Let’s see, catching up from my last post…
That evening, we took a little boat trip as a group across the nile to this little restaurant on the edge of the Western Desert. Great fun, but for me, so so food. The novelty of it more than made up for that.
It was an early dinner and we were back across maybe 7pm or so. We also found out that we got to sleep in the next morning, we would leave hotel at 10am! YAAYYY!!! I did my packing, which was a bit of a challenge. Had to figure out what I needed to have easily accessible for two days as everything else was stored in the big bags far under the deck. Per usual, over estimated what I needed. Oh well.
The felucca is a traditional Egyptian sail boat. You really have to see one to understand it (and when I get back and upload photos you will), but the deck is flat and in the case of the tour boats, covered with mattresses covered in one huge sheet. There’s a canopy that can be removed a few feet over head. You can’t really walk across deck, more crawl or hunched over. There’s a little short galley at the front where you can access the underside where everything is stored and a small crew cabin. We each staked out our little piece of deck where we’d spend the next two days.
The first day commenced, and we sailed to the police station to file our request to sail and that was approved. There was a hang up, though, high winds. Too high to sail. So, all the feluccas, probably somewhere between 6 and 10, sailed to this little strip of land and beached waiting.
Evening came, and we could still see the lights of Aswan. A few turned back. They were on a one day trip and they would have to arrange land routes to make their destinations. The rest of us had a nubian party on the beach and went to sleep snug in our feluccas. At night, they put up tarps around the sides and haul out a bunch of blankets. A sleeping bag was still a necessity this time of year. The first night was not so bad. Back a bit sore but warm and happy when morning came.
Day two, we managed to make a late start and get a little ways up river but not very far. We had a planned stop to see a traditional Egyptian village. I think it was called Daraw. I don’t have the words to describe it. We saw the camel market, or rather the camels that were not sold that day in the market, which takes place in the mornings. Camels are brought in from Sudan and used either for labor or for meat. The village itself was more what I would think of as a very small town. The people there do not often see outsiders. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were over whelmingly friendly and curious.
Oh, I forgot to mention how we got there. We weren’t able to make it by boat (dang winds), so we beached again and a truck sort of thing came to pick us up. Basically a little pick-up with a top over the back and a row of seats on both sides. Twelve of us more than filled it. Actually, including the captain who came in for supplies and Sam, our guide, we numbered 14 (plus driver). You see these little taxi truck things all over the place. I’m pretty sure I saw some like it in Mexico, but would never have had the chance to ride one otherwise.
We went back to the boat and crossed over to a desolate little strip of land. One other Intrepid tour (slightly different but overlapping route) met us there. After dinner, we had another Nubian party. This one was a surprise even for the guides. J.J. – our host on Elephantine Island, sent singers to meet us there. Mostly drumming and some singing. The neat part was that two in the other tour had either gotten engaged or tied the knot. I was never clear on which it was. So, it turned into a celebration for that.
Slipped off back to our boat when most of the rest did and called it a night. Until around midnight, when the call to nature came… literally… I had high hopes of not using the bathroom tent… oh well… such is life… I’m glad it wasn’t colder! Second night sleeping was better. I put some of my blanket underneath and used it to cushion things. Much better!
Breakfast on the Felucca before a brief sale across to be met by the minibus. Wind kept us from making it as far down as we were supposed to but we made up the distance today by the bus. So, we bid farewell to the Felucca, our home for two nights and the crew. The cook, Mustafa (sp?) was simply incredible. This was the part I skipped in telling the details. This was what made those nights sleeping on a cushion on a deck worth it. Everything was vegetarian (no power to keep things cold on the boat), and it was all wonderful. I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I did. I think the absolute best were yesterday’s pancakes at breakfast. Covered in jams. Just heaven.
On the way back on the minibus, brief stop at Kom Ombo temple to join a convoy heading to Luxor. Kom Ombo is a temple to the crocodile god (sorry forgot his name) and we just looked from outside the fence – no one was interested in paying to go in. Afterwards an hour in the convoy and then a stop at Edfu temple. This one we actually went into. This is a late temple to Horus, the god of the living king. It was built after Egypt was conquered by Alexander the Great. If I remember correctly, actually after his time, but still following his traditions. It was built in the Greek style, but using the Egyptian gods and themes. You could see the greek influences, no doubt. An amazing place. My only issue with it was the market. On the way out, I got caught behind some tourists who were having a hard time escaping the vendors and thus was trapped as well. I thought it was the worst until later today.
We got into Luxor at 2pm. Checked into the Little Garden Hotel just off Television Street (I kid you not). We had time to shower and clean up. I have never enjoyed a shower so much in my life. Peeled off the dirty clothes and piled everything up and took it down for laundry. Supposed to get it back tomorrow. Better!
We then had lunch… the guide took us to this awesome place nearby… food… western food… glorious pizza…. As much as I enjoyed the food on the boat, this is my first western food in a week, and I missed it so much. I had no idea how much until I smelled pizza going in. I was torn between pizza and the burger and fries but the place was a pizza joint, so I went with that.
After our late lunch, we had a walking tour of Luxor. No planned activities today, just see the city and see what our options are and then do your own thing. Sam left us at the market in Luxor… oy… I have officially reached my limit. I was beset at every door I walked past. Hello, hello, hello… echoes down the street. “come in” “your friend is inside” “no hassle!” Sorry, you hassled me already. I’m trying very very hard not to take it the wrong way, to understand the cultural differences, etc. But I have really had my limit of the hard sale. I can handle that I have to bargain for prices, but I will not be jerked off the street. I just can’t deal with that. I finally reached my limit and left the group and walked back to Television Street and this internet cafe by the hotel to decompress a bit. I’ll tackle shopping in the market tomorrow or in another city.
Tomorrow morning, a group of us are taking a morning hot air balloon ride over Luxor. Really looking forward to that! Then a tour of the valley of the kings and lunch. Afternoon is free. A lot of choices to do, the local musuem, Queen Haptchetsupts (sp?) temple, the night light show at Karnac’s temple, and the Luxor temple. So, choices to make tomorrow! But the morning is planned out!
Hope everyone is having a great new year. I am, if a bit in a daze. If not for my watch, I wouldn’t even know the day of the week. A week from tomorrow I fly home, so I guess the trip is sort of half over.
I’m not sure how many more updates there will be. Sam told us today that Luxor is our last opportunity to visit ATM’s before we get back to Cairo (Friday). I know that two nights are at a Sawwa Camp on the Red Sea and I’d almost bet no internet there. I’ve enjoyed all the comments and e-mails and I look forward to catching up and am glad you all are enjoying this! Take care!