Journal: Monday 22 November 2004
Up at 6.00am to pack, we had an early breakfast and left the Hotel Victoria by 8.00am. It’s odd to think we won’t becoming back to Cairo before we fly home. Probably just as well we’re leaving because there is rain forecast and it’s pretty dark and gloomy this morning. Everyone is hurrying about to avoid being caught in the imminent downpour. It took over an hour to get across the city through the rush-hour traffic and onto Sharia al-Ahram in Giza. Abdul was driving (even Sam refuses to drive in Cairo!) and he had decided to take the desert highway up to Minya as it is the quickest route. It was not nearly as boring as I had expected. We drove past the Giza Pyramids – this was our first real sight of them this trip, and out onto the Desert road past the turnoff to Bahariya and the Faiyum.
We actually skirted the Faiyum and could see its green swathes of palm trees and watery fields not far away. We also went past Hawara and Meidum Pyramids, seen in the distance from the highway. I Managed to get a fuzzy picture of Meidum as we flew past at 120km an hour. It seems to be much easier travelling in a private car than it is in a taxi and we were waved through all the checkpoints and had no police with us on the journey.
By 1.00pm we had arrived in Minya and began to look for a hotel. The cheaper ones were all full, so we ended up at the Mercure Nefertiti and Aton, which is quite expensive, even though Abdul negotiated Egyptian discount rate for us. Bless him, he does come in useful! Still, $35 per night is quite expensive for me in Egypt, though as I get older I am appreciating decent hotels (and hot showers) much more, no longer so happy to ‘rough it’. We had a Nile view room, with a balcony and it felt like pure luxury. I even had some laundry done. Bliss!
In Minya all tourists have to be accompanied everywhere by the police. I can never work out why this is because there is never any feeling of a threat here and it’s such a beautiful town. The Corniche has gardens and parks all the way along and it is full of old colonial-style buildings. And so clean after Cairo. Anyway, we wanted to go out to eat so we had to arrange with the police for a security man to come with us (plain clothed but his gun bulged from his belt for all to see). There aren’t many places to eat in Minya, and most of the local ones are understandably reluctant to serve tourists who have a police escort. We ended up at a KFC, which is just down the road from the hotel – not a brilliant meal and we had to complain about the coleslaw which was definitely off. Afterwards we persuaded our guard that he would like to spend the rest of the evening in a coffee shop, to which he readily agreed. The alternative for him would have been to go back and sit on a chair outside the hotel all night. We found a newly-opened coffee shop where a few locals were playing dominoes and back-gammon and had several cups of really good ahwa while Abdul and Mohammed our guard chatted and smoked shisha and Sam & I played Egyptian Trivia. The inevitably loud TV was playing Arabic pop music on a Sky channel. By about midnight we had got very cold, even in my fleece and scarf I was shivering and my toes were beginning to turn blue to match my sandals, so we made our way back to the hotel.