Our Luxor visits Marrakech.........yet again!

Yes, as you'll no doubt recall, we love the Arab style architecture, and it abounds in many of the places we visit and revisit. Marrakech is no exception!
This time, we're staying in a riad owned and managed by an English gentleman called Gary. It's delightful! He and his partner have spent a lot of time (and, I suspect, a considerable fortune) on converting the place from a family home to a guesthouse/B&B establishment.
The style is obviously very traditional whilst everywhere we look we see "newness". New doors, frames and windows, new modern-standards wiring and plumbing, new tadelakt walls and intricately carved plasterwork, along with the fabulous detail in the painted woodwork it all adds up to an exquisite example of just what can be accomplished with a good eye and the wherewithal to find and enthuse enough skilled craftsmen to carry out your dream. It's beautiful!






 

We're only here for 4 nights and our hectic programme includes much strolling about the souks and from the Jemma-El-Fna and the surrounding eateries, as you can imagine!
Of course, it wouldn't be a holiday without shopping! And we like to come across bargains to make use of in our own exquisite holiday apartment; the famed Our Luxor. We've managed a couple of items so far, and have high hopes of making another purchase today before we head off back to Blighty. I couldn't possibly tell you what these are though, loose lips sink ships, you know?

Our eating has been confined to (mainly) the Chez Bahia restaurant, just off the square, where we have thoroughly enjoyed tagines and couscous etc,



and the Seven Saints restaurant, actually on the square, where our main delights have been tea and tartes citron, or hot chocolate and eclairs.




We've used both of these establishments previously, and are remembered and looked after by the staff, which (along with the delicious food) is the main draw. I'm perfectly sure that the many other restaurants scattered around the square are also quite adequate with equally friendly staff, but we've been patrons of these two for 6 years now, and feel very comfortable there watching the world and his wife go by whilst enjoying our grub.

Friends Reunited?

This isn't really a Blog, but it seems to be the only way to reply to the most recent comment on my Blog! Strange, eh? But this is about anyone contacting us through the Blog, as opposed to sending a proper email.
Over the years, we've received messages as comments from ex guests who've become friends, and a few old friends alike, and we've been delighted to get them; make no mistake on that point! However, when the content is of a private nature, it's not right that these should be aired in public, which, of course, the Blog comments are.
At the moment, I've tried to place a comment in reply to one of my longest standing friends, whom I haven't had meaningful contact with for the best part of 15 years, and I'm desperate to re-engage with him, but I don't know his current email address, and he now lives, literally, thousands of miles away! For some unknown reason, I seem to be unable to sign-in to the Blog except for the dashboard, where I'm writing this, so unable to leave a comment; it's bloomin' frustrating, I can tell you!
So, here's a message for my "rolling naked in the snow" friend from too many years ago.............

SEND ME AN EMAIL TO ourluxor@yahoo.co.uk


That's all folks.

Sorry, no pictures!

And I should think not! I would have damaged the camera, I'm sure. ("What, even more?" I hear you ask.)

As I'm sure you're aware Dear Reader, we should have been safely at home in good old Windy Nook by now, but, courtesy of EgyptAir, we're still here in Luxor!

I'm beginning to hate airlines with a vengeance; firstly, BA (our once proud national airline) decided to cancel our September flight from NCL to LHR, about 10 hours after Freda booked it the other week. What excuse did they have for cancelling a flight almost 7 months in advance? It's beyond me, I can assure you. So, now we'll have to leave home at something like 04.00 to catch the EgyptAir flight to Cairo at 15.00 or whatever time it goes. I'm really looking forward to spending the day at Heathrow Airport, as you may well imagine!

Monday was another case of an airline just doing whatever it fancies with its innocent fare-paying passengers. (Will no-one protect the travelling public?) The 06.15 flight from LXR to CAI was to be over three hours late in taking off, yes, three (that's 3) hours late, and that's after our CAI flight to LHR has left anyway! The next flight to LHR wasn't until 17.30, just about when our booked BA flight to NCL was due to go, so some use there, eh?

This would have meant spending a night at Heathrow, and then re-booking a flight to NCL and losing the return portion of our original flight, adding another £600 or so to our trip, plus the hotel, don't forget. In her never failing wisdom, Freda decided to find a more reasonable flight from LHR to NCL, which turned out to be next Monday, but even that put £250 on top of what we'd already paid, does anyone care??????? That question is rhetorical, Dear Reader, because apart from your good self, nobody does! We are like sheep to the slaughter.

But never mind, my beloved dreamt up and idea to somewhat save the day. She booked us into the Winter Palace for the night! This wasn't just her usual extravagance, no; she had sprayed the whole of our two flats with the very pungent anti-ant stuff (we had intended to be away for 6 months, after all) which was still chokingly evident when we eventually got home from the airport. We couldn't possibly have stayed there that night. As it happened, we got a double upgrade at the OWP; from a standard Garden View to a superior Garden View, to a Nile View, which was lovely. (And, we didn't even know the bloke who dealt with us!!)

So here we are, languishing at our Luxor home for another few days. All it will take now to put the icing on the cake, will be for Freda to find me a list of jobs to do! Oooops, spoke too soon!!!!!

Let Joy be Unconfined!

We're getting a new surface to our alley. You weren't expecting that, were you Dear Reader, and neither were we!

We were very embarrassed recently, as we had guests staying and there was (sometimes) a distinct drain smell in the street! Whilst it was distinct, it wasn't too bad, and neither was it there all the time. Have you ever been in the Marrakech Medina? Well, it was like that, here and there, all of a sudden, and it was gone after a few steps, but nowhere near as strong, thank heaven. But it was there which was bad enough! I remonstrated with Coffeeshop Adam, and explained that it was very embarrassing. As usual, he waffled on for a bit and then promised to get someone out to sort it.

Of course, I take everything that Adam says with a pinch of salt, but the following day........
There was knocking and hammering from quite early morning, and when we looked over the roof terrace wall..........there was Adam and another man knocking seven bells out of the old bits of furniture and wood, which he stored in the street. "Eee, he's actually doing something!" I said to Freda. The fact that he broke one of the four drain covers in our street by hammering bits of wood together on it didn't seem to worry him, or cause any further smell, either. Then there was an Amoun man (Council worker) with his drain cleaning rods and right-angled, long handled shovel for cleaning out the traps, yuk! Then.........there were blokes with hammers and pry-bars and heaven knows what else, and the next time I looked over, the street had turned into Syria! It was as if an Exocet had hit it! Adam's step into his coffeeshop was obliterated, the bottom 1 of the 3 steps into our building had just disappeared altogether, and there were small piles of disgusting stuff which the Amoun man had pulled out of the drains. Here's a little taster. (Urgh, maybe the wrong word in these circumstances!)

Under interrogation, Adam intimated that the steps had been done away with to allow access for the machine to fix the street. We had noticed a number of big 4 wheeled wagons standing around loaded with 4 inch thick paving blocks, and wondered where they were bound for. Well, it transpires that Haret Osman is getting some. Of course this might change if the chain-gang get wind of the fact that our alley isn't adopted by the Council. We'll have to wait and see.

They were supposed to be starting today, but there's been no sign. Perhaps tomorrow? Insh'Allah? One thing's for certain, I'm pleased that we don't have guests at the moment!

Any sort of digging gives Adam the excuse (as if he needed one???) to regale me with the tale from his youth of seeing an "effreet" when the foundations for our buildings were being dug out. "It was huge, Mr Edward, like a cat, but the size of a buffalo! I saw it out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked properly; it disappeared into the ground, where there was no hole or anything!" If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times!

Then.........."You know, Mr Edward, there are ancient Pharaonic rooms under these buildings; I see them with my own eyes when I was young! There is a man in Moracco, Maknes, I think. He has good magic, and when something is buried 7 metres down; his magic makes it come up to only 1 metre. If you email him and get him to come, he can stay in your flat while he magics the gold and statues up under the houses. We will split the money!"

Of course, he's as daft as two brushes. You can imagine me, can't you? Emailing all the magicians in Meknes and offering them free accommodation whilst they magic Pharaonic treasures out of the ground in Luxor. How would I know if I had the right one?

The Inbetweeners?

I believe that's the title of a popular television programme. Haven't seen it myself, but I should think that many of my (thousands of!) readers will know of it. Well, I'm experiencing quite a bit of being, or at least feeling, sort of "in between" recently!
Like just now........I've had to make myself a cup of tea, and it was 4 o'clock. That's right, right "in between" the 3 pm workers tea break and 5 o'clock tea-time. I first became really aware of this phenomenon this morning, when we just had to have tea at 10.30; "in between" the 10 o'clock factory tea break and the elevenses which those at home would have. I justified it quite easily, of course, as I was working at home!
Has it come to this, I wonder, that I now have to justify to myself and the rest of the world when I want to take tea? Is Orwell's "Big Brother" really watching us through the "Telescreen" after all?
"Errant nonsense!" I hear you say, and quite correctly!
But back to being "In Between". Our last guest was the same age as me (confidential, sorry!) but seemed to be a lot fitter, despite having an electrical gadget sewn into his chest to control his brain function!!!!! What can I do? I'm part of that awkward, "in between" age group; not yet old, but no longer young or even middle aged. It's a b****r, I can tell you. Muscles, which used to hump Bedford 466 cylinder heads about, or a hundredweight of coal up a dozen icey steps, now struggle to carry a 10 litre can of paint from the shop to the waiting caleshe!
I think I'm also turning into Victor Meldrew, though he was 60 when his fictional frustration was unleashed upon his neighbours, and anyone else with whom he came into contact. (See British TV series, "One Foot In The Grave")
Step ladders, or as we know them hereabouts "selem heshups" (or something like that; stairs wooden, I think). My beloved, more generally known as "The ever lovely Freda" (a phrase coined by my old pal and business partner Fatty Johnson, when he first saw her after a gap of 30 or so years) doesn't like me going up them any more, steps that is. I'm not all that keen myself, either, but needs must, as you Dear Reader, know only too well.
The steps we have here are of two different heights and designs. The big ones were made for me by our original carpenter, the chap (from Qus) who did all the woodwork in our two flats here. I've since modified them slightly, so that as well as being step ladders, they now swing out to become an ordinary ladder, too. The wooden rungs are only about 2 inches wide and make my feet ache, Freda won't even contemplate going up them! They're also rather weighty, and I tend to catch the chandeliers when I'm moving them around, plus; they often give me spelks! (Colloquialism, a spelk = a wooden splinter which is stuck in your skin!)
The other set, smaller, were bought from Mr Bahaa Sherif's downstairs shop on TV Street. Again, I modified them so that they too could be used as longer ladders. They've been very useful upstairs, where they're kept under our bed. They were "in between" the biggun's and two step-chairs which also originated from Bahaa Sherif, which were for Freda to reach into cupboards etc. when I wasn't around, but which have both given up the ghost a while ago.
I just happened to be browsing in said "downstairs shop on TV Street", and trying not to bump into the girl who was following me about and watching that I didn't try to steal one of the disgusting elaborately patterned computer desks, or something else equally revolting, when I noticed a two step thing which I recognised from the "Forty" supermarket, where they used it for reaching the stock on the top shelves. "Ooooh!" I thought, "Just the thing for Freda."  On enquiring the price, I was told 350le. But then, was pointed to a slightly larger set at 625le. I was certainly interested, but hadn't been authorised to spend that sort of cash on a whim, plus I didn't know which set she would find more useful.
Well.....today, being a start to clearing up the flats for our imminent departure, we could have used an "in between" sized set of steps, the two-step was deemed to be too small, so I went and bought the two-step with a platform, which was the third step, and a long outer frame which served as a steadying handle. We're both delighted with it, as it has 3 inch treads, for more comfort, and is, quite literally, as light as a feather. (Well.....you know what I mean, no need to be pedantic about bit!)
So, now it's 5.15pm and I'm "in between" being awake and asleep, so ta-ta for now.

New Post? That's what it said, but there's nothing new under the sun, really!

I was a bit embarrassed, to be quite honest, when I saw the comment on my last effort, from Tarja in Finland. Of course even the loyalist of  readers won't keep clicking-on when there's nothing new to read or look at, and who can blame them?

Mind you, us becoming almost recluses at Our Luxor doesn't help! I'm spending my time either on the laptop, looking at melodeons on eBay and Gumtree, or playing my melodeon on the roof terrace, whilst Freda reads or dozes. Mind, that's not strictly true, as we also still spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning, as ever! (That's three things that there's no escape from, by the way... Death, Taxes, and Egyptian dust!)

Our ventures out mainly consist of meeting the few friends still left here after the conspired at demise of British/Egyptian tourism. Freda rarely joins me on shopping expeditions any more, which has a lot to do with shock of having an idiot clip the wheel of the caleche in which we were riding, with his car! Although she would be more willing to come if we took the 'bus, it's not really as convenient, and it would mean that our caleche man's income would drop even further, as well! What to do, what to do?

Talking of Egyptians......we've been having some painting done, on the stairs, on the roof terrace, in our rooftop hovel, and in the already beautiful Our Luxor apartment! Now there's a surprise for you, the Jenningsies spending money!!!!! It doesn't happen too often, so the Egyptian workers had better make the best of it! (And you, Dear Reader, can revel in the abundance [possibly surfeit] of exclamation marks!!!)

Well, they certainly did. (The painters, that is not the D.R's!) Firstly, the stairs were becoming embarrassingly shabby, so they were first on the "to do" list. At the same time, it would be silly not to give the terrace a quick splash over with some new white and replace the distinctly sun-faded tent-fabric "artwork" (Christened as such by Mad Mara of Mara House fame). We had a recommendation for a painter, who was (unusually?) a cousin of some sort, of a very good and long-time friend. What more could a man want?

"I'll come with him to translate, as his English isn't all that good (no doubt it's still better than my Arabic!) and I want to make sure that there are no mistakes made with your instructions!" "Even better", thought I. I couldn't believe it when the men arrived.......they'd brought their own kettle, and tea, and glasses! This had to be an omen, good fortune had smiled upon us, at last!

Before too long, the cracked brickwork and redundant screw holes etc were all filled with maajun (a pre-mixed filler, pronounced ma ajune) and flattened down with sandpaper,



and a first coat was put on. I was a touch disappointed that they hadn't made much use of the three rolls of masking tape that they'd brought along, but the older of the painters assured me (sincerely, but not in a Tony Blair/Hughie Green type of way) that there'd be no mess after they were finished.

There wasn't in actual fact much mess, except that the stair treads, every one, had paint splashes of both colours liberally spread about, and a tin of paint had been knocked over (but cleaned up after a fashion) and the mosiaco (the white cement and pebble mix of which the stairs are made, pronounced moes-eye-co) was stained. And........the finish on the paint was matt instead of semi-gloss. We'd stipulated the semi-gloss as it washes so much better than the matt, and the stairs do get lots of hand-marks on them.

Anyway, this was the day before we were leaving to go home for our Christmas celebrations with our family, so we left the keys with said friend and hoped than he was able to sort it all out before we returned.

Which he did, of course, but to his satisfaction, not ours; sadly. They had varnished over the lower of the two colours! Never mind, you can't have everything, can you? It's certainly nice and bright and clean looking. I've made a start on scraping the paint off the stairs, and scrubbing the remnants with water and wire wool, they're coming up really nicely, but it's blinking hard on the old hands, I can tell you! Here's one reason why we didn't even contemplate varnish!


Even though it says on the tin "For Outside Use", this is what happens when it gets rained upon, not very satisfactory, is it? Mind you, it does go back to normal when it dries. (???)

In their favour, I have to admit that they turned up when they were due, didn't try to change the price, and the end result (whilst not good) made the place look clean and tidy and was eventually acceptable to a desperate man! What do you think, Dear Reader?



I was almost contemplating doing the rest of the painting myself, even though I hate it and am increasingly uneasy about clambering up and down sellems-heshup (Stairs-wooden....step-ladders to you and me!) when we met for tea with some English friends. "I've just the man for you!" the husband said, and sure enough, he had.........really!

Although our new painter speaks almost no English at all, his work was excellent! Our neighbour (an English speaking Antiquities Guide) did the translating for us and everything went swimmingly. Muharib, that's the painter's name, went on to paint the guest bedroom after we were satisfied with the job he'd done on our's upstairs. I think the darker colour finishes the room off quite nicely!


We're ever so pleased that we've found him. Now all I have to do is to persuade him to come to England to do some work there!!!! Insh'Allah!

On occasion, they  have a travelling market visits Luxor, and recently ws such an occasion! Of course, we usually have a butchers (Colloquialism, actually Cockney rhyming slang: Butchers = Butchers Hook = Look) and this was no different. Most of the stuff was handicrafts of one sort or another, and none really caught my eye.....until.......I noticed one of those folding Arabic (of the desert wandering type, I would imagine) chairs. Ooooooooh, I wanted one! Badly! In actual fact, I've lusted after one of these ever since I first clapped eyes on them, many years ago. Curved and inlaid dark painted wood, a feast for the eyes! Anyway, I managed to persuade Freda that one would sit very nicely in our guest apartment, and after the saleslady had even let me plonk my 17(+?) stone frame on it, she did offer a tempting discount. We bought it, oh incredulous Dear Reader!

Lovely thing!

Of course, I had no idea of where it would go, but I was confident that Freda's interior designer eye would find somewhere suitable. But it didn't. Friends, I had to go and buy another one to match, as one alone just didn't look right. Here they are, at last, and I love them!


As you can see, us old folk have had quite a lot of excitement here at Our Luxor, I just hope that our new batches of guests think it's all been worthwhile!

How was that Targa? Did it grab you at all? lol.

(I know it's been a long time, but you do remember that if you click on a picture, you can get them all up together, and bigger too, don't you?)

Blowing one's own trumpet is sooooo lower class!

Well, I never pretended to be anything else, did I?

We're having a glut of guests here at Our Luxor; five lots in 9 weeks! I can hardly believe it, to be quite honest. It's funny how advertising seems to go around in circles..........We first started advertising with an online bunch, whose name I just cannot bring to mind, sorry, and the advert brought in a fair number of enquiries and bookings. Then we found another couple of free sites, and advertised on them as well. One of them, which seemed to be a very professional site at the time, didn't bring even one enquiry, but, as the other new one started to bear fruit, the very first one began to die off. Very strange, I thought at the time.
It wasn't all that long before we discovered TripAdvisor, and an American rental site which was allied to TA. (TripAdvisor, that is.) At first we advertised with the American people, FlipKey, and later they began to place the advert on TA as well! Very good, we were the very first in Luxor to advertise on TA, and we did very well out of it, as far as rentals were concerned.
Then.......we came across a UK rental site, Holiday Rentals, which we registered with too, and they were (I think) taken over by TA also, and for a short while we had two identical adverts running simultaneously on the TA Luxor section. Queer!
Eventually, TA must have cottoned on, and they deleted one of the ads. But never mind, we were getting loads of enquiries, in fact, even though the availability calendar always stated that we had no vacancies over Christmas (as you know, Dear Reader, we are always at home for Christmas) one year we had to refuse 41 potential bookings for our Christmas holiday period. Our usual ratio was that for every booking we accepted, we had to refuse another five. We just couldn't cope!
Of course, the awful publicity which the first revolution engendered made an impact on the enquiries, although we only ever had one cancellation and were busy, still, until the second revolution when Mohamed Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood were deposed. After that, the world's press seemed to take against Egypt in a big way. Every little disturbance was blown out of proportion, and Egypt was projected as being a hotspot of terrorist activity, when in actual fact terrorism was having a whale of a time in Great Britain and other European places, and Egypt, Luxor in particular, was as quiet as the grave!
Never mind! Many Egyptians, and many more animals here, have died of malnutrition since then, but the world in general seems to have slowly started to realise that Egypt is not the most dangerous place in the world, and are starting once again to thirst for the adventure, romance and excitement which Egypt's ancient monuments evoke. Tourism is finally starting to pick up once again!!!
So, back to our advertising........ we haven't had an enquiry via TA for a long long time. Advertising fashions obviously change, and now all of our recent bookings have come via our latest ad on Airbnb. (Trumpet ready for the blowing of, Sir!)
Here are our latest reviews from the Airbnb site, I hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

From an American lady;
If insulation from your destination and a run-of-the-mill hotel is your idea of a perfect holiday, book yourself a tour. But since you're here you must be looking for something special. "Our Luxor" is something special. A beautifully decorated, immaculate, spacious & comfortable apartment, hosted by generous & knowledgeable people is what you'll find and I've never been treated as well in all my Airbnb years as I was by Freda & Edward. If you don't enjoy this apartment and its gracious owners, as my grandmother would say, you don't know what's good!

From an American couple;
During our very long trip through Egypt, we stayed in a variety of accommodations, including some of the grandest and most famous hotels in Egypt...and including 'Our Luxor.' Out of all the places we stayed, the only one that provided superlative cleanliness, thoughtful attention to detail, consistently excellent hospitality, and absolutely unparalleled value was Freda and Edward's place. We will always remember with gratitude the assistance they provided in helping to organize our sightseeing arrangements and every facet of our visit to Luxor. We are glad to give our very highest recommendation of 5 Stars to a place that really deserves at least 6.

From an Argentinian couple;
Don't loose your chance of staying at Edwar's. Amazing place and service, and the nicest people. Best place on Airbnb.
Who included a personal message too;
Hi Edward and Freda, Your place was simply the best we've ever been to. And you were amazing hosts. 

Now tell me, in all honesty, who amongst wouldn't be as  proud as Punch to receive such acclamation? Trumpet well and truly blown, I think!

See ya later, alligator.

Avenue of Sphinkes! Or, the Kebash Road?

Long time no see, I know, and I'm sorry. Everything here has been pretty dead recently, but things are starting to look better than for a long long time.
I've been lurking on the TripAdvisor Luxor Forum, and saw a thread about walking the Avenue of Sphinxes between the two temples, and thought I'd go and take a couple of pictures, just so that you'd know for yourselves how the workers are doing.
These few shots were taken yesterday, at the last major break in the Avenue, just between the Emilio Hotel and the old Telephone Exchange, at the bottom of Yousef Hassan Street. It looks as if they could make the last few connections at any moment, the only problem would be where they are going to put all the traffic! The current system sends the Northbound traffic along the Eastern side of the Avenue, to cross over at the large Coptic Church, whereas the Southbound passes the same Church on the Western side, on Sharia Karnak, then crosses over to the Eastern side at Yousef Hassan Street. I think it's eminently possible that both of these cross-overs will be closed and all the traffic will have to cross on the inner ring road which lies between King Salman Square and Abu Jude.
Anyway, here are the pics, as usual if you click on a picture they'll all come up bigger:-

This one's taken from the Emilio side, Luxor Temple is away to the left, and that's the old Telephone Exchange on the right. The next one, looks towards Karnak. The Savoy Market on the extreme left and the Evangelical Pentecostal Church in the centre.

As usual, they're not messing around with flimsy foundations, I believe that these are for a wall which will rise about 2 metres above the ground, the phrase "over-engineering" comes to mind, don't you think?

This one has the Savoy Market off to the left, out of sight.

They do make me laugh at times! The floor tiles on our roof terrace are becoming a bit uneven and many are cracked. The reason? "Not enough sand beneath them" came the reply from an experienced Egyptian tiler. You could have knocked me down with a feather; he obviously hadn't gone to Sunday School and sang about the man who "built his house upon the sand" and how it "fell down" when "the floods came up and the rains came down"! And then they use so much steel and concrete for a simple perimeter wall?

Here we are again, this time looking towards the fibre-glass Emilio on the extreme right:

You cannot accuse them of not getting stuck-in, it seems to me that they're "Knocking doors out of windows" (A Tyneside euphemism for doing a good job). Mind you, rumour has it that the whole lot is to be finished by some time in March, they'll have to pull their socks up!

By the way, that's not a spelling mistake in the title, Egypt doesn't have an "X" so they aren't used to pronouncing it.

Now that I've broken the ice, so to speak, I might, one day, even get around to telling you about the recent developments at Our Luxor, you never know!!!!



Krakow

After my major mistake last year in going to Krakow and NOT going to Auschwitz I booked again for this year.  To make sure I didn't mess up again this time I booked in advance a taxi driver to take us to Auschwitz/Birkenau on our first full day in Krakow.
Our taxi driver came highly recommended by Tripadvisor users and was a fountain of knowledge, explaining about the build up to the opening of the two camps and showing short film extracts on the way to Auschwitz.  I had decided to visit ourselves without a guide, so our timed visit into the Auschwitz Museum was for 4pm.  We visited Birkenau first, it is a desolate place and even though their were a lot of people visiting at the same time as us it still had an eerie feeling walking down the line of preserved huts, looking into them to see the lines of bunk bed which held 5 people at a time, 400 people to a hut. At the end of the railway there is a huge monument, which is supposed to be a representation of Birkenau which to us just looked like a collection of big black stones.  Either side of this monument are the gas chambers/crematoriums which had been blown up by the Germans just before Birkenau was liberated, these are the real monument to all those murdered, not a pile of stones.
At 3pm we left Birkenau to go to the Auschwitz Museum where we had a brief lunch in the restaurant and the queued for our 4pm entry.  Our taxi driver gave us a map of the buildings and a list of what was in each and also recommended some of what he thought were the best to visit.  The buildings cover a very small area and it was easy to find our way around. Guided tours in all languages are available all day up to just before 4pm.  Guides have groups of up to 30 people, the guide speaking into a microphone which feeds into the earphones the group were wearing.  Most of the guides were speaking quietly and were not a problem but quite a few had too loud voices which were difficult to ignore.  All of the buildings have big notice boards outside explaining the contents of them and inside everything is well signposted with lots of information on what is there.  I cannot see the point of a guide and if anyone asked about going I would not recommend a guide but I would suggest going early morning before the guided tours start as we found the guides quite intrusive.
Auschwitz Museum is just that; a museum.
Last year we visited the Schindler factory and the underground museum in the market square in Krakow these to us seem to be far better at conveying the atrocities of what happened in a personal way than anything we saw at the Auschwitz Museum.

We spent the rest of our time in Krakow in and around the market square sitting in cafes drinking hot chocolate or milkshakes and people watching.  In the evenings a meal at one of the outside restaurants followed by a stroll in the Planty, a wide park area which goes all around Krakow centre.

The most amazing thing about our holiday was that Edward didn't take any photos, I think he has fallen out of love with his camera !
F.

Cordoba

Cordoba

After our visit to Granada last year we decided we wanted to see more of Moorish Spain so we visited Cordoba in June. We took a bus tour around the city and you can see the photo below of the Mesquita taken from the top of the bus from the other side of the river.
                

The photos below are all of the inside of the Mesquita.  The videos hopefully will give you an idea of the size of it.  The huge organ is in the cathedral which was built in the middle of the original mosque.

                          

               

                         

                         

              
I've heard the expression "A moveable feast", but I've never seen an alter on wheels!

I cannot remember where this last one was taken, but it looks as if it could have been in Royston Vasey, judging by the nose, it looks very LOCAL! (It was definitely in Cordoba, though.)
               
Our last day we visited the Inquisition Museum, no photos as they were not allowed.  It is the most horrific place, photos, descriptions and actual torture instruments are displayed in the small dimly lit rooms. I cannot imagine how anyone could have or would want to dream up these dreadful instruments.  Although fascinating it is not a place I would recommend for those of a nervous disposition !
F.




















Now our holidays are over for this year I am now thinking of next year and have already bought an assortment of travel guides to pour over during the next few weeks. Watch this space. 
Hi-De-Hi, Campers!
Here we are again, in Marrakech. If you're a long-time reader of this mish-mash which I refer to as my Blog, then you'll have read about our previous adventures here (including the 30 odd year delay!). But this experience is a little different.

This time, we aren't staying in a small riad; the Palais Sebban (for that's what it's called) is a large riad which is an actual hotel, with 25 rooms. It is exquisite! If you're looking for somewhere with architecture of the genuine Islamic style, look no further. From the antiquated and primitive door locking mechanisms to the intricate, hand cut, zellige tilework, via the astonishing accuracy of the repeating, hand-painted, patterns on the cornice and beamed ceiling, here we have the elements which were imported into Spain, and with astounding effect at the fabulous Al Hambra. Simply marvellous!

Our room:






 
In the 3rd and 4th pictures, you might have noticed the sliding doors inside the actual room door? The windows were also double glazed in the same fashion, in order to keep the noise in the room, from the public area just outside, to a minimum.

I (again) apologise for not having the camera on the correct setting, but you know I'm not very good with it anyway!

The last picture shows the intricacy of the paintwork on the ceiling.
Remember, if you click on a picture, you can have a better look. In our wanderings in the souks, we came across an artist who actually does this sort of stuff for a living. For the examples he had on display at his workshop, he charges 80 Euros per metre.

On seeing these pieces hanging at the entrance, I stopped and was closely inspecting them, trying to see if they were vinyls or other transfers of some kind. He saw me and came to see what I wanted. He was most disconcerted when I asked him if they actually were transfers. "No, no! By hand, by hand!!!!" At this, he dragged me into the place, just to prove that they were, indeed, done with a brush in his hand. In a minute, he'd cut a lump of wood and painted my name onto it, as a souvenir of Marrakech, a lovely young chap.

Again, our lodgings weren't situated far from the buzzing and exciting Djemaa El Fna, where everything happens! Using a small map kindly provided by the hotel, we navigated our way onto the nearest main artery of the souk, and within a few minutes were chatting with one of the traders whom we had met on our first visit. (I don't care who you are, it's always nice to know that you made enough of an impression on someone that they remember you years later!) After another few minutes we were in the "Square". It was nice to be warm, and to see clear blue sky!

Our first actual stop was the 7 Saints cafe, where we had so enjoyed tea and cakes etc on previous visits. We'd enjoyed there so much that I'd put a glowing review on TripAdvisor, as I remember. Again we were remembered by the staff, and welcomed back with open arms, metaphorically speaking, of course, but (horror of horrors!) there were no cakes! "Finished" was the answer to our query. Never mind, we shared a chicken panini instead. The outside seating area had had a thorough makeover, with a uPVC framework supporting an ingenious retracting blind system overhead, to shield diners from the sun. A new Islamic pattern profile-burner-cut fence with fancy posts and freestanding glass on top to shield us from any wind. (I say profile burner, but I'm not up to date with modern technology, so it was probably laser cut or something similar.) Anyway, although the old arrangement had been fine, this was very very good indeed, and made the place look a lot cleaner, newer and more professional, in my (not so) humble opinion.

Our first proper meal was at the tagine cafe which we'd also used previously, although I cannot remember what it's called, offhand. Here, we weren't welcomed as old friends, rather new friends! One chicken tagine and one vegetable tagine were duly ordered and consumed with great gusto. They came with bread, olives and a bottle of water, but we eventually realised that these were not included in the menu price, and were charged separately. We didn't make that mistake twice!! I imagined that it had changed hands, as we didn't recognise anyone there, and it just seemed a bit different somehow. Never mind, when we went back there again, we were welcomed, and this time with open arms, by the old man who had been there on the previous holidays, he was obviously delighted to have us back. He even went to the trouble of finding some dates to put in my tagine after I'd noticed that they weren't on the menu.

We like to think we're a bit on the adventurous side, but we're not, really! We do like familiarity, and that's why we keep on going back to the same, or similar, places. Last years jaunt to Granada was slightly adventurous, in that we hadn't been to Spain for 40 years, and even then nowhere near the Islamic bit. But that was what interested us; the Islamic architecture. We feel reasonably comfortable among Muslims who are used to interacting with foreign tourists, and (thankfully) we haven't been swayed by the ridiculous scaremongering of the British national press and TV stations into imagining that every Muslim is out to kill us!
Get off your high-horse Edward!

Back in the Djemaa El Fna (keeping well clear of the "touchy-feely" snake who charms the slithery types! See http://ourluxorflat.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=snake+charmer half way down the page.) there are still loads of black African youths peddling stuff; Apple phones, carved wood, hooky watches and perfumes, pastel drawings and paintings on small animal skins. They must get sick of being knocked back, but still they persevere; and apparently to some good effect, judging by their stylish and expensive looking clothing and footwear. (But how far are they removed from home, family and the familiar things of life?)
A new feature was a large number of families, or part families, on the streets begging with official-looking laminated signs explaining that they were Syrian refugees! It was heartbreaking to think that, maybe, these young women with children in tow were, until quite recently possibly, living reasonably comfortable lives, nearby their parents and friends, enjoying the normal things of family life. And now, here they are, reduced to begging in the streets of a foreign country. Given different circumstances, it could have easily been my daughters and grandchildren! It certainly hit me quite hard, and still does when it comes to my mind! How can we turn our backs to this suffering, even in the face of the savagery of the current wave of terrorism? It's all beyond me, I'm afraid.

Several sights strongly reminded me of our home in Egypt:

Like the expert wiring!

 And making the most of one's transport whilst ignoring safety!

I hadn't noticed the face on the pedestrian's back-pack, did you?

If they had had the forethought to do this in Alexandria, maybe that 13 storey building could have been saved, eh?

On a slightly larger scale, perhaps?


Thankfully, our hotel didn't fall over! It was astonishing, having been just about completely rebuilt not so many years ago. They had pictures on display of the condition before they started, it was almost a ruin! It's now fabulous, here's the dining area outside:



The one thing that we particularly wanted from Marrakech was a plate similar to the ones we already had, but larger and blue, to utilise in the Moroccan fountain I've been building on the Our Luxor roof terrace. Well, we found one in the shop we had previously used, the last one he had! It was snapped up for 150 Dirhams, about half the price they would have asked in the main tourist area shops.

We made our way back towards the hotel, happy bunnies! Until, a young man bumped into me as we passed on a rather busy street. You guessed it, Dear Reader, the plate was broken!!!!!!!!!!!!! After Freda raised the place and I threatened to kill everyone in sight, we eventually calmed down and found another shop where the kind gentleman sold us one, almost the same, for the same price, he saved the day. I'm still steaming about it, a month later, but we cannot live like that, can we? All we need to do now is to get it the 3000 miles or so back to the other side of Africa in one piece!

I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to write this (4 weeks!) my blogging mojo hasn't been working! Never mind, "Better late than never" as they say. (I know, I know; it does go on to say "but better never late!".) I'll finish off with some random pictures of the hotel, I hope you like them and that you get a better idea of just how nice it was.




These last two were close-by the hotel, and I think worth including.

I didn't bother asking the price, or even if this mangy looking leopard skin was for sale, I couldn't imagine it hanging in ether of my homes!

We came across several of these fancy doorways, and they brought the following line to my mind, I cannot recall if it's words from a hymn or from the Bible. "The gates of brass before Him burst and iron fetters yield!"
Tata for now, next blog will be about our visit to Cordoba, another feast of Andalusian Islamic architecture, I hope.