Journal: Wednesday 24 April 2002
It’s dull and muggy today. The sky is a leaden grey and the air thick and yellow and almost unbreathable. After a leisurely breakfast Mary and I sat for a while on the top deck of the Commodore in comfortable padded chairs and chatted to some of our fellow passengers. Farewells and addresses were exchanged. Today we were all leaving the cruise ship, some of us to stay another week in Luxor, a few had already departed for a short break in Cairo while others were returning home on the flight to England this afternoon. Mary and I had eventually got our packing finished after breakfast and were ready to leave. The boat was berthed alongside the Sheraton Hotel at the southern end of Luxor which is quite a distance to walk into town. The view from here is peaceful, with the West Bank mountains just over the river and the lovely Sheraton gardens a stone’s throw away. Lunch seemed to follow breakfast fairly quickly, a fabulous buffet as usual – I would certainly miss the meals aboard the Commodore – and then we were transferred by coach to the Novotel.
This is the first time I’ve stayed in this hotel and our room feels huge and spacious after our small cramped cabin on the cruise ship. We are not directly overlooking the river from our balcony but have a corner room so we have a view of the hotel’s terraced gardens down to the Nile and the West Bank mountains as well as straight down the Corniche towards Luxor Temple. At least we should be able to see over the river but today the West Bank is shrouded in dusty clouds. After a week of very hot sunny days the notorious Khamsin has arrived.
The Khamsin – literally the Arabic word for fifty – is an oppressively hot dry wind that blows south-easterly from the Sahara through Egypt, carrying with it large amounts of sand and dust and can last on and off for a period of around fifty days anytime between March and May. The wind, called ‘rih al khamsin’ by the Egyptians, is hated by them and in past centuries it was dreaded as a killer. The hot, zero-humidity atmosphere produced by the khamsin contains an excess of positive ions. It causes young people to feel overcharged with electricity which results in headaches, irritability and even violence, while older people react differently, becoming fatigued and depressed with low blood sugar which can cause different illnesses. It is a time when accidents are at their highest. Having experienced the Khamsin in Egypt a few times before I know this feeling. It always makes me feel depressed, so I suppose that puts me in the ‘older generation’ category.
Mary and I spent the rest of the afternoon in our room in the Novotel, it was too hot and dusty to go out. In the early evening as the temperature cooled a little we walked the short distance to the Old Winter Palace and through the hotel’s beautiful gardens there where the perfumed air felt a little fresher. We watched the sun sink like a great orange bald head into the clouds. We had dinner at my old haunt the Amoun Restaurant and said hello to a few Egyptian friends who kept shops nearby. I bought a cheap wristwatch from Aboudi’s that had Arabic numerals on it’s face and a couple of books. Retail therapy!