Our Luxor Flat Improvements 1st April 2011

It seems that the people who look at my blog are rather peculiar!

I'll tell you what I mean: Here we are the 1st of April 2011, and Egypt has just come through an exciting and troublesome time. The Egyptians have been (some would say "always have been and always will be") revolting! BabaMu, the President for 30 years has finally gone, although many still look upon him as a national "father figure", he has been ousted in an overwhelmingly peaceful uprising.

Those of us who have been here throughout the period have been undoubtedly privileged to see history in the making, and it's not all over yet!
There are still the elections for the new parliament, and the new president, to come. The world is waiting to see what the people of Egypt will decide!

So what are my readers most interested in reading on my blog? That's right, you got it first time, the
"2009 Refurbishment at Our Luxor Guest Apartment".

I have to admit that I find it a bit strange that work we did over 18 months ago can be found more interesting than events which will probably change the lives of 80 odd million Egyptians! But who am I to judge?
Ever mindful of my readers demands, I thought that I'd better let you know that we haven't been standing about since October 2009. In fact, we are, at this very minute, having a major shake-up of our A/C systems. See if you can "Spot the Difference" in these two pictures.

They're before and after! Ever since we bought the A/C for the guest livingroom, it hasn't been right, when the temperature is below about 44/45 degrees, it seems to work admirably, but once it got HOT, it didn't want to know. We've had Ahmed, Shaeb, Ayman and "Old Uncle Mohamed And All" out to see to it! (The "Old Uncle Mohamed And All" bit will only mean anything to the British readers, I keep getting wrong for doing this, but old habits die hard.) And, they all charge me enough to buy several new ones, but fail to get to grips with the problem!

At last, I've been introduced to a chap who, I think, actually knows what he's doing, and not just bluffing his way to con money out of unsuspecting foreigners.

The pic above shows the empty bracket where the outside unit of the offending item used to stand. It's now GONE! As has the pretty "high wall" fan unit which was pictured on the first photo above.

Below is the first shot of the "Man's Fan Unit" which Mustafa (our new A/C engineer), has decided should be mounted further down the wall, away from the heat which comes from the ceiling.

The outside pipework is s bit of a disappointment, however. Mustafa has a perfectly good, and quite new, pipe bender, which he used to make the tight bend where the pipes come out of the wall inside the livingroom and into the fan unit. Naturally (how stupid am I after all this time?) I thought that the bends which would have to be made to negotiate the corners etc outside would be just as neat. But, I had to have a cup of tea, so left Mustafa and his boy for about 10 minutes, and came back to this!

The raggy holes; I expected. The dirty handmarks which won't wash off; I expected. What I didn't expect was having to spend the next week or so boxing -in a load of unsightly pipework!

Never mind, eh? The sun still shines every day, and the rain only comes once a year! I hope our current guests from Australia won't be put out by me hammering and drilling during the night, when it's cooler, hehe!

We're always on the lookout for articles of furniture or fabrics which might help us to improve or renovate our guest apartment. Of late we've replaced curtains in the livingroom, bedroom and hall, we've fitted blackout curtains on the balcony, for when the summer sun comes around. We've improved the lighting in the bedroom and bathroom by fitting lovely chandeliers and also provided some pretty new table lamps in the bedroom and livingroom. We've painted throughout the apartment, changing some colours for a more vibrant effect, we think it's an improvement and we hope you'll agree.

Here's my new home-made pastiche of pictures, just to let you see what you get in the way of style and comfort at "Our Luxor"! It takes a while to load, so just click play and then pause and give it a few minutes. Enjoy!

Fire in Luxor's Savoy Bazaar! Yes, really!

We had a bit of excitement this morning!

As we were preparing breakfast for our current guest, and laying the table on the roof terrace, we saw some balloons had drifted over to our side of the river. They aren't supposed to come over here, but when the wind is in the right (or wrong) direction, it must be quite a job not to just "go" with it. Anyway, one of them carried on going down, and down, and down, until I was convinced that it must either be in the river, or landed somewhere about the Karnak St area, and then; it began to deflate!

It was then that I noticed the smoke. There was some to the left of my field of vision, and more to the right. This isn't unusual, as many Luxor folk burn their rubbish to save them the troublesome burden of carrying it a hundred yards or so to a skip (dumpster, for the Yanks), but the column of smoke to the right was a fair bit denser and blacker and higher than the other. It was also drifting towards the balloons. I thought to myself that I wouldn't like to get caught up in that, it wouldn't do your lungs much good, and that's for sure.

The next time I looked over at the larger column of smoke, it had turned to grey!

"Ahh," I thought " that's a fire, with water being poured onto it!"
I was right, as well! Apparently, two shops in the Savoy Bazaar went up in flames. We walked through there tonight and the whole place is absolutely stinking of smoke and dirty water. Horrible!

The only consolation being that no-one was hurt, as it was only around 07.00, and there were no shops open yet. As if that wasn't bad enough, in these straitened times, I see that the electricity supply must have been damaged, and all the shops (except the very end ones) were in darkness and closed tonight.


I was a bit ashamed about the misleading headings to my last two posts, in fact, I was riven by guilt as I remembered the tale of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf".

Well here we are on a different day, but this time we actually DID come across a REAL DEMONSTRATION!

No pictures, obviously. You do remember who's writing this blog, don't you? We were riding on the local 'bus, on our way to Tutti Frutti, when we saw this small demonstration coming down Sharia Mahatta (Station Street).

We were actually on the roundabout, where Station St meets Karnak St, before I saw it out of the corner of my eye. There were around 50 or 60 people, some of them children, and those at the front were carrying an oblong banner which was maybe 20 feet long. Of course, the writing was in Arabic (which might as well have been Double Dutch for all it meant to me) but near either end of the banner there was a portrait of someone. They both were of our beloved Governor Samir Farag. Then I noticed that each picture had a large red cross struck diagonally right across it!

The camera was in my pocket, ready for exactly this kind of opportunity, but as you might expect, by the time I thought about getting it out we were approaching the traffic lights beyond McDonald's! Another missed opportunity, the story of my reporting life!!!!!

More Evictions by Luxor Council.

Don't you just love sensationalist headlines?

But, I wouldn't tell you fibs, Dear Reader, the Amoun Men are out and about, evicting the poor Dickie birds from the trees on the Corniche!

Don't forget to click on the pictures if you want to enlarge them, twice to make them giant size!

Yes, here we are at the beginning of spring, and they're stripping the leaves from the trees as if it were autumn. The men have long sticks, with which they bash the foliage, and thus loosen all the leaves.

The problem, as far as the ornithologists are concerned, is that all these trees are inhabited by hundreds of little birdies. At sundown you can see them swooping low over the buildings and disappearing into these very trees. All along the Corniche, past the Temple and the Winter Palace, their twittering is very loud for quite some time, as the sun dips below the Western Mountains. Here's a longer shot of the bloke in the tree. Just think, if this were England; he'd have to have a tree climbing licence and £1000 worth of safety gear. Ha! Here he's wearing protective ship ships. (Flip Flops to the ignorant among you.)

Coffee and Tea, again!

We were at the Etap again, this time to see the fresh tourists arrive. Not many for the Etap this week, I'm afraid. Nevertheless, there were a good number of coaches came past from the airport.

We were told earlier in the week, that the Nile Palace was almost back to where it should be, occupancy wise, so with a decent number of newcomers today; things aren't wholly doom and gloom.

We came around the side of the Etap to have a look at the progress with the new frontage. It's coming on, as you can see.

A Different Subject?

While we were at the Sonesta, the other night, I took the following snap. I thought it looked quite nice, and it's of the handbasins in the Gents! What do you think?

I'm just coming to the end now, and just timed it nicely! We had Ahmed the caleche man take us to Karnak for some Hawawshi and Macarona tonight. It's gorgeous, I'll have to remember to photograph it next time. So now, we are having our pudding; strawberry Swiss roll and Birds custard. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Yet More Demonstrations in Luxor?

Youths with “Smiting Sticks” demonstrate outside of the Luxor Governorate Offices!

Walking along the Corniche, I came across this very intimidating scene.

I was worried about getting a picture, as you can never tell what an ugly crowd might do next, and these were ugly b*****s, I can tell you! Nonetheless, as an ever intrepid blogger couldn't let this go by without telling his faithful readers, I stuck my neck out, you can call me John Simpson in future, if you like.

Of course, as most of you will know, these are the offices of the Luxor Governor, Samir Farag. There has been an army presence there since almost the beginning of the Revolution, and many government buildings suffered damage from gangs not unlike this one which I managed to sneak a photo of today.

Let’s hope that no unheeding tourist gets in their way, I was certainly glad to reach the relevant safety of the Etap Hotel, just next door. I wonder if they’re keeping their guests indoors during this time of unease and possible danger?

Some overdue happiness in Luxor

Was that post above filched from one of the big TV companies, or one of the broadsheet newspapers?

Actually, it wasn’t, although it would have been worthy of them, I’m sure. Just to demonstrate how the camera (with a little help from a sympathetic reporter) can tell whopping great lies, I leaped into action when I saw this group coming past the front of the Etap while Freda and I were having our usual tea and coffee. The first pic I got was my usual standard, the sun being behind the subject. So, I ran (yes, me running!!!) along past the procession, and the soldiers standing guard outside of Samir’s office, who thought it a great laugh to see this old gadgey running!

It wasn’t until I got just past them, that I had the idea! Wouldn't it be a good shot if I could cross the road and get the offices of the Governor in the background? What story could I invent around such a shot? (Would the BBC buy it???? No.)

Of course, those of you who are frequent visitors to Luxor will know, that very little is actually what it seems. This wasn’t a demonstration at all, it was the vanguard of a Caleche Man’s Wedding Procession, and here is the beautiful bride with her groom, just to prove it!

The procession was split into two groups, separated by a hundred yards or so. There were at least 100 caleches parading along the Corniche.

The noise of the music was, as usual, deafening, and it was added to by many of the women involved warbling their zagareet, like the young girl standing on this caleche.

The only two things which were the same as the demonstrations, which we saw three of in our street during the revolution, were the young men with sticks and the good humoured atmosphere of the whole thing!

The moral of the story being, don't believe everything you see on the telly, or in the papers!


At Her Majesty's Pleasure?

Hello again!

I haven’t written anything over the past few days because there’s really been nothing to report on. It’s just like I imagine it would be if we lived on the “peaceful” West Bank, or, as the Boss calls it “The Side Of The Dead”, only without the mosquitoes, haha.

“She Who Must Be Obeyed” was out of bed early the other morning, and saw the balloons. They came across the river (naughty, naughty) and past our house, so she took some pics of them as they sailed on by. (They’re probably better than mine, so I’d better say nowt!)

The first one shows just how low they sometimes go, almost skimming the rooftops, I would say!

The next one is one of the bigger balloons currently flying.

Today though, we had an appointment with Her Majesty's Representative! The Vice Consul was visiting Luxor to follow up on his visit the other month. He’s a brave man, coming back into the “lion’s den”!

There were quite a few turned up, but I suspect that some were there chiefly for Mr Gaddis’s (he’s the Honorary British Consul in Luxor) now famous, ham sandwiches. Mr Gaddis has the Gaddis Hotel, in the south end of town. Being a Christian, he doesn’t have the restrictions which an hotel with Muslim staff would have, so his restaurant has a “Pork Menu”, very novel in these parts, I can tell you!

Anyway, the poor Honorary bloke got a fair beating up over Luxor remaining on the “Places to Avoid” list of Her Majesty's Government for so long. That part of the proceedings went on for a bit too long, with various people going off topic altogether, and others; talking among themselves, which I thought the height of bad manners! There was one bloke, sitting behind me, with a laptop on his knee, and listening to music on it! When I finally could stand it no more, I asked him to turn it down as I was struggling to hear the conversation. He did, but then someone else complained to him as well, so he eventually put on his headphones. Why was he there, I wonder?

The discussion was fairly wide-ranging and non-committal, including ways in which consular staff could get in touch with the ex-pats, the fact that they didn’t answer emails efficiently, what criteria they used to determine the “safety” of tourists, what they could do about exorbitant charges from private landlords (???), and several other silly points.

After the main show was over, and people split into their little cliques, I collared Shareen (the felucca owning lady, who also does the disgusting “ear candle” thing!) and asked her who several people were. To my utter astonishment, she didn’t know who some of them were! I thought that she knew, and was known by, everyone in Luxor! There were one or two other tourist property owners there, so we kept a bit of a low profile.

I thanked the Vice Consul for his efforts and had a chat with Mr Gaddis, before we made our way out, and into the warmth of a lovely March afternoon in Luxor. Aren’t you jealous, Dear Reader?

Arriving at Tutti Frutti, we ordered our usual teas, with the tea-bag on the outside, and proceeded to give Christine the “low-down” from the meeting. We were soon joined by another two renegades from the Gaddis, and the chatter went on for a while, as you might imagine. As the other two were preparing to leave; two tourist customers arrived. It being a small world, they hailed from Marsden, now part of South Shields where Christine comes from and a twenty minute drive from Windy Nook, where, of course we belong! Strange?

The Boss and I have just demolished a lovely cottage pie which she slaved over, and I think we may be going to watch another episode of “Jeeves and Wooster”, starring the incomparable Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie!

Invasion of Luxor by highly trained Syrian Special Forces!!!!!

I thought that I should let you all know about this under reported phenomenon. After the "Peaceful Revolution" we seem to be experiencing the "Colonisation by Trade"! It only concerns those of you who will be here in Luxor before 18th March, as I hope the Syrian traders will have been vanquished by then. Here's a pic of the entrance to their encampment, see: they are even importuning mothers with children into their lair! Will they enslave them?

The villains have camped on the spare ground next to the kiddies amusement park on Medina Street, and are persuading the women of Luxor into becoming tantalising seductresses by selling them saucy negligees in various styles and colours. It makes you wonder what their own Syrian women are really like???

They are also enticing the men of Luxor away from their traditional modes of dress, these suits with shirts and ties, will make them virtually indistinguishable from western business men, will these Syrian Devils stop at nothing?

Look, they even have western style food processing equipment, I can hardly believe my eyes!

We came across two of these shifty interlopers, handing out what they termed "free samples". Of course, we know that there is no such thing as a "free lunch" or even a "free sample", so, in the name of Freedom and of the New Egypt, we offered ourselves as guinea pigs for these foreign so-called "delicacies". We needed to establish whether they were indeed laced with some sort of stupefying agent. (The Boss murmured something about it not being detectable in my case.)

I'm not sure what their strategy is supposed to be, but with quality products such as these decorative beaded covers and large wall hangings, they are certainly giving the stuff in the souks of Luxor a real showing up! It's as well that I had my concealed camera with me, or you and the "proper authorities" would never have known!

The fact that these little examples of decadent frivolity look green instead of their alluring golden colour, is down to my camera being hidden inside my green pullover, and nothing at all to do with my picture taking skills, and if you dare to mention my colour blindness; I'll have the thought police onto you!

I strongly suggest that you don't read this secret report, as it may be held against you, if and when the counter revolution takes place. Just pretend that it's a Syrian Market, selling beautiful items which are well made and which would be very difficult and expensive to find in most countries.

Remember, "Loose Lips Sink Ships". Blue Leader signing off!

p.s. Don't forget to click on the pictures to make them more easily inspected for Further evidence, Shhhhhhh!

Excitement at Our Luxor!

Yes folks, what a riveting time we had this morning. We were expecting a (quite famous) visitor! I had to vacuum the roof terrace (after serving our current guest's breakfast) and make myself presentable (no easy task, as you know) and then the Boss was yelling at me over the noise of the vacuum, "ANSWER THE DOOR, WILL YOU!!!!"
I legged it down the dancers (why are stairs "dancers") to luckily find that I did actually have my keys in my pocket, for a change, and didn't have to go all the way back up.
Our visitor had just returned from a trip to England, and was laden with post from home, a months worth of magazine reading for the Boss, and three large packets of Waitrose cheap ginger snaps for me. (They are truly delicious, by the way.)
As soon as I saw the name "Waitrose" my memory was cast back some 15 or even 20 years, when I was an active member of the proud "Morris Cowley and Oxford Club". We started off with a Morris Cowley: 1200 cc, no heater, and 18 miles to the gallon! It was absolute purgatory travelling up and down to Arnold, near Nottingham, during the winter to visit the in-laws. The kids were wrapped up in blankets lying across the back seat, asleep, and no seatbelts!!! Is that child abuse, or what? When we later on moved up market to a 1955 Morris Oxford, I organised a "Round Britain Rally" where a convoy of Series 2 and 3 Oxfords and Cowleys travelled up the East side of the country, as far as Melrose in the Borders, (where we stayed in the delightful Burt's Inn, while some poor b***ers slept in their cars) and then came back down the West side. I cannot now remember how many cars turned out, but we made quite a showing, strung out along the M6! We met several other members for the first time, and one of them was a manager of a White Rouse store somewhere in the Deep South! I think it wasn't until the second day that I realised that what he was actually saying was "Waitrose" a name which I hadn't heard before. His name was Duncan Leece, Club Treasurer, and he and his wife had a four-poster bed at home. Happy days!
I digress (for a change), anyway, the gingers are a real treat.
Actually our visitor was even more welcome than the biscuits! We were over the moon to welcome back ............Ruby Tuesday! But she wouldn't say where she came from!!!!!

First there is a mountain, then.........

That's right, you're showing your age if you know the next line! It is (for the uninitiated) "there is no mountain, then there is" courtesy of our old pal, Donovan!

That's exactly what has happened here, or to adapt an even older song "Yes, we have no.... mountains". The Boss and I have been wondering over the past few days why we have no mountain illumination. I think that it's a case of the "Egyptian Way" (i.e. they've stopped working, so that's it!) and she thinks that they haven't paid the electricity bill. I suppose time will tell. Here's a pic of the lack of lights.

I'm constantly puzzled by Egypt and the Egyptians, they are a conundrum! I really believe that there is, indeed, the "Egyptian Way" and it shows itself in a million different situations.

Like, for instance; traffic lights. I remember seeing them, all over I suppose, during the years when I was a tourist. Only problem being that they didn't work, and looked as if they hadn't for years! Then, along came a new generation of traffic lights, and "zebra" type pedestrian crossings. I'm still not au fait with the traffic light procedure, who stops and who goes through on red? It's a bit of a minefield for pedestrians. (But then, they shouldn't mess with children, should they?) Oh, it's not them, no? Ahhh, pediatricians, that's it! never mind, back to Luxor........... The new traffic lights at the Iberotel roundabout have now been off for weeks, and it looks like they've been abandoned to the Egyptian Way! As for the zebras, they are only there to give the drivers some sport. If you notice, the warning signs on the road, to "slow down" and "stop" are written in English!!!! Even if the Luxor drivers were told that the pedestrian has the "right of way", they'd still adopt the "Egyptian Way" and try to knock the unsuspecting tourist down.

I'm currently re-reading Sophia Poole's book "The Englishwoman in Egypt" of 1844. It is fascinating, very much a ladies version of Edward Lanes "Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptian" from 1836. Of course, it would be, as they were brother and sister and Edward "kept her right" so to speak, while she was writing it. The book is written as a series of letters to a friend, and I've just finished letter 8, which ends with the words...."and here my eyes were opened to a new manner of accounting for the generally wretched appearance of the children of this country. Their parents put anything and everything that is eatable into their mouths, without the slightest regard to its being wholesome or otherwise. How then can they be strong or healthy?"

Then, as we ventured out this afternoon, I saw this and laughed!

There are 88 boxes of crisps (known as chips here), and some more stacked sideways under the "M" of the shop name. The pasting table in the foreground gets piled with individual wrapped pieces of cake (like Twinkies, etc.) and sweets and chocolate. Just the shop for those Egyptian mothers of yore, eh?

A few yards, sorry, metres farther down the street, I came across this "blast from the past".

For the uninitiated (again), it's a Bedford, from around 1960 ish. I worked on these as a boy, engine jobs made your ribs ache for days! I remember the "tin can" cylinder liners being very tricky, as they could easily buckle if you didn't get them dead straight! I apologise again for the poor quality of the picture. My mate Big Al would be drooling over these wagons out here!

With old things on my mind, (yes I'm sitting looking at the Boss across the room!) I should tell you about the hazards (about which I've just learned myself) of eating things that are "out of date". As many of you know, I like ginger! McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake, cheap and nasty ginger snaps, ginger puddings, chocolate ginger and crystallised ginger. The latter being something I have a love/hate relationship with, therefore it sometimes lies around for quite some time, without being finished off. Our last guest, brave Melanie, brought us some handmade chocs as a late Christmas present, among them was a chocolate ginger. As it melted in my mouth and the ginger caught on the back of my throat; my passion for the crystallised variety was................. re-awakened!

Now then, where is it? I can buy some Cadburys Dairy Milk to go with it, and I'll be transported to heaven! Of course the Boss knew where it was straight away. I enjoyed just a few pieces each night, wallowing in the pleasure which only connoisseurs really appreciate! Then, last week, the sticky ginger goo lifted an old amalgam filling right out of one of my molars! I couldn't believe it, I had to waste a mouthful of Cadburys and ginger! It's fixed now, by Dr. Farid (Shawky that is, on Cleopatra Street). But he said that I shouldn't eat any more of that "candy" (Philistine!) as an ordinary filling might come away again. I think he was really just trying to get me to have the 500le crown, actually.

When I got home, I checked the packet of ginger, just to see how much I might have to waste. The "use by" date was August 2007! I thought it had been a bit hard on first starting to chew, but it soon became quite alright. Never mind, I bravely threw away the remaining few pieces, and grabbed the newer bag, the use by date on this one is 2009, so it should be fine!!!! I don't recall how long it's been open though?