Back to Cairo

Just a brief one to wrap up as we had no option but to stay our last night in Cairo again to be able to make our flight the next day. We took a day train from Luxor back up here, a 10 hour journey which costs a pittance compared to the rather expensive night train we took down to Aswan before. This time it was daylight of course, so you could get a look at life along the railway.

Our first class car:

A passing train shows how they travel in 3rd class (yes, this train is moving!)

They still have the old signal boxes in use, a bit like Cornwall in fact! Bizarrely there’s nobody in this shot, but normally there’s all sorts of people walking along the tracks who think nothing of stepping on the signal rods and cables as they go. You’d think that might cause a signal to raise!

We had the morning to kill in Cairo, and we’d deliberately left the Egyptian Museum until this day so that we had something to do to kill the time. We don’t have any shots of the inside as we didn’t bother about getting a camera permit, but the place is piled high with hundreds of sarcophagi and statues and God knows what else, mostly not labelled so you had no idea what you were looking at. One of the more interesting rooms was that of mummified animals, there was all sorts in there – baboons, crocodiles, dogs etc. Then there was the rooms of human mummies which you have to pay a little extra see but that was definitely worth it, you can get very close to them in their glass cases and see all the detail. Mostly they’re Pharaohs that have been removed from their tombs.

Then there’s the Tutankhamen  collection, of his sarcophagus and all his treasures that were buried with him in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It was remarkable stuff, that’s for sure.

Here’s a token couple of shots outside the museum.

We did a bit of window shopping after that as we went back to the hotel to recover our bags. They have these rather eerie faceless manikins in the shop windows.

A man runs the gauntlet to sell his bread:

That brings us to the end of a very rewarding week in Egypt, bringing with it some blessed heat which we’ve been way overdue for. Everything went off without a hitch really, not bad considering our itinerary was a fairly complex one on a tight timescale. On top of that, I managed to not resort to physical violence at any point, even when being asked for the 100th time in an hour where you’re from, or being ripped off for the 500th time in the same hour 🙂

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Luxor – East Bank

The east bank of the Nile at Luxor, where the town is, has two main attractions for tourists in the shape of Luxor Temple and Karnak. Luxor Temple is right in the town, a stone’s throw from the ferry, and was buried for years under sand and silt until it was rediscovered in 1885.

There’s an amazing “avenue of the sphinxs”, which they now know leads all the way up to Karnak, which is a good mile away at least, and are now being excavated.

Inside the temple:

The main facade:

Not sure how clear this is, but a sign in this supermarket proudly declares that there is “no hassle” here – Egypt’s latest buzzword for tourists. Left of the picture is Lisa, arguing with the proprietor over the cost of a bottle of water, which counts as hassle in my book. Yup, even for groceries you have to haggle for your goods.

On the way up to Karnak, I got a puncture in my rear tyre in a really awkward spot, far away from the accomodation where we rented them, and far from any shops or restaurants. We were under a bit of time pressure too as the day was pushing on and this was our last chance to see Karnak before we had to leave. In desperation, I found a sort of a travel agency and asked them. A guy walked with us on foot for a good 10 minutes to a mechanic, who couldn’t helpm but he took us to a small boy who went and woke his father who happened to have a bicycle repair business nearby and opened up especially for us and did a thorough repair for E20, or 80p. Everyone who really helped us and saved our bacon didn’t want any tip or to rip us off, everyone else did! 🙂

Now mobile again, we made it to Karnak:

One thing you’re not supposed to do with ancient monuments is touch them or sit on them.

We feel a bit lost in here, this hall has a total of 134 massive columns like these, and they’re mostly totally intact.

The night before we’d also caught the sound and light show at Karnak after dark. It was cheesy but quite cool at the same time.

The rather impressive public ferry takes you over the Nile for E1.

After a hard day’s temple viewing it’s nice to dip in the pool right on the banks of the Nile. Swimming in the river is not a good option, as it’s got the sewage of Tunisia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt in it 🙂

One of our last dinners in Egypt, accompanied by the local beer called Stella, which has nothing to do with the more famous Belgian variety and a bottle of local plonk, which wasn’t half bad actually.

Our room service people got creative in our room…

… at the same time as someone was creative outside the restaurant area with the day’s supply of bread.

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Luxor – West Bank

Described as the “world’s greatest outdoor museum”, Luxor is 100 miles or so downriver from Aswan. Although rather bigger, it’s similar in as much as the town is on the east bank of the Nile, but the ancient temples and so forth are to be found on both banks. Wanting to avoid the noise and hassle of the town again, we stayed on the west bank which is very rural, essentially on a banana plantation about a mile south of where the public ferry docks. To save a long walk, rather than use that we took a cab on the east side down to where the hotel sends their own boat to pick you up and drop you directly in the hotel.

We had our own cabin, very tastefully done and extremely large and private!

The bathroom is nearly as big as some bedrooms, and continuing an obsession I seem to have of pictures of them, here’s the shower.

We used a couple of bikes for our two full days there to get us easily about, as distances on the west bank are well within reach, and they also let you take them on the ferry to get around the east bank too. The ride up from the hotel towards the ferry and the sights of the west bank through the farm lands was delightful in itself.

They use these simple pumps to lift water from the cess-pit of a canal to irrigate the fields:

We woke up a couple of camels, they look like they may be hubby and wife, don’t they?

We first went up to the Valley of the Kings, fairly high up in the desert and well beyond the fertilising influence of the Nile. There must be 30 or more tombs up there, dug into the sandstone, including that of Tutankhamun. We don’t have a lot of pictures up there as you’re basically not allowed to use your camera unless you bribe the guards on top of the normal baksheesh you have to give them anyway. We went inside the tombs of Ramses III, Ramses IX and Merenptah which are three of the more impressive ones. We didn’t bother with Tutankhamun’s as it’s a fairly hefty surcharge on top and is apparently fairly unimpressive inside compared to the others anyway.

Cycling up there is up a fairly long, steady climb which is not too difficult, even in the soaring heat.

A cemetery in a remote spot halfway up to the valley:

There’s stuff like this littered all over the west bank, scores of tombs and statues everywhere:

Some of the few signs of civilisation on the West Bank, even though this looks  more like a postcard. I suppose that’s the weird effect on the lighting due to the sand.

This was a lunch stop at “Restaurant Mohammed”, close to the main ticket office, which is to say it’s in the middle of nowhere. It was probably the best meal we had though:

The restaurant’s resident cat, who seems to be bored of my advances:


Later in the day we did Medinat Habu, yet another mighty impressive temple mostly attributed to Ramses III. It was common for the pharoahs to have baboons as pets, and these are often depicted on the walls, sometimes they have them mummified with them too.

This room depicts lots of murder scenes:

Even at this point, I still struggle to believe that this stuff is some 5,000 years old.

You can get an idea of scale by looking for the Little Lisa in the doorway here:

Our last main stop on the west bank was the Tombs of the Nobles, there’s about 600 of these all in the same area, dating between the 6th dynasty and the Graeco-Roman period. We managed 5 of the 600, you buy tickets for them from the central ticket office, but when you get out there to the deserted site, you find that the actual tombs are locked, until a guide springs out from behind a rock and unlocks it for you. You have to give him some basksheesh, of course, and when you’re out he points you towards the next tomb your ticket allows you to go into, of course this time a different guide appears from nowhere to let you in. 5 tombs, 5 guides, 5 lots of baksheesh….

You’re not allowed to take photos as usual, but I did pay over the odds to one of these dudes to get a couple of pics inside Amenenope, we think it was.  The grate on the right of the first picture covers a shaft leading down into deeper parts of the tomb, where robbers would’ve dragged out the sarcophogus from at some point.

I remember as a child back at home when a baker used to deliver bread to our door. It still happens on the west bank.

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