No pictures please, we're "illegals"!

It started on Tuesday, when we innocently went to the Luxor Passport Office to renew our 12 monthly Visas and our 6 monthly Re-entry Visas. After studying every page of our two passports, the (black [this is only to identify her to those who know the Passport Office]) lady behind the counter stated that we had no Re-entry Visa and that we shouldn't be in the country! It transpired that we had forgotten to renew our 6 monthly in October last year, but had left the country and returned without any of the airport officials noticing.
As a punishment, we would have to pay 153le each "tax". (I think the lady meant a fine) "Ok, we shouldn't have forgotten, we won't do it again!" But, after a small discussion with someone else ("the boss", she said) she told us that we must go to Thomas Cook and obtain two $15 visa stamps to put in our passports. We thought, as she said that she was trying to help us, that this would obviate the need for the fine. We went to T. Cook's and were told that they couldn't help us, as all the Visa Stamps were at the airport. Obviously, we couldn't get to "air-side" in "arrivals", so decided not to trail all the way out there. We asked friends in the travel industry, who tried making phone calls etc. but to no avail.
Eventually, we went back to the Passport Office and told them that we could not get the stamps anywhere. What else could we do, just pay the fine and be done with it? The bloke behind the counter suggested a man who might just be able to get the required stamps. Mohamed Rascheed! He telephoned him and explained the situation. "Tomorrow, in the morning, come back here and he will bring them." he told us.
I later got a 'phone call from this Mohamed Rasheed to ascertain at what time I could meet him the following day. We agreed to meet at the Passport Office at 11 o'clock. At ten past, the man behind the counter telephoned him, and told us that he would be here "After ten minutes". We all know "After" ten minutes, don't we????
I telephoned him at 11.35, "I am outside the building now." came the reply. "After" another five minutes or so, the man behind the counter beckoned me across, saying, (in a stage whisper) "He's outside, go and see him." It had started to feel a bit "cloak and daggerish" and I wasn't too happy at the thought of being deported for a simple mistake which seemed to be being turned into some sort of criminal immigration activity by these officials and their hangers-on! Anyway, I duly handed over the $50 ($30 for the two stamps, and 110le for the man to bring them from the airport) and got the two Visa Stamps. Back at the counter and the man came out and led me into the Generals (?) office, just inside the front entrance. "Oooer," ran through my mind! The General carefully peeled the backs off the Visas and placed them in our passports, then proceeded to strike lines through them and write (in Arabic, of course) underneath them. Many thanks and half bows etc. later and we were back at the counter paying for our new 12 monthly visa and 6 monthly re-entry visa. Tamaam! We were on our way to being legal again.
We strolled down to Tuttie Fruttie to get some well earned refreshments. I had just ordered my corned dog and extra onion pannini; when my 'phone went. "Ahh, Mr Edward, please come back to the Passport Office, quickly quickly." I don't do quickly quickly anymore, especially in 30 odd degrees! When I got back to the counter, I had a scrap of paper shoved at me with the sum 153+153=306. It was the fine rearing its ugly head again! "Ohh No" says I, "Ohh yes" says 'e, it was like being in a blinking pantomime!!!! "Mr Edward, your Visa Stamp only lasts for one month, therefore you must pay." "Then why have I just shelled out $50 for these worthless stamps???" "You have to have a Visa to enter the country." "But without the Visa you fine me, so why not just fine me in the first place?" The man behind the glass was getting quite "nervous" (as the Egyptians would describe it), and so was I. "Take me to the General" "Ok, Ok. I am trying to help you!"
(My lack of Arabic is a constant source of problems for me, I must rectify this.)
After being "nervous" with the General for a few minutes; I realised that I was getting nowhere and would have to pay up!
Altogether, our forgetfulness cost us an extra 580le, and when Freda looked at the new stamps and entries in our passports; the thieving Egyptians have backdated our 12monthly Visas to January, while our old ones didn't expire until yesterday!!!!
Needless to say that the policeman on the door didn't get his usual tip today.
BE WARNED..........don't forget to renew your Visa's, we certainly won't, in future.

Another One For Suzie

How about this one Suzie?

The man was repairing some metal gates, with the short earth cable hooked onto the end of a bit of tubing, which was itself jammed under the gate. Every time the bloke struck an arc there were flashes everywhere. The poor kid in the back of the motor-bike truck thingy didn't know what to grab onto to maintain the connection, or where to look to miss getting a flash!

Click on the picture to make it bigger.

The coils of the welder are clamped together with long bolts and nuts through sturdy pieces of wood. The welder gadgy wore a snazzy pair of designer sunglasses and produced some of the best welding I've seen in Egypt.

More on the Winter Palace Developments

I’m sure that you are all now aware of the plans for the Winter Palace and the surrounding areas. The Mubarak Tourist Bazaar, which is next door and to the NE, has been running down for a considerable amount of time. In fact it has been an eyesore for a few years. The park area in front has been ‘done up’ several times, but didn’t actually amount to anything very pleasant. Many of the shops within have been empty for quite some time as well.
I took the following picture of (or so I was told) the Luxor Police Band playing there a few years ago.

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Whilst I am fully aware of the huge amount of distress which has been caused to so many everyday folk here in Luxor by the re-shaping and redevelopment of the town on both East and West banks, it hasn’t actually impacted on me until I saw some of my friends businesses affected the other day. It came about like this:
I was walking along the Corniche, passing the OWP, towards the Temple. Suddenly, I realised that the trees, which have so often been the cause of me walking with my head bent down, were not there! “What’s up here?” I thought. As I approached the two year old shoeshine boy, I began to see!
I rounded the corner only to be met by total devastation,

and a sad looking Mr. Aboudi and his trusty ‘right hand’ Uncle Mohamed. “They came and did this at 1 o’clock in the morning” blurted the old fixer, “when we weren’t here!”
Did I say old? He's the same age as me!!!!

Mr Aboudi, behind his sunglasses, and his devoted cousin, Uncle Mohamed.

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Needless to say that the Aboudis are in a right state over this. The family whose Grandfather wrote the first Egyptian Guide Book (or so I’m told) feel that they are being treated shamefully. I asked my friends where they would go, and both replied that they had no idea until now.
After commiserating with them in their time of trouble, I stumbled on over the piles of broken tiles, soil and various other debris, until I came across another familiar face (and one which has been on the BBC, no less) it was Mr Jadhallah (just as well known as Mr. Shakespeare) the felucca captain.
He was standing, forlornly, next to what used to be his ‘office’, which was a seat on the grass for many a long year. “To be, or not to be, that is the question, or; what am I going to do now?” But, as ever, he is looking on the bright side “AAACTUALLY, you could brighten my day right now by coming for a lovely sail to Banana Island, it’s a good wind?”

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I managed to make my escape around the corner before I felt my hand going towards my wallet. (It was empty anyway, so no good to Mr. Jadhallah.) The devastation continued. I finally got near to where my neighbour’s shop is (the last one on the block) and saw that it would be a circuititious route around a felled tree to be able to get into it. There he was, also with a glum face, but chomping on a falafel sandwich and with a smile for the camera.

Click on the picture to make it bigger.

It’s all very well saying that they will all be given the opportunity to have bright new premises somewhere else, even nearby, but when will this be? Will they have the same amount of passing trade? Who will keep them in the meantime?

All this is being done in the name of TOURISM! That’s you and me, I’m sorry to say. Whether we like it or not; the powers that be have decided that this is the sort of development which is needed to increase the tourists’ spend ($$$$$) in Luxor. I loved the ‘quaint’ unpaved streets (like ours, for instance) and the mudbrick buildings and the donkey carts etc. etc. But the truth is that the inhabitants of Luxor deserve better than we, as tourists, would allow them to have. They should be able to depend on decent public services, and to not be afraid of going into hospital, and to feel that the police are on their side! These things, and many more, need to be funded from somewhere. And tourism is the only major source of foreign, or ‘hard’ currency in the area.

It truly seems that the ‘decision makers’ are between a rock and a hard place! As my neighbour, Abdullah, would say, “God help them!”