[Friday 10 February 2012]
The schedule for today was:
11:34:56 Warning! Warning! Grey galabeya at twelve o’clock!
When we went to check out we locked the key in the room! We paid our tab and sat in the lobby. MS, the Rowan Atkinson look-alike who had taken us over after the first chap disappeared on Wednesday, arrived. It was the same driver and car as previously. We passed two car smashes on the way in! MS handed us over to another guy who oversaw the luggage check-in, issue of boarding cards, etc. There was a coffee shop, so we had coffee and I had a “Mediterranean panini” (bread baton filled with tomato, mozzarella, lettuce and sliced olives). I found there was a free wi-fi connection — downloaded e-mails, had a look at the credit card statement to see the “damage” from the ATM transaction. There was an e-mail from Chris:
From: Chris WoodheadBut my reply remained in the outbox. And the connection was broken. Maybe there was a time- or download-limit. At our gate the sign indicated boarding for Borg al Arab, not Luxor, but we found a young woman and a man who were going to Luxor and who seemed to “know the ropes” so stuck with them. Our flight was delayed, but eventually we went through to board the shuttle bus. Visibility was relatively good for most of the way. New housing estates near the airport looked like intricate models in sand. In fact sandy was almost the only colour to be seen. The darker fertile areas were mostly exceedingly narrow if they could be seen at all. We followed the thread of the Nile, then it disappeared off to the right leaving only hills seemingly of ubiquitous sand, then it came back again. The guy who escorted us in the minibus from Luxor airport to the hotel — which was out of town to the north, in its own quite extensive park which sloped down to the Nile — was a bit too persistent with the “hard sell”, and kept repeating that “Egypt is a poor country” as if its total economic survival depended on our booking all the optional excursions! We told him that we’d been on a cruise based in Luxor for a week and so had already been on the excursions he was now trying to sell us as optional (and expensive) extras, but he nevertheless tried to sell them to us, punctuating his pitch with “as you know, Egypt is a poor country”. Among all the almost perfectly seamless and pleasant dealings with Travco, this was the only one where we felt the least bit uncomfortable (bordering on annoyed). We agreed only to a balloon ride over Luxor on Tuesday morning. Rooms were in two-storey blocks named after Egyptian historical figures. Ours was on the upper floor of “Cleopatra”. It was very big, and had a dome in the ceiling. We walked back along the long drive to the entrance, bugged by grey galabeyas — “Taxi?… Later?… Tomorrow?” (I’ve just remembered that one guy in Luxor added to this litany “Next year?… Next life?…”) — then turned left, to the shop we saw on the way in, for supplies of Coke Light, bottled water and chilli-and-lemon flavour crisps. Dinner started at 7pm in a large dining room with pillars like the hypostyle hall of a temple. It was a bit disconcerting that we were asked to sign a bill, since we are there on a pre-paid half-board basis. We had coffee, which was added to that bill: only half a cup, though, and lukewarm! Janet noticed a prohibition in the hotel’s information against bringing in one’s own food and drink. With these niggles and annoyances, starting with the pushy rep — plus the question of what to do with three whole days — I wished for a short while that we’d ended the holiday after being in Giza.
[Sunday 12 February 2012]
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