For the first time ever, the flight left on time! The sun was just waking up as we flew out over the Valley of the Kings, the hills and wadis bathed in their soft golden mantle of light and shadow. We were both damp-eyed at having to leave it all behind. An hour later we were changing aircraft in Cairo (for some undisclosed reason) but all went smoothly and before long we were flying over the north coast. It can be frustrating, funny, sad and wonderful and I’m missing Egypt already!