John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Thursday 2 February 2012

[Wednesday 1 February 2012]

The schedule for today was:
  • 06:15 Wake up call
  • 06:30–07:00 Breakfast
  • 07:15 Pick up →West Bank
  • 12:30 Sailing to Esna
  • 13:30 Lunch
  • 16:00 Afternoon tea
  • 19:30 Cocktail party
  • 20:00 Candlelit dinner
Slept well, but I was awake before the wake-up call came — shaved, showered — then we went down for breakfast: same arrangement as for dinner. The same people sat at the same tables. There were beef sausages, a bit like cocktail sausages in taste — no bacon! And all sorts of other things. We went through the other boat ashore, up steps, and on to the road, where the minibus was waiting. Our party had increased by two with the addition of Margaret and Mehran. (I kept forgetting his name: over the next day or two, he reminded me once, and she did also.) We crossed the Nile at the nearest bridge, and visited temples and tombs on that side. First stop was the Colossi of Memnon, which is all that remains of the funerary temple of Amenhotep III, though there are excavations on the site. Think this was our first taste of the constant hassle that tourists get from traders trying to foist their cheap and tacky souvenir-type merchandise on them. Someone — was it the obsequious waiter, or the taxi driver from Manchester Airport to the hotel? — had advised us to ignore them and not speak to them, for any speaking would just invite conversation. Even so, these pests followed one around and were sometimes hard to shake off.

08:03:07 The Colossi of Memnon

08:03:34 The mountains behind the Colossi

08:03:51 Working on the right-hand colossus

08:04:14 Sleeping dog between us and the colossi

Next, the minibus took us to the cameras-forbidden Valley of the Kings; Ahmed issued us tickets allowing access to three of the tombs — but not Tutankhamun’s, which would have cost extra. The treasures in the tomb, save one of the human-form decorated coffins, are in the Cairo Museum, so there’d not be much to see that couldn’t be seen in other tombs anyway.

A turbaned, grey galabeya-clad man at the entrance to each was ready with a hole-punch to punch the tickets. One of the tombs was fairly shallow; but we went in two deeper ones that went down and down. In each of these a galabeya man pointed out the important features, so I gave them a small-denomination note each. Each of these two tombs had a stone sarcophagus in it: one fairly low, so the stone image of the dead king could be seen, of granite; and one more or less concealed on a high plinth. This last tomb had Coptic Christian graffiti, looking somewhat like Greek, on some of the walls. All three had impressive bas-reliefs and multi-coloured paintings on walls and ceilings. The sun had grown bright and hot in that valley. From there the minibus took us to the three-tiered Temple of Hatshepsut. On the way, though, we stopped at one of several alabaster factories, were entertained by the workers’ witty unison vocal and musical responses to the guide’s explanations of processes and types of alabaster. I had mint tea in the shop, and we bought a little alabaster head of Tutankhamun.

Three photos in the alabaster factory/shop taken by Mehran

Entry to the Temple of Hatshepsut was through a bazaar, with more in-your-face unwelcome attention from un-shake-off-able traders.


We boarded a little “train” that took us closer to the temple.


10:59:36 Mehran and Margaret, Janet, Ruby and Drew approach the “train”.

11:01:58 We passed various ruined outbuildings.




Janet remarked on a couple of sphinxes along with other assorted stones away to the left. We later gathered that the approach to the temple was originally lined with many such sphinxes.


11:17:02 This reminded me of the eagle character in The Muppet Show.






11:26:58 View back east over the Nile valley

11:30:46 Some of the colours were remarkably still quite vivid.

11:31:20 Star-filled sky and cobras were motifs that we would see repeatedly in other temples.




11:36:40 Detail of the north side of the hillside to the left as one was leaving the temple

11:59:10 View of the roadside as we headed back towards the Nile bridge

We had to pass through several boats till we got to ours. The practice of the crew, on our return from all such outings, was to issue us with a hot, moist towel and a small glass of a hot tea: camomile, mint, etc. Another practice, which Ros had told us about, was to leave “sculptures” from towels, cushions, etc. in the cabin.

12:35:22 Towel “sculpture” that awaited us in our cabin back aboard the boat: an elephant

We cast off — but had to return again, because Mehran had not come aboard! They must have found him, though, because he appeared later.

13:11:59 View to the west over the Nile

13:16:05 View of Luxor Temple, which was near to where we had berthed

13:19:38 First and only sight of a camel till our second full day in Cairo

13:20:31 Heading south

13:20:57 Agricultural scene, obviously not in the UK!

Lunch: I helped myself liberally to the hot food in the bains-marie, but Janet had a pile of plain salad-type vegetables. She repacked the cases in preparation for the transfer to the Jaz Regency. Then we went up on the top deck and watched the changing scenes by the Nile.

14:42:23 Riverside scene, again obviously not in the UK!

15:56:17 “Seven cows, lean and gaunt, came up out of the Nile…” Perhaps not SO lean and gaunt! We didn’t see any particularly fat cows, though.

16:09:37 View of the east bank

16:13:17 The mountains to the east coming closer

We had afternoon tea on the top deck — coffee, actually — and I had little cheese-on-toast wedges and some cake. Then back to the cabin. It had been quite hot when the sun was high in the sky, but now it had turned coolish.

17:27:14 Watering the cattle at evening on the west bank

17:28:15 Sunset view from our cabin window

We put the cases outside the cabin for transfer to the other boat. I also had to settle the drinks bill (Coca Cola and bottled water) before departure. Later we were all herded out into the reception area, but had to stand around for a long time, because the distance from the boat to the quay was too great to step over and too high to step up. So the boat had to push off and moor up somewhere else. Eventually we filed onto the quayside, up steps, along a short way, to the waiting coach. The trip to where the Jaz Regency was berthed, at the other end of the lock (which we didn’t see), was surprisingly long. The new cabin had the same number as the old cabin, so was in the same place, more or less, as the old one. (This one had two separate single beds; the other had had single beds pushed together.) The reception desk was in a different corner, though, so things looked different. There was the same style of double staircases going to the lower deck and the upper decks. There was a belated “welcome aboard” cocktail party upstairs in the lounge. We sat with the others of the Hayes & Jarvis party.

Photo from Mehran and Margaret

I had a wineglass of some sweet, thickish, green liquid. I felt I should recognise the fruity flavour, but couldn’t quite figure it. The rotund, jovial “manager” (not “captain”) introduced the rest of the crew: the black-suited maître d’, who greeted us at mealtimes, and who looked more Italian than Egyptian (in fact, like Frank Nitti from the 60’s TV series The Untouchables — with Robert Stack as Elliott Ness), the grey galabeya-clad “pilot”, and many others. If dressing for dinner had been an issue (we had only packed casual clothes) it ceased to be so, for our cases hadn’t been delivered to our cabins. Dinner was seven or more courses, not the usual buffet, with candles in translucent alabaster cylinders (we recognised alabaster from this morning). I enjoyed it, but can’t recount all I had. One course was called “Bouche de la Reine” (“Queen’s Gob”). It was a very relaxed affair so it was after 10pm when we finished the “Baked Alaska”. Margaret and Mehran arrived late so their procession through the courses was somewhat rushed. Our cases had been delivered outside our cabin.

[Friday 3 February 2012]

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