The Camels.

Well; the Moulid has been and gone , and Yours Truly managed to miss the first and most traditional part!

I knew that the anticipation and excitement were growing, you could almost sense it, even from our flat up on the 4th floor. I took the camera down to the street, well before the procession was due to leave the old Mosque of Luxors patron saint, Abu El Haggag. You'll remember the story about how he became such an important figure for Luxor, and worthy of this Moulid in his honour don't you, Dear Reader? Just in case your memory is getting like mine, here it is again:

"When Shaikh Abu El Haggag came to Luxor, Islam at the time was not the major religion in Egypt; Coptic Christianity was the leading religion at the time. The city was a colony owned by a religious Coptic lady. She used to be called The Princess. Her soldiers saw Sheikh Abu El Haggag there and was immediately recognized as a foreigner, therefore he was taken to the Princess for questioning as they feared that he is a spy from a different tribe/region. He complained to her about the treatment he received and expressed that he wishes to become a local citizen. The lady was generous and offered him to stay as long as he wishes. He asked her to give him a land as big as a camel’s skin to sleep on it, she thought that would be maximum of 2 square meters, so she agreed as she was a generous Lady, he asked her to sign a contract confirming the deal which she agreed to.
At night, he took a camel’s skin and he cut it into a very thin line at the front of some local witnesses, something similar to a very thin washing line, he used it to border a big part of Luxor Temple. In the morning, soldiers saw this line and reported it to the Princess, and then she realised that he owns this bordered part of the temple as per their written agreement. As much as she was feeling deceived by his plan, they met few times afterwards, she was impressed by his knowledge and then she converted to Islam."
This thread of camel skin ran up Mustafa Kamel Street (Gold Street) and passed the end of our little alley, so we really are within the old boundaries of the town. The rest of what has become known as Luxor, isn't, really, they are just a conglomeration of villages which have been caught-up in the "urban spread"! 
Anyway, back to before the "ca-ran-aval". The direction of traffic-flow is reversed on Youseff Hassan Street and our section of Mustafa Kamel Street, due to half the town being inaccessible to motors, it seems very strange to see the "arabayas" coming up the street instead of down, and coming out of really bumpy side-streets as well!

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Of course, not all the traffic has cottoned-on yet, It's Egypt, you know!

The main street was beginning to prepare for the grand parade, it's Luxors most exciting day, and almost everyone turns out to join in in some way. The lady and child on the left have come early to get a good viewing place. The gaily apparelled camels and horses were being shown off, up and down the street, like young girls being promenaded for slavering old slave traders!

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Some of them are very big, even intimidating I would suggest. (Especially after reading in the MailOnline about the camel driver having his head bitten off by one of his annoyed beasts!!!) I also noticed that one or two if these had muzzles fitted; scary, or what?

I retired to the relative sanity of out flat for lunch, assured that there was plenty of time before I needed to attend with my camera. (Why oh why do I continue to trust the timings given by Egyptians? You'd think I'd never experienced "Egyptian Time" wouldn't you?)

Never mind, even though I missed the beginning of it, I was there for some of the more modern parts. (More of this in another posting!) And I did catch some camels in the actual parade:

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What I didn't film was some (quite unnecessary, in my opinion) savage beating of the poor creatures. I suppose that when the riders have hired the animal, they feel entitled to treat it however their fancy takes them? I was astonished to find out that the cost of the day hire was 700le, with the biggest of the beasts costing 950le!!!

The owner hires a place just off Gold Street to stable the camels before they're needed, but straightaway after they're finished, they're taken back to their proper occupation in the sugar-cane fields, with the owner's pockets bulging with cash! Here they go:

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I'll get around to posting some more in a while, insh'Allah! 

  

Extremes in Egypt?

Well, we awoke to terrible and tragic news this morning; another aeroplane falling out of the sky! EgyptAir's flight MS804 just disappeared from the radar, or so it seems. No doubt it will be decided that it was yet another terrorist atrocity, and another million or so prospective visitors to Egypt will change their plans. It's just awful!

Freda told me of the news as soon as I was awake, and when I went down to take a glass of tea to our elderly neighbour, Mr Mohamed (You remember? the English speaking guide, whose licence was number 9 in all of Egypt?) at 8 o'clock, he already knew about it and was calling the terrorists upside down! Everyone here is appalled at this latest attack (if, indeed, it proves to be the work of terrorists) and have been following the regular TV news reports about it.

In case you're wondering why I was taking tea to Mr Mohamed, it's because he is old and infirm and his family are struggling to take proper care of him. I don't do a great lot, only take him some tea and get a little falafel for him. Other than that Freda is doing some washing and I go and sit with him for a bit, he just needs a bit of company and a little kindness. Dr Jacoub's assistant, Girges, is also doing his best to help. Here's a snap I took of them both later on this morning, when Girges had helped him to sit outside where he could see the normal life of the street going on, instead of the four walls of his room.

The one on the left is Mr Edward, the assistant of Dr Abd El Mallach, the surgeon from our 1st floor. I've called these two all the names under the sun, at times (mostly Igor, as in Dr Frankenstein's assistant) but they're OK really, Girges has been a great help to Mr Mohamed.

Mohamed is hoping to feel well enough to get out into the main street tomorrow evening. It's the time of year for the Moulid, and the stick-dancing started tonight! Mohamed is keen to watch the proceedings, as I'm sure he thinks it will be his last opportunity, maybe he's right as he is 86, and well past the life expectancy of Egyptian males in general!

Obviously, I had to have a gander (Colloquialism; gander = look.) at the dancing before I toddled off to bed. (More properly, before I did this Blog, before toddling off to bed!)

Here are a couple of short videos to whet your appetite, the first is to give you an idea of the havoc caused by re-routing the traffic around the Mosque:

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And the second is a very short introduction to Upper Egyptian stick-dancing/fighting for the uninitiated amongst you. We have it every year here in our little community, it has been organised by the forebears of one of our neighbours since time immemorial, and they are extremely proud to uphold the tradition. Enjoy:

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I couldn't help but notice all the smiling faces. For the short few days which the Moulid lasts, the local people forget their collective worries as they fall back on the certainties of their religious and cultural heritage, even the horrific news of the fate of Flight MS804 couldn't impinge on their momentary joy.

Opposite extremes of emotion on the same day! God bless them all.

Pictures from our trip to Aswan.

Yes, I had taken more pictures than I showed you in the last Blog.
Here are a few more of the hotel itself, one or two views from the hotel and also a few short videos taken through the train windows on our return journey.
Here goes!

That's the "Nile Wing", the picture was taken from the pool. Those balconies are marvellous, very spacious and with astounding views. I just caught the corner of the Nile Wing in this first video, it's a panoramic view from our balcony, enjoy!

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Although the hotel has been almost wholly re-designed, the designers wouldn't have dared to make much alteration to the fabulous Moorish flavour of the public interior areas:





Here's a view across the Nile to Elephantine Island and St Simeon's Monastery, away in the desert. It's a fascinating trip out there, we took camels across the scorching sand (it was a good few years ago) but you can walk, it's not all that far. Whichever way you choose, this place is well worth a visit, very interesting!

However, if you're more like we are now, the following picture shows us the Cataract library, where very few people seem to go. They have some lovely coffee-table type books, but also some interesting and amusing old books on the shelves. We could have spent many a comfortable hour in here.


The train journey home was as frustrating as it was interesting! Being daytime, there are so many fascinating sights to see from the train. The biggest problem is, though, that no matter how vigilant you are, for every point of interest you see on one side, you miss two on the other!!! The scenery is constantly changing; from village to mountains, from disjointed towns to ancient granite quarry or from a busy main road passing a large steelworks, to biblical farming vistas. I took a few videos, but they hardly give you a taste of what there is to tickle your fancy on such a journey.

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Since we got back home, we haven't really accomplished much at all! Apart from cleaning, of course, and the odd bit of cooking and dish-washing, we've mainly lain around complaining about the heat! Now, I know (from a phone conversation with a friend in Derbyshire today) that it's really quite cold at our other home, but how could you manage with this temperature (taken in the shade, of course!) and it's still only May!

It's right what the Egyptians are fond of telling tourists, "It's a hard life here in Egypt!" But someone has to do it! Please take pity on us, and think kindly of us as we soldier on bringing little snippets of our Egyptian life for your delectation.

It's now time for bed, at 01.48, and it's still over 28C outside.

A rest in Aswan at the Old Cataract Hotel.

Yes, Dear Reader, our hectic life in Luxor has driven us to take refuge and a rest in Aswan, where we aren't generally known and would pretend to be just tourists.
We've stayed at the Old Cataract before, but that was in 1997, when the hotel, like Egypt (and indeed, the rest of the world) was a very different place. Back then, the Cataract was classed, along with the Winter Palace in Luxor and the Mena House in Cairo, as one of the three best hotels in Egypt. We also stayed, on that occasion, at the Winter Palace and we visited the Mena House, where we had a guided tour of the hotel in order to check it out. All three were wonderful. Time doesn't stand still in the world of tourism, though, and the Cataract was closed for about 3 years for a complete renovation. I cannot imagine any other hotel in Egypt now topping this one, honestly!
The tower block which had been the New Cataract (not unlike the New Winter Palace, a cheap "pack 'em in" place) has been upgraded to "fabulous", whereas the New Winter Palace was just demolished! We'd asked to have a tour of the rooms there when we went to the Cataract for tea while on out last Nile cruise, but every room was booked out, so we couldn't.
Never mind, though, Freda spent three weeks emailing and cajoling the booking lady at the Cataract, and ended up with a great three for two deal, a seasonal discount and a celebratory upgrade (her birthday) and booked a beautiful Nile view suite in the old building. Job done!
We travelled down to Aswan by train, it was the new VIP train and the tickets were 60le for 2nd class. It was very nice, not too many people and very comfortable, and clean as well! The journey was only 2 hours and 55 minutes, and very picturesque being through the day.

The suite was fabulous, here are a few pics for you to drool over, Dear Reader. Firstly, a view from outside. That's our balcony, it has a table with two chairs and a sun lounger:

Strangely enough, the suite was right next door to the room we had on our first visit 19 years ago!

Next, the view from the entrance into the living area:

The entrance hall leads straight into the living area, and there are also doors from it into the bath/shower room and separate W.C.

Here's a shot from the bedroom end:

The desk was a handy touch, although the (free) WiFi didn't work at all on our laptop. (We'd taken our Etisalat dongle thingy, just in case.) There was a coffee making machine and a kettle with tea and coffee provided, and topped up every day along with daily bottles of mineral water. (Just like Our Luxor, then!) The large TV was augmented by a second TV for watching whilst in bed, that's it on the right, on a wheeled stand. 
Here's another couple of pictures of the room, for good measure:



The bath/shower room was great too, with an enormous bath, twin hand basins, and a very good shower with a rainfall head and a hand held one also. (Again, just like Our Luxor!)

The Hermes shower gel, which I squeezed under the running bath tap, was a bit more potent than I had imagined:

I felt like Doris Day!

The floor space of suite number 1122 was a little over 70 square metres, it being the largest (or so I was led to believe) of the Palace Cataract Suites. 

As you can see, the "Rack Rate" for our suite, including breakfasts and taxes amounts to a very reasonable $1255.83 per night. (At $33 each, we might have had to make do with just one breakfast between us!)

To give you an indication of just how much we enjoyed out stay at the Old Cataract, I can tell you that we extended our little three night holiday to five nights, and we only left the hotel once during that time. It was a real treat!

Although the hotel was busy, we did manage to sneak a peek at a couple of the suites in the drastically re-arranged "Nile Wing". WOW! What a surprise. The quality of the accommodation is reflected in the prices which are shown on the tariff picture above. ("Palace" refers to suites in the old building and "Nile" to those in the Nile Wing.) The view is even better than the views from the old building. I was amazed.



Another point worth mentioning, is that the large Nile Wing balconies are out of the direct sun during the afternoons, the hottest part of the day. Which makes them ideal for lazing around and reading, or whatever.

We were royally looked after by Mr Hossam at Front of House, but, actually all the staff we encountered couldn't have been more professional or helpful. Their reply to our, sometimes awkward, requests was always the same, that they aimed to do exactly as we required; and they meant it!

We took our meals inside, outside, on the Terrace and in our suite. In every case the food was delivered in a timely fashion and cooked and presented to perfection. What more could anyone want? The breakfast buffet was the most comprehensive I've ever seen, simply wonderful!

This has become my very favourite hotel! 

Goodnight.

Some Mothers do 'ave 'em!

I often wonder just what my poor old Mother did to deserve three children like us! For instance, here I am, messing about, 3000 miles (or so) away from her in "The Land That time Forgot", while my sister and brother (and I mustn't forget my wonderful B-I-Law) have taken on my share of seeing to the things which she just cannot quite manage herself.

But we're a queer crowd! I know that my siblings won't be upset at me saying this, as we published a proper hard-back book a couple of years ago entitled "Far from Normal", and written by the three of us. Not as you might imagine, in collaboration, but in spite of each other. It was a book recalling our personal memories from childhood, and some of the same incidents came out of our memories very differently! I was truly amazed that the other two recollected certain things entirely differently to me, how could that be?

Tonight I was brought up very sharply, when I looked at my feet! It was the beginning of my realising just how these things can come about.

Now then, I don't know whether I've told you about my bunions, Dear Reader, but suffice it to say that they aren't very nice. Neither to look at or to have! When they were first forming, they were very painful, I didn't want my footwear to touch them at all, if possible. After my doctor advised me to see a podiatrist (which I had to pay for) who would offer help and advice and possibly some special shoes (which I would also have to shell out for!) the solution I eventually conjured up was some cheap and nasty, pretend, Crocs! You've seen them, lots of tourists wear them, in particular Japanese tourists here in Luxor. But these are the real cheap and nasty version! The first pair I ever had were put out on the rood terrace to dry (after being in the washing machine) and they shrank about three sizes!!!!

Anyway, I now buy them in a size 10, even though I'm really an 8 and 1/2. They're so much wider, you see, and don't rub against the protruding bone. They're also nice and soft under foot, even though they're a good inch or so too long. I look rather like an Egyptian. (Now don't tell me that you haven't noticed that many Egyptians look as if they've put on someone else's ship-ships [sandals] by mistake, either because their heels are hanging over the back edge or they're slopping about in them like model boats in the bath!)

Well, I've paid as little a £4.99 at Aldi for them, and the last pair were (I think) £9.99 at Tesco. They're all pretty much of a muchness (Colloquialism: much of a muchness = very similar, nothing to choose between them.) but come in a variety of colours. I've currently got two black pairs and a darkish blue pair here with me in Luxor. I've left two pairs at home in Windy Nook as well. They just throw in the washing machine, the shoe-shine boys don't bother me as I roam around the streets here, and I just sling them in the rubbish when I start to feel the gravel through the sole. Great!

Except today, Dear Friend!

After spending a long long time getting to sleep last night, I had a lie-in this morning, but I was determined to get out and about today.
Never mind, we were snoozing on the bed, this afternoon, when a loud bang brought us to our senses! It was an electrical loud bang, I'm sure you know what I mean by that, like the main cables in the nearby electrical junction box had been flashed together......BANG! The power went off.

Now then, it was showing 44,6 degrees of that Centigrade heat, out on the terrace, and we knew that inside would soon be up to that temperature as well! It was obviously time to de-camp to somewhere with good air-conditioning. The Nile Palace beckoned.

I had a quick shave, with minimal water (no electric water pump) and poor lighting (obvious!) while Freda got dressed, and off we toddled.

The Nile Palace was heaving! There was yet another conference sort of thing on, it's maybe just as well that tourist numbers are down!!!!! There were also some very obvious "security" men wandering about; eyes everywhere, looking furtive and, if I'm entirely honest, a bit sinister. As we approached the seating area where we usually plant ourselves, we came across the security men's charges. It was Luxors young Governor and his family, here to dine at the Thai restaurant. We only mix with the best, you know, no hoy-poloy when we're about. Lots of the staff made a point of stopping to speak to us, managers, the head chef, head waiter, as we haven't been frequenting there as much as usual. I don't care what anyone thinks, it's nice to feel that you're important to someone and that you really are welcome!

We had a lovely time there, and then went shopping via our caleche mate and then home. It wasn't till much later that I noticed this:

Yes Dear Reader, I'd been swanning about like Lord Muck, all afternoon, with two odd plastic shoes on!!!!! And there's my Mother sometimes wondering if she's losing her mind when she cannot finish the Daily Mail crossword?

I ask again, what did she do to deserve children like this?

Ships that pass in the night?

I find that I'm more easily brought to tears as I get older! What a wuss, eh, Dear Reader? It happens while I watch "pretend" things on the telly, or when I remember particular (mainly family) things. I know that it's stupid, it's just that I cannot control my emotions as well as I used to be able to.

Friends in trouble, of whatever sort, can bring this flood of emotions to the surface too. And then; who do we count as a "friend"? I've always been a bit of a sucker, as far as making friends goes. A few have turned out to never have been any such thing, and cost me cash as well as heartache. But mainly, I manage to rub along with most of the people whom I would refer to as "friends".

This subject has come to light, and to the forefront of my thoughts, just today, after meeting with a friend for a cup of tea at the Winter Palace. This particular friend, we've known for a few years. She's a regular visitor here, we've had no commercial dealings with her, but we have a common love of "Things Egyptian", I don't know how else to put it. We aren't actually bosom buddies, more like the "Ships that pass in the night" of the title, but our relationship is important to me, and I/we do care about her and her situation.

As you can imagine, we've made many such friends through being here in Luxor, and even one or two by them reading the rubbish which I occasionally write on here! So different too. Each and every one seems to have made a little home in my heart, don't ask me why; that would be something else to add to the ever growing list of things which I just don't know!

Two ladies whom we've met here, and grown very attached to, will not be back as they are both desperately ill, in fact, I don't even know if we'll ever see them or hear from them again. That makes me so sad, that if I allowed myself to dwell on it, I would soon find tears trickling down my cheeks again! Another (a real Egypt lover, and I'm not talking Egyptian man there!) is not able to return because she just isn't fit enough to cope with it all. She'd be here tomorrow, I'm sure, if she was able. Her sadness at not being able to travel also makes me so sad. Will we see her again? I very much doubt it. Although we do still email I imagine that she finds even that a bit upsetting.

Other, regular, travelling friends who seemed to belong here (as visitors, I mean) no longer come, and I've no idea why, I'm saddened that they don't reply to my emails and text messages. Ships that pass in the night, again. I know that some have moved on to pastures new, as I see them posting here and there on the Internet, but I'm sad that their ship won't come back this way, and that they seem to be able to easily forget about those whose lives they've touched along the way. I cannot do that!

Twice in the last two days we've supped tea or coffee at the Winter Palace, both times with English friends which we have made here in Egypt. Here's a little video of someone else having "Tea at the Winter Palace", but they didn't have to pay!

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Cheeky little Blighter!

Yes, Dear Reader, we've made a lot of these friends in Luxor, many different nationalities, single, married, living in sin even!!!! But they've all made their mark on this overly emotional old man who sometimes records his experiences or feelings here.

We walked back from the WP, out of the back door and along Manchiya, past the station and down our street. On the way, I couldn't help but notice the following anomaly. Only in Egypt, once again, I fear:

Now, I don't find that sad! But I'm not sure of exactly why you would want to build your house around a lamp post/telegraph pole.

I'm off now Dear Reader, as it's turned 1 o'clock. But don't you be content to just pass in the night, like ships on a dark sea, cherish your friends for as long as you have them. They won't always be there!

Why do today, what you can put off 'til tomorrow?

Or perhaps; Procrastination is the thief of time, or yet; The road to Hell is paved with good intentions!

Grovel, grovel, grovel! I truly believe, Dear Reader (if you're still there, that is!) that I have become infected with the seeming Egyptian ailment of having no "get-up-and-go". You wouldn't believe the number of times that I've remonstrated with myself over not keeping you up-to-date with life "on the edge" here in Luxor.

But; enough of this navel gazing and general despondency. I've reached the grand old age of 65 today, and I'm pleased to be here, and as pleased as Punch to be able to write these thoughts and reports for you, oh long-suffering subscriber to this Blog!

If you're in the habit of looking at the various forums (fora? I don't know) about Luxor, you'll be aware that there have been problems for those of us who are here for the longer term, regarding visas. Well, I'm delighted to tell you that we got ours yesterday. So we're reasonably confident that we'll be able to report to you for yet another twelve-month (Insh'Allah!).

I've just been reading Mara Vaughan's Blog (http://marahouseluxor.com/egypt-2011-2016-is-it-safe/)
and realise that we two aren't all that far apart with our view of safety here in the Land of the Pharaohs. However, it seems that the rest of creation isn't on the same wavelength, as tourists are very thin on the ground here. So few and far between are they, that life is becoming boring for the likes of us, that's what I blame my lack of enthusiasm on......no excitement or entertainment!!!!!

Never mind, that's got my rant for today out of the way. Now let's see if I cannot find some pictures or prose to grab your interest?

Ah, yes! We travelled to Hurghada to fly home for Easter! It's all coming back to me, as if from a half-forgotten dream.

I don't like the road to Hurghada, and I'd rather just not bother going there at all, but when the flight price is half of what you'd usually pay, and the destination airport is more than a hundred miles nearer your home and accessible by your son's car; the figures just take over!

But the journey, in itself, was quite uneventful, and boring! Except when going through Qina, when we came across lots of old Eltramco mini-buses!

Now then, I hadn't seen one of these for many a long year, they were manufactured in Cairo by the Egyptian Light TRAnsport Manufacturing COmpany, and used (nationwide, I should imagine) as local public service vehicles. We had them in Luxor when we first came here; always with the bonnets (hoods, to our American friends) open to try to cool the engines. I cannot find out very much about the company, but it seems they stopped trading in 1972, so these mini-buses are likely to be almost 45 years old! Mind you, I take my hat off to the Egyptian coachbuilders and repairers, some of these old things looked brand spanking new, alloy wheels and everything!


One or two, I noticed, had Isuzu badges stuck on, they probably had Isuzu engines, one would think.

In Luxor, they've been replaced by (almost exclusively) Toyota Hi-Ace micro-buses. They're more practical, with their sliding entrance doors; especially when there's a need to carry standing passengers!

I really don't think that Her Majesty's Traffic Commissioners would take kindly to carrying passengers on the step of an outward opening door!

The next point of interest (for me, anyway) was two dead buses at the half-way rest point.


A queer little pair, I'm sure you'll agree.

It seemed as if it took an age to get to Hurghada, in fact it was only about 4 hours, but too long! The airport is pleasant enough, but with a lot more alcohol swilling going on than we're used to, or care to see! On the plane (Monarch) quite a number of passengers only stopped slurping to either yell at their friends or go to sleep. All very well if that's your "bag", but we won't be doing it again in a hurry.

The holiday at home in Windy Nook was great. Great to see all our family, great to see friends, and for me; great to be able to join the Chapel choir to sing The Crucifixion on Good Friday! We had help from a couple of other local chapels, and new soloists. (The tenor was fabulous!) If you're interested, here is a recording of the whole thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_9ieLBJPH4 It's a very emotional piece!

I was also delighted to be able to join with many of the same folk when we went to the fantastic Beamish Museum, to sing old hymns in the reconstructed Methodist Chapel there one Saturday, The many people who wandered in to hear (and some also joined in) these great hymns seemed to enjoy themselves, so it was well worthwhile.

Of course, I haven't mentioned (yet!) my new melodeons!!! One is still in bits, that's the one I published the pictures of. It has a major problem which I haven't been able to do anything about, as yet, but time will tell. 

Another one also had some major problems, but I was able to fix them with some advice, ingenuity and homemade tools. Here's a few pics of some of the repair work and one of the melodeon itself. It's roughly the same age as my first one, I think, about 100 years old. 



The other (latest) melodeon is a more modern (and higher quality) Hohner 1-row. Number-One-Son bought it for me as an early birthday present, it's so loud that I'm afeared to play it sometimes! But I love it. It even came in its own box!

I've brought that one with me, to play here in Egypt in order to stop me going mad with boredom. It's kept in the bathroom, so the bits of leather won't dry out and start to leak air, it's a terrible thing to have leaky bellows, you know.

I'd better get some shut-eye, I think, as we're off to the Nile Palace at about 4 o'clock, to meet with some long-time tourists whom we haven't been able to meet with for a few years.

I'll be back!



Didn't we have a loverly time, the day we went to.............

Yes, Dear Reader, that's part of the first line of a song by 1980's one-hit-wonders; Fiddler's Dram. They went to Bangor, in North Wales, but we were priviledged to go to Aswan! And we went in some style, on the Royal Viking Nile Cruiser, again!

So, why did we choose to sail on the RV (Royal Viking) for the third time in less than a year? Of course, the special rate that we are able to negotiate with our good friends at Viking is a great help, but the fact that it's a really nice boat/ship (or whatever) with comfortabely sized, clean cabins and perfectly nice food also goes a long way to my being more than comfortable with recommending it as well as sailing as often as we can afford to. It's a joy to sit on the sun-deck as you leisurely make your way between the glorious banks of the world's longest and most famous river.

We mustn't forget the pleasurable visits which the tourists undertake on their journey; the magnificent temples at both Edfu and Kom Ombo, as well as the various visits arranged for them in and around Aswan itself. But, for us, it's all about the actual cruising, and meeting fellow Brits who are (in the main) visiting the wonders of Egypt for the first time. We can re-live the thrill of our first encounters with Egypt's treasures as we converse with them, it's fab!

Mind you, they can include some queer folk, as you well know, Dear Reader!!!!

We were amazed to meet the husband and second daughter of a lady whom we met when we sailed in October! The husband was fascinating, with lots of special interests. It seems that his working life is spent making metal rust! Now, if that's not strange, I don't know what is!!!!! Never mind, a thoroughly nice chap, anyway. He was also "game for a laugh", and a bit anti-authority! Here he is, with the rest of the Ingleezy gang, displaying his anti-authoritarian streak by not wearing his life-jacket whilst on the felucca:

That's him, at the back, the fashion-conscious one with straw hat and daughter.
(Click on any picture to get them all up together, and bigger.)

As they made their way across the river, the local boys arrived, I'd almost forgotten all about them over the years, but they then had very small, and ramshackle, home-made boats, in which they paddled up to any unsuspecting tourist-laden felucca and sang "Row, row, row your boat" or "Freres Jacques", depending on what nationality they imagined the tourists to be. Of course, they had to be rewarded with cash before they would go away; a canny little earner on a good day! (Colloquialism: canny, in this context, = good.)

I decided to catch a little video of the boys and their vessels as they approached their quarry:
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They don't seem to have boats any more, they look more like surfboards!
Freda and I got to chat with several other people, too. One couple (retired, I presume) have a "project" on the go in Tanzania, where they work with children. They're a registered charity where 97% of the money goes directly to where it does good. (That's an impressive figure compared to most others!) Their website is: www.farajasupport.org.uk 

The husband of the pair is in cahoots with another passenger with their (combined, I believe) idea of building houses to cover the northern Sahara, with solar panels on the roofs, which (in theory) could supply all the energy needs for Europe and more, housing for countless displaced populations and some way of reclaiming the desert for agriculture! Very grandiose, but perfectly plausible when explained properly, it sounded really innovative. This second bloke has a head full of ideas, I'm surprised that he manages to turn off and sleep at nights. Utterly fascinating conversations with them both.

Another retired couple were equally fascinating; they spend six months at sea each year! Not on cruiseboats, as you might imagine, but on their own yacht. Apparently, they set off in April and sail away and around, all over, for the whole of the summer, and have done for years! Again, this was a couple whom we could have spent days in conversation with, more insights into completely different lifestyles. Simply wonderful! 

Those two travelled to Egypt with the widowed brother of the wife, who had yet another story of his own. Ex Royal Greenjackets, and ex international wine and spirit dealer, and also an old motorcycle afficionado. I tell you, we get all sorts here in Egypt!

Added to this mix were the Chief of the Luxor Traffic police and his family, and a particularly self-assured young lady travelling solo, whom I was informed was very close to President El Sisi as a member of his equivalant to the American CIA and the Russian KGB!!!!!! Of course, it still being relatively close to the annual Egyptian holiday period, there were a good number of Egyptian families aboard, too.


The Journey South

We left on Tuesday, at about 2pm, and came across over a dozen cruiseboats which had also left at lunchtime-ish. Here are a few of them as we prepared to overtake them all, the RV is one of the fastest boats on the Nile.

Of course, the usual stops were made, so that the tourists could make their visits at Edfu and Kom Ombo Temples. We saw the Tuk-tuks and emaciated carriage horses at Edfu:

(And I still covet a Tuk-tuk!!!!) We also saw the rubbish collecting boat alongside while we were tied up, with one of the rubbish men carefully going through each bag before it was slung with the others:

Just like last time we cruised, we came across fishermen getting a tow home:

Quite unlike the last few times we've been on the Nile, we noticed that the stallholders at Kom Ombo were mostly open, and (Hallelujah!) were quite busy!

I feel sure that you will agree that Kom Ombo Temple looks gorgeous from the river at night, when it's illuminated:

Another glorious sight which many miss as they slink about in the bar, or where ever, is the equally impressive Aswan Bridge, which is just so photogenic!



In Aswan

We docked at Aswan on Wednesday evening, mooring directly opposite the "Tombs of the Nobles". You'll remember the view from an earlier post, I'm sure, Dear Reader:

Gaudy, but quite impressive, nevertheless.

The mountain lights in Luxor don't compare at all! But they're very different places, after all. We like Aswan a lot, and especially the Old Cataract Hotel, where we stayed on our very first trip there in 1997. It has real character!

After lazing round the boat all day on Thursday, we decided to stretch our legs with a stroll along there on Friday. It's only about 25 minutes or so, and we don't walk too fast, being ancient, you know? On the way, I always keep a lookout for things of interest, as you're aware, I'm sure.

I don't know whether you remember me mentioning the cruiseboat on wheels, with the accompanying picture? I brought it to your attention as the rumour was that Ethiopia was going to take more water from the Nile, and that the cruiseboat operators were considering stealing a march on the situation by sending the cruiseboats and passengers, via a magnificent new road (yet to be constructed) across the desert. Here's the proof which I provided at the time:

Well, on our little hike along the Corniche in Aswan, I couldn't help but notice that someone there has seemingly cornered the market for when the oil runs out and we all have to revert to horsedrawn transport, thus:

The owners might think that these were well hidden from prying eyes, but they didn't reckon on old "Eagle-eyed Mr Edward" did they?

We made it to the Old Cataract, where we found comfortable seats in an advantageous position for watching other visitors as they came and went (as usual!). I took the obligatory pictures of the beautiful Moorish arches etc as we waited:



The whole place never ceases to amaze me!

All of a sudden, a familiar face presented itself in front of us! "What are you doing here?" it demanded. It was an old acquaintence from the Winter Palace in Luxor. What a lovely surprise! After we had exchanged the usual pleasantries, and told him about our cruise etc, he ushered us outside and onto the terrace, taking our order for tea and decaf coffee, with some cake, as we went. The waiter took a while to arrive with the goodies, and we just luxuriated in the warm sun as it drifted towards the Western horizon, it's final resting place beyond the Aga Khan's Mausoleum and St Simeon's Fortress Monastery. Pictures and a small video begged to be taken.



video
(The Aga Khan's Mausoleum is the building which I first zoom onto, and St Simeon's is the large low building in the distance at (and after) 20 seconds. This monastery is a great place to visit. It necessitates a short camel ride, but it's well worth the discomfort!)

When we finally asked for the bill, we were astonished to find that our refreshments were "Complimentary, Mr Edward". How nice, it made the walk back to the boat all the sweeter!

Our journey back to Luxor

Was quite uneventful. A slight headwind was magnified by the motion of the boat as it cut along at a fair old speed, but it wasn't enough to deter many of the passengers from catching the sun on the open top deck. Everyone wanted to make the most of their time here.

We stopped off at Kom Ombo and Edfu to facilitate the new arrivals' visits to the two temples.

I noticed a concrete barrier, of sorts, across a part of the river which ran behind an island.

I was looking at it with my small binoculars when the Egyptian man standing nearby piped up " I built that!" He went on to explain that it had been intended to stop the incursion into the main flow of the river of "hashish", meaning general vegetation, which causes problems at Esna, in particular, but that it had not been maintained properly. (Strange, for Egypt?)

Freda's mosquito bite on her calf flared up during the return journey too, here it is, in all it's glory:

Very painful, and still being treated with an anti-biotic ointment and tablets.

Approaching the bridge and lock at Esna each cruiseboat is regaled by the local galabiya/table cloth/bath towel salesmen. Shouts of "Excuse me" "Hey Ingleezy" or (of course) "Hey beautiful" "My queen" "My sweetheart", usually get some response, and then the goods come flying through the air, being stuffed into a plastic bag for fear of falling into the water and being ruined. The idea being that the prospective purchaser can inspect the item before agreeing a price and throwing the cash (in the bag) back down to the seller. More often than not, though, it's the item which gets thrown back down in the bag, and often landing in the river! Here's some ideas of their tactics:

video



I don't know how they are managing to make a living by doing this in the current tourist situation.

Whilst waiting for the lock to empty into the downstream section of the river, I couldn't help but notice this particularly fine looking hydraulic press:

Boy oh boy! Could I have made good use of that 30 or 40 years ago? The 100 ton press, which I had access to at the time, often used to make horrendous (and frightening) groaning and creaking sounds as it progressed towards it's maximum pressure whilst pressing out seized king pins! The one in the above picture would have made short work of them, I'm sure.

I think that that's about it for this journey, I do hope you've enjoyed coming along with us, even just as spectators. See you all again soon, I'm sure. TTFN.

(p.s. I hope these videos play properly for you, as I'm still not getting them on my machine. Grrrrrrrr!)