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I was a bit taken aback by the first one, as it also had a picture of the birthday do of our good friend Marriane!
Anyway, I was amused by a few of them, and I hope some might tickle you.
If you don't, and you've nothing better to do for a few minutes, I'll tell you. Are we all sitting comfortably?
VOSA stands for the Vehicle Operator Services Agency. It's actually a bit of a misnomer as (depending on which area your operating base is situated) sometimes vehicle operators have more of a sense of VOSA being the "Devil Incarnate" rather than a "Service Provider". VOSA's staff carry out the inspection of trucks and buses and coaches, as well as controling those who carry out your annual MOT inspection at your local garage, on behalf of the Area Traffic Commissioner, who works for the Queen, as opposed to the government.
In the North East Traffic Area, where we used to live and operate trucks and coaches, there was usually a fairly benign Traffic Commissioner, and his VOSA staff were reasonably fair and sensible. They knew who was trying to pull the wool over their eyes and who was trying to keep their vehicles as safe as possible. Many of the "old school" vehicle inspectors were ex-forces gentlemen, who would judge your character and expertise before even setting a foot inside the garage to inspect your vehicles and/or maintenance records. These were good men, who weren't frightened to take responsibility, because they were mature enough to trust their own judgement. But some of the latter ones, before I ceased trading, were officious and over zealous to the point of actually often being offensive, always seeming to suspect that you had "something to hide". Most unsatisfactory, and typical of the mindset of a government which needed to minutely control every facet of its elector's lives! Orwell's 1984 wasn't all that far from the truth, with Tony Bliar cast as Big Brother!
Just a minute, I'm getting away from what I wanted to show you!
"Did I Ever Say That Luxors Local Buses Are Safe?"
Probably not, I should think. However, as I ride on them nearly every day; I must have some sort of confidence that the driver doesn't want to become an RTA statistic any more than I do. Actually some of the buses are very poor, like having 40 minutes of free play on the steering wheel (that's taking the whole wheel as a 60 minute clockface), or the body sides and roof swaying to and fro while the floor stays still, or as still as is able with the back axle bound solid to the chassis! But, in general, they don't go fast enough to cause a great deal of damage if things did come apart!!!!!! Here's one which I'd like to have a go at, it runs around Beamish Museum in County Durham, and an old mate of mine drives it! (My brother sent me the picture just tonight.)
I was on the wander the other night to Mr Romani's friend who does the upholstery stitching etc. with his heavy duty sewing machine. (Mr Romani is the foam man across the way from where we live.) The stitcher was reinforcing some blackout curtains we had been given by one of our rich friends here (Marianne actually), but he didn't have them finished when he said that he would do. "Egyptian Time", remember? Calm, calm calm! Anyway, there was a local service bus parked in the street on the other side of the school, one of the bigger ones (based on a Toyota Coaster chassis judging by the size of the wheel studs and nuts) with about 20 seats. There are only a few of these knocking about as most of the buses are little, van based, mini-buses.
"Old habits die hard", or so they say, so as I walked past, I noticed a very slight problem with the left hand front wheel, which any bus or coach driver would notice on his/her "daily 'initial use' walk round check" before getting into the driver's seat. What do you think Her Majesty's Vehicle Inspectors would say about this?
Perhaps an "Immediate Prohibition", do you think?
I went to see my old mate Mr Aboudi in his new shop in Passport Street this morning. After that I was making my way to Tutti Frutti for a cup of the Amber Nectar (Tea, of course) when I came across another victim of the lack of "Elf N Safety" here in Egypt.
If you have a gander at the break in the trunk, I think you'll see that it's rotten! If the Council "Tree Man" had been inspecting trees for safety; he'd have found that, and had the tree cut down before it fell and caused some damage. But, being Egypt, it wasn't picked up. So when the strong wind (Khamseen?) got up last night, blowing sand everywhere and rattling everything which wasn't well fastened down, the old tree was toppled.
It was opposite the Sonesta St George Hotel, and fell right where they park their limousines etc. I was amazed that there hadn't actually been something parked there!
I've just remembered something else, which I actually noticed before, but that was before I was doing the blog. Mr Romani's stitching friend (I'm sorry, but I don't know his name, so that's the best I can do) is on the other side of the school, and up a little cul-de-sac which seems to end at a gate, in a high wall, leading into a garden of sorts in front of the new church. It always seems to have people sitting around outside their doors, talking, clipping kids, and drinking tea (so not all bad, eh?) but there is always a bit of a smell there too! Something like a butcher's shop.
Although I had my camera with me, I didn't feel able to take a picture with so many people sitting around. But there were large tins (maybe about 2 gallon size) lying on the other side of the small street containing.........empty hooves!!!! That's right, just the hard outer part of animal hooves. I cannot imagine what they do with the insides, which I suppose to be of a softer material, or how they actually get the stuff out? I'd forgotten about these, as I haven't been up that street for quite some time. The last time I used this stitching man, he'd not made a good job and charged me too much, so I have been reluctant to go back to him, until now that is.
What do you think? Is this what they make glue out of? What?
So, let their be no mistake here today, the question is definitely "WHO are you?"
Ever since I got the "feedjit" thing on the blog, I've been wondering who all these folk are from places far and wide. I know that the person from "Barry, Vale of Glamorgan" is Karen (aka Tutankaren) and that the one from "Gateshead" is (99% sure) our son Benjamin (aka one-ear) but the others? Well I'm not at all sure!
There's "Preston Lancs" the only people I know there are Richard and Margaret, is that you Richard or Margaret? And then there's Walsall, that could be one of the "Wenches" Glen or Mar, is it? How about "Green Bay Wisconsin" Is that Debra, who stayed with us last year? "New York" could be Mary Pat another past guest, with her BIG husband. Yes, no? There are a good number of places to which we have no connection whatsoever, like Burundi, and Tajikistan, they must have just been unfortunate to stumble across this blog, lol. We've had a guest from Russia, mind you, a place name which often crops up, so is that you Viktor?
Honestly, ever since I got the feedjit, it's driving me crazy! Please please, let me know who you are? If you cannot manage to leave a message on the blog (I know, it's a bit difficult) then you could always drop us an email, please?
Mistake!!!!! I've just realised that it's not Debra who's in Green Bay, it's the Bluels (aka Motor Mike) Sorry about that, both of you! Debra, how's the Mexican house going?
Never mind, we are not altogether backward in the recycling game! Just for those who don't know:
Our household rubbish is meant to be placed in one of two skips (dumpsters) just a few metres away from the entrance to our little alley. Our good friend Rashad (the cleaner) usually takes our bin bag, which I give to him when I go downstairs to pay him each day. (Well; each day that he turns up, that is!) But then; most of what goes into the bin bag couldn't be recycled anyway, at least not here and not easily. But...whenever there's anything else to go, it's a different story!
Any old bits of wood, or plywood, never get as far as the skip, "Ah, meester Adward" yes, someone has a use for it, if it's not Adam from the coffeeshop, it will be Girges the doctor's assistant or Mr Ramadan the electrician. Failing either of those three it would be Mohamed Saber, our local scrap and general dealer, who is a couple of shops away to the left of our alley.
It's good, in that it means that I never have to carry heavy things very far, but Adam just wants to leave stuff lying in the street for a year or two, till he finds a use (or maybe even a buyer) for it, which is no good to me at all! What Adam does take, though, is empty water bottles. He uses them in the coffeeshop. Whenever a customer orders a tea or coffee, they also get a drink of water. Adam has a fridge full of my old bottles, which are full of Egyptian (tap) water. If you're a stranger, or at all posh looking, then you might get a glass for your water, but most likely you'd just get the bottle on the table next to your glass. He also likes the fabric conditioner bottles with the wide opening, it's good for throwing water all over the street to "keep the dust down". In actual fact, it just turns the street into mud!
A couple of streets away, I was curious about a high (maybe 20 feet or so) pile of great big black plastic bags behind a wall of about 15 feet or so high. I eventually asked Ahmed the caleche man about it, and then was delighted to actually see the man and his family doing what they do! They were soaking the labels off plastic water bottles as they sat in their home with the front door wide open. Once the bottles are clean of labels and glue, they are put into these giant sized sacks and allowed to pile up until there are enough of them to warrant a truck coming to take them away. I was quite amazed, to hear that this family make a living out of just this!
Anyway, while we were visiting the tombs at Al Kab last week, on our dahabiya trip aboard the beautiful Zekrayaat, we were approached by two young girls from the village through which we had to walk. They were selling small baskets and plates, like this. (Of course, this is one which was made earlier!!!) Do you reckon that they would have deserved a "Blue Peter Badge" for this?
If you read Ruby Tuesday's blog (http://orangesbythenile.blogspot.com/) you might have seen the large bowl which her sister-in-law made for her. They are made from the plastic foil of crisp packets! Ours had a handle on, which Freda didn't care for, so she took it off and investigated the construction.
As you can see, apart from the skill involved in actually doing it, it's simplicity itself! A few "woody" type fibres from a common plant, for stiffening, and wrapped in strips of crisp packet. It's very effective for a nice little conversation piece and so much better than throwing them away in the street, or canal, or onto the roof across the street, wouldn't you agree?
As we walked back to the dahabiya and passed through the village, we saw some women sitting at their door actually making some of these items. One, was a great big platter, it must have been nearly two feet across, and she was arranging the packets so that it had a perfect "swirl" pattern on it, a work of art!
Now we've got them back on our mountains!!!!! It was the first thing I noticed last night, when I got to the top of our stairs and turned onto the roof terrace. What a pleasant surprise to come home to, even though I was tramping through a weeks worth of accumulated dust.
It was getting tedious to have to explain to every new guest that the lights were "temporarily (insh'Allah) off, but that when they were on, we had a cracking view of them." It sounds so hollow, and worthless!
Abdullah the Egyptologist and Guide.
I really cannot sing this lad's praises highly enough! He was excellent, on time every time, never glum or petulant, and always ready to talk about Egypt, ancient or modern.
At Kom Ombo it was pretty crowded, but it wasn't a problem. If we couldn't get to where we wanted to be next, Abdullah just turned to the wall next to where we were and started to reel of an explanation of the writings he found there, carefully pointing to and pronouncing each syllable to make up the words, and then following the changes in pronunciation up to the modern idiom. When the place we wanted became free, we then just moved on. Not many guides I know are this able to leave their learned text.
Abdullah's email is email@example.com and I recommend him to anyone whose language is English. He also has a website (which is quite old, and possibly a bit out of date) which is http:/Nubiantravel.wetpaint.com
That's all for tonight folks. Goodnight.
Our original plan was to loaf about Aswan today, and take the teatime train back home to Luxor. However, that would have entailed leaving the Zekrayaat at 07.00 and being in Aswan all day without ready access to a clean toilet and shower facilities, not something which we really fancied! So, we asked to have our train tickets changed to last night, and caught the 19.30 from Aswan which got us home by about 23.00. (Too late to clart on with the blog, I'm afraid!)
Here we are though, another day and raring to go; I've titled all the photographs and now we're getting down to the Nitty Gritty.
After mooring for the night just south of Kom Ombo, we sailed on to Daraw in order to visit the Camel Market there. Abdullah had promised me something I would like, as a means of transport! We had no idea what he was on about, but while we were watching the crew tie up to the walls etc on the bank; we could'nt help but notice the Tuk-Tuks flying backwards and forwards along the road. Sure enough that was our surprise!
All I can say about these queer little contraptions is "I WANT ONE!!!!!"
The Camel Market is a fair distance away from the river, so we were quite a while on our Tuk-Tuk, weaving in and out of the rest of the traffic and scaring the living daylights out of anyone who was foolish enough to get in our way. It was absolutely magic! Between the main town and the market, the road snaked through the fields, where I saw the "olde world" way of ploughing:
I was surprised to see bales of hay, apparently just lying in the street! I later realised that this was for the animals which were "corralled" behind the walls all along the market's approach road. Thursday isn't actually camel selling day, it seemed to be more goats, sheep and donkeys. Nevertheless, there were camels aplenty for photographing. Not exactly pretty, more intriguing, wouldn't you agree?
Their camel's eyebrows reminded Freda of our long departed Chancellor of the Exchequer; Dennis Healey!
The bargaining for the goats etc got quite intense on occasion. I thought that one bloke was going to lose his temper when his "opponent" (who was seated while he himself was on his hunkers [haunches]) grabbed the sleeve of his galabaya to stop him getting up and leaving. They were shouting at each other very viciously! I walked on and snapped this next one where it was a little more civilised.
Abdullah then led us out of the actual market area, just a minute up the road, to have a look at the place where they check the animals for disease etc before they are put up for sale. A truck was being loaded with camels for their onward journey. It was a lovely 6-legged Merc Actros.
This next pic reminds me of making sure that the "Wrinklies" were safely belted in for their coach excursion to Scarborough!!!! Only we weren't allowed to hit them with big sticks when they wouldn't sit down!
I thoroughly enjoyed the journey back to the boat, thought I'd snap this well loaded pick-up truck for you on the way!
Back on board, we set about our arduous tasks of eating, snoozing, reading and chatting, until we moored on the west bank so that our Dutch companions could have a stroll through one of the local villages with Abdullah. Freda and I carried on with our aforementioned tasks by ourselves, very difficult work in the afternoon heat!
We hadn't been there long when the local "likely lads" arrived and spread their wares out on the small riverside beach next to our dahabiya.
There were about six or seven such displays along the short stretch of sand, all with the same sort of handicrafts on show. The boys, while they awaited our companions return, decided to have a swim and play in the cool water:
After a long wait (but after a lot of fun as well) the Dutch didn't buy!
From there, we sailed on up to the very picturesque Aswan Bridge, where we moored for the night.
It was still light, so the Dutch couple went for a walk along the banks, among the lush palms and trees etc interspersed by stretches of sand dune. It was idyllic. Freda and I opted to stay aboard and ordered tea in the shade on the sundeck, that was more to our idea of idyllic! The young men, who made up the crew, decided to play football on the sandy area just off from the boat. (They must be slightly "touched" I think!) After our tea, we packed up and tidied the suite so that we could take a few pictures before we left.
For info on this boat and her sister ship the "Orient" copy and paste the following link:
Six o'clock came around too soon, and we said our farewells to the crew and boarded the tug for our lift to the side of the bridge and our waiting tranport to the railway station in Aswan.
I snatched a last quick photo of the dahabiya as we left her behind with mixed emotions! (Cue: Frank Sinatra, "It's so nice, to go travelling, but it's oh, so nice to come home!"
The journy to the station was uneventful, although I couldn't remember travelling along that particular road, which took us into Aswan, before. There were some very picturesque outlying villages, perched on the hillsides.
I thought that the carriage of the train was going to be at Abu Simbel, it seemed to be miles along the platform! We had dinner on the train, which consisted of a half chicken (each) mashed potato and roast potato, along with a bit of salad (uggh) a bun, some cheese, a piece of basboosa (cake soaked in golden syrup) and a bottle of water. What I ate was absolutely delicious, and all for 45le each.
The last picture of the trip is of the first class carriage as we left it at Luxor station.
As we entered the Temple, we were separated and got a bit mixed in with at least one other group. It was then that I seemed to recognise the face of one of the ladies, but I wasn't sure. Later on during our tour of the Temple both Freda and I, together, saw her again and we both thought that it might be the same lady. Eventually, I had to go up to her and ask outright. "Excuse me, are you Nahla?" Just as I asked her, I noticed her name badge which read (of course) NAHLA.
Nahla, was our guide on our very first visit to Egypt in 1997. It was a delight to see her again after all these years.
Here she is, complete with her Kuoni badge and board.
Anyway, back to our day on the Nile. This morning, Abdullah took us ashore to view the Temple of Horemheb and the adjacent tombs of Tom Dick and Harry. Very interesting, I'm sure! Before we went, we had our breakfast on the sundeck. While we sat there Freda pointed out a cat sized creature strolling along the footpath. It had a long fat tail, like a cat, but short legs and a rather pointed face. Of course, as usual, I hadn't brought the camera, and by the time I retrieved it from our suite the beast had disappeared out of range. If you know what it might have been I'd be pleased to know. Abdullah the guide said that it must have been some sort of rat!
We started off wandering along the rat path in some lovely soft deep sand, it reminded us of our summer holidays spent at Seahouses with the children. There were many footprints on the way. Lots of birds, some which Abdullah described as "wolf" prints (but we all know that many Egyptians call the small desert foxes wolves) and also a track which had obviously been made by a unicycle:
Daft Abdullah said it was the track of a scarab beetle, but what does he know????
It was an interesting walk, I've got to say. As well as clambering about in the tombs and rocks we came across some different things; like the empty lightbulb boxes!
Being of the normal consciencsous type, the man in charge of replacing the bulbs which illuminate the antiquities hereabouts, just drops the boxes wherever he happens to be! (I think he must be a regular visitor at Dr Al Malach's surgery downstairs!!!! Abdullah showed us where the ancient sailors had made themselves a tying up place for their boats and ships:
I was quite taken by the coloured ceilings in some of the tombs:
Abdullah was also explicit in his instructions to NOT put our hands in or near any cracks or crevises in the rocks, we couldn't know what was lurking in them! So, when we had to make our way up this gully in the following picture; he threw a stone up it first. He actually looked quite concerned!
These monuments are situated in what Abdullah described as "The biggest sandstone quarry in the world." I'm not sure whether that is technically true, but it did seem to carry on for a long long way. Just past where I took this next picture from, there is a sign forbidding further exploring.
The David Attenborough in me led me to also snap this queer little six winged creature:
We travelled under sail for quite a while during our onward journey to Kom Ombo. This meant that other boats were passing us, as there wasn't a great deal of wind. One such boat was the Abercrombie and Kent dahabiya. It is very large! In fact, it has TWO tugs to tow it along when the wind drops, here it is:
I'm sure you will agree that this vessel bears more of a resemblance to a large motor driven cruiser than to a dahabiya!
We visited Kom Ombo Temple along with the tourists from several other cruise boats, it was quite busy. In fact, Kom Ombo was very busy! Whilst we were moored there, there were about 30 cruise boats visited, including those which were there when we arrived and those which arrived before we left.
As usual, Abdullah was excellent; showing us things on the walls which we had not seen before, even though we've been there about 6 or 7 times. He's also very willing to please.
We visited Edfu Temple this morning, and although we've been there many times our guide Abdullah showed us some different aspects and explained some hieroglyphs to us that were fascinating in themselves. Our Dutch companions stayed on at the Temple for an extra hour while we came back to the boat and had some well earned tea!
We set sail as soon as they had returned, spent some time reading under the shade on the sundeck and generally lazed about until lunch was served at 12.30.
It included some pasta stuff (which I left alone, of course) some egg salad a large dish of cheese toasted onto mashed potato, and was finished off with another dish with aubergine and tomato. Pudding was a dish of fresh peaches, lovely!
We sailed on up the river, waving at the envious passengers on the sundecks of the bigger "factory" vessels as they steamed past. One, named the "Armada" (full of Spaniards, no doubt) nearly choked us with the smoke she was belching out, I think a set of injectors and a pump calibration wouldn't have gone far amiss! After a good while we slowed to a stop, and the poor crew had to pull on ropes and push with poles (no, not "Poles") to get us into the side. I felt like Captain Pugwash as I watched them struggling, even the poor guide Abdullah got stuck in. It was here that we lost our Dutch friends for a while. They were having an afternoon stroll with the guide, only for about 4 or 5 kilometres. We gave it a miss, as we are on holiday not at a forced labour camp! We spent the afternoon chatting, reading, sleeping and waving at lots of tourists on the sundecks of the big cruisers as they plowed past. We are still learning that hurrying is not the way here in Egypt, but sailing on a dahabiya is one of our best lessons yet!
I should tell you something about the dahabiya, shouldn't I? For a start, the word means "The Golden One", and it's lovely! It has four twin cabins and two suites with large beds and private quarter-decks at the stern of the boat. You guessed it; we have a suite! As the late great Tommy Trinder would have said, "You lucky people!" And, we certainly are. Neither of us can imagine what our fathers would have thought of us sailing up the Nile in this sort of luxury and style. Here are some of the Egyptian antiques aboard:
Each cabin is air conditioned, and with nothing but the best! You know that I am slowly becoming an expert on A/C, don't you? Well, these are brand new Sharp split units, which I have been assured by my friends in the A/C community, are the very best.
We were moored for quite a while before the others caught us up at Gebel El Silsila, where we are overnighting. They had had a great walk and had seen some stone-age rock drawings as well as some pharaonic stuff.
Here's a picture of where we are actually moored.
Freda is pestering me to make some tea, it's not that I want some, you understand, but I have to keep her sweet or I'll get no more Jelly Babies!
The alarm was set for 07.00 this morning. I need a good amount of time to get turned around in the mornings, hate to be rushed. Everything was done and ready for us to toodle down the stairs at 08.55, ready to be picked up at 09.00. Yes, I had remembered to water the plants and turn of the water and the water pump. We were all set to go and the Djed Egypt mini-bus was bang on time.
As we left Luxor, I asked the rep if there were no more people to pick up, "No, only you two." came his answer. I could hardly believe it, we were going to have a whole Dahabiya to ourselves for the next four days!!!!! I'm pleased to say, however, that we weren't going to be by ourselves, when we boarded the boat at Esna, we were soon joined by a charming Dutch couple. (One thing I found quite strange, but typically Egyptian, was that they had also been brought from Luxor that very morning, but in a different mini-bus!)
The crew wasted no time in getting underway. At first, we were towed by our ever present tugboat (on a long towrope, so there was no disturbance to us "Olde World" travellers) but after a short while the gigantic lateen sails were unfurled, the rope dropped, and we were under the silent wind power!
We lunched on deck at 12.30, very tasty tuna pizza, with baladi salad (yuk, rabbit food) Spaghetti with tomato and a large bowl of french fries. This was followed by a plate full of lovely sweet bananas. As usual, I forgot to take a picture!
"We will go ashore at El Kab at three o'clock" trumpeted the English speaking guide, Abdullah, "I will give you warning about fifteen minutes before." I, of course, went to bed. There he was, at 2.45 knocking on the door and waking good sleeping folk! It was about 3.25 before we moored up and went ashore. Then we had a quite long walk to the tombs, we had to cross the railway track and the main north/south highway before we got to the site. The tombs were interesting, for tombs. And the guide was very good' explaining the various hieroglyphs etc. On our walk there and back we passed a large mudbrick enclosure wall, it seemed to be about 15 feet or so thick. Abdullah explained to us that this is where the Pharaoh stored the foodstuffs during the seven years of plenty, before the seven years of famine, as the bible story goes. Some fascinating bits and pieces, I've got to admit.
By the time we were back onboard, it was teatime; English tea and chocolate cake on the sundeck very nice and most welcome. Another little sleep was then the order of the day, along with sorting things out in the cabin, before dinner (again on the sundeck) at 8pm.
Dinner consisted of beef, rice, okra and chick-pea rabbit food. It was very tasty also, but I preferred the kanafa which was served up for pudding!
I'd better go now, as we have our tea and biscuits to get before the power goes off in a few minutes. I'll speak to you again tomorrow.
We are dropping out of sight for a few days. No-one else, Dear Reader, knows to where! But if you would care to drop in here tomorrow evening; I might get time to give you a taste of "Something Completely Different", to borrow a Pythonesque reference.
Watch this space, and think "Amelia Edwards".
Hush, you never know who's listening!
The window in our bedroom isn't level, it runs off a bit down to the left. This isn't a great problem, as you can still see out of it, and open and close it. It's a window! Nevertheless, its been bugging me for a while as the curtain rail is fastened to the architrave around the window frame, and the heavy weight of the the curtains is starting to pull at said architrave. What would any red-blooded man do in this situation? He'd fix it, of course! And so I started out.
This is a very simple and straightforward little job, about 30 minutes or so, insh'Allah.
I had a batten in mind which was in the big dikkeh on the roof terrace, it just needed a few inches sawn off the end. Three holes drilled in the wall, in which to insert some wall plugs (fissures, in Arabic) and fasten the rail back up, Bob's your uncle! Why oh why do I keep falling for these same old lines? Have I learned nothing during the past four years of living here?
Drilling holes in walls has always held a kind of dread for me. This venture would prove to be no exception, my big nasty JCB hammer drill drilled so far and then wouldn't go any further, then went off course, making the hole bigger than I had wanted it, too big for the fissures! To cut a long story short (again) I eventually had to get out my 14mm "Hilti" drill bit, in an attempt to break through the stoppage. Still no use!!! This particular hole was now about an inch high and almost five eighths wide! I had to use a hammer and chisel in the end. It wasn't the brick which was the problem (I thought that it might be concrete and a hard pebble was in the way) it was the mortar! As hard as bell metal!
I overcame the drilling problems then cut pieces of wood which hammered tightly into the holes to take the three screws, marked the wall with a pencil using my spirit level, drilled and countersunk the batten, all was ready to put it up. Haha, you really think so? When I "offered up" the batten; it rocked from side to side, because the wall had a camel's hump in the middle! "Ah" I thought, "KV Explorer's Surform!" It worked its magic on the wall, and the batten and curtain rail went back up without further ado. Alhamdulillah! It only took about three hours! The operation involved using 21 pieces of equipment/tools, and drove me stark staring bonkers. Also, I'd left the mounting studs in the ceiling from the A/C fan unit which used to hang in front of the window. They were about 6 inches long and I kept banging my head every time I turned around while I was up aheight, one bang even drew blood!
Of course it is all my darling Freda's fault, after all, who else should have told me that it really didn't matter, and reminded me that we are in Egypt; where these small irritations are of absolutely no consequence? Maybe I'll stop speaking to her for a few days, that'll teach her!
More or less opposite the PC World is the Mola Me shoe shop, with it's large "M" shaped logo, remarkably like that of McDonald's. Then, just a few doors down, is the "Orange" mobile phone shop! Not a copycat, but rather amusing if you're an adolescent boy, (like me) is the perfume and make-up shop a few doors further down called "Boobi"!
No doubt you'll remember the "Facebook" shoe shop of the other week, well as I was passing by, two days ago, they seemed to be emptying it! Maybe they weren't getting enough Internet coverage, lol.
Today, we went hunting for Ginger Snaps! We met a Welsh lady friend (Hefina) and her daughter-in-law (Alison) in Tutti Frutti. Hefina is a regular visitor whom we've known from the New Winter Palace days. Bless her heart, she'd brought me some Gingers, and Freda some Bassetts Jelly babies! On the way there, though, we'd called at the 2S supermarket to see if he had any of the Arabic Gingers we've been "making do" with. He had, so I stuck four packets in a bag and dumped them on the counter. "Hello (and all the usual niceties) that'll be 28 pounds please" "Whaaat?", that was Freda, nearly bursting. She was right, of course, as we'd been paying only 2pounds 50 for them at the Forty Market just along the street! I'm pleased that Hefina saved the day.
Anyway, that's not what I was going to tell you. When we left Tutti's, we strolled along to the said Forty Market, only to find that they were out of stock of the Egyptian Gingers. It didn't matter, of course, as we now had the ones from Welsh Wales (look you). But on the way there, just a few doors before it, and across the road, and on the first floor, I saw this............
Now, I've seen a couple of Co-op petrol stations here, and thought it quite amusing. But here we have a proper Co-operative Insurance "SOCIETY", it's just like ours! Do the folk in Irlam know about it, I wonder? The sign is quite obviously, by the amount of muck on it, nowhere near new, but I hadn't noticed it before. I must remember to have a look upwards as I wander about in future. Heaven knows what else I've been missing?
As you all know, I'm not much cop with the old Box Brownie. But, seeing as we don't usually let Freda handle cameras (it's a long story) it falls to me to be the resident camera man here at Our Luxor. Except when I'm not there, of course!
I wasn't available the other day when a hoopoe (a strange dickie bird) was banging at the door window, so, quick as a flash our stand-by camera crew sprung into action and snapped the little blighter on the roof terrace handrail.
It's a really good picture, don't you think? The very next day, we were at the Etap drinking tea and Nescafe, when another small bird showed up. It looked like a pigeon to me, but Freda said it was the wrong colour (she being the ornithologist, you know, and not being colour blind!) but I think it's just a bit dusty or something.
A couple of my neighbours and I have this sort of standing joke. They sit either in or just outside of Adam's little coffee shop in the evenings,
and when we come back from our (usually nightly) shopping expeditions, me laden with shopping bags which are trying to cut my fingers off, I make the donkey's braying sound. This indicates to all the escapees gathered there that this is sometimes all that we feel we are to our womenfolk; beasts of burden, humpers of shopping or furniture or whatever else they require of us.
Tonight it was moving furniture night! With the new A/C unit not blowing directly onto the bed, Freda is becoming overheated when she sits in bed reading (poor lamb!). So now I have moved all the furniture (apart from the wardrobe) in the bedroom around, in an effort to have her feeling comfortable. After all, what are husbands for? I had to ask her to vacate the bed, though, as I just couldn't move it with her in-situ! So now the bed is underneath the A/C unit, and it still doesn't blow on her, but it's a change for the time being, so we won't grumble.
Talking about grumbling: there are some right grumblings going on between the Muslims and Coptic Christians in some parts of Egypt! It really is rather serious when people are being killed for being different! As I've mentioned before (I'm sure) there is a bigger percentage of Christians in Luxor than in most other places in Egypt. Seeing as there is really only Tourism here to provide anything resembling mass employment, the two religions need to work side by side, and without the constant uncertainty which seems to be prevalent in other places.
We had our last guests in the tourist souk the other day and I was delighted to notice this sign hanging across the street.
It's given me a little bit more confidence to reiterate that Luxor is still a relatively safe holiday destination. So, get onto Thomson or Kuoni, or someone, and get yourself booked on a flight here soon!!!!!
One of our current guests is a famous (well, certainly in some circles) musician, although not at the moment, the height of his fame being 20 or so years ago. Along with his son, of the same name, he was the mastermind behind the music of an ensemble known as "Hash 'n' Thrash". They can be seen on You Tube if you copy and paste the following into your address bar:
Our guest is the one with the guitar, who appears at about 1 minute and 30 seconds, on the left of the stage, with the hair and beard.
He's a fascinating bloke who has kept me enthralled with his various tales. I do really hope that he's enjoying his staying with us as much as we are enjoying having him here. He and his partner have been out and about with us on a number of occasions, which I think have been quite successful. Although this isn't their first time in Luxor, I hope we have managed to introduce them to a few of the towns less obvious delights!
This afternoon, we four are gracing the Victoria Lounge at the Winter Palace, where we plan to enjoy the ritual of Afternoon Tea. Freda and I did this only five days ago to celebrate her birthday, but we'll suffer it again for the sake of our guests! (Being a gentleman, I couldn't possibly reveal her age, but she won't see 47 again.)
Talking of "less obvious delights"; I think we have another couple of "Hawawshi" converts in Mr and Mrs suzychuck! (From Lincoln and Trip Advisor and the Etap.) We got Ahmed (the caleche man) the other night to take the four of us along to Karnak, to introduce them to my new favourite dish. There were some irritating children playing football next to where the caleche was parked, so, instead of strangling them, I asked Ahmed to take us around to where the Sphinxes are to be found nestling in peoples front gardens, to find somewhere quiet where we wouldn't be disturbed whilst we tucked into our scrumptious repast.
We enjoyed seeing the Sphinxes and the new diggings etc, and the two new mosques on the back road to Karnak Temple, but didn't find any peace and quiet until we commandeered a lay-by near the Military Club on the Corniche! This was at least a half hour later, and I was a bit apprehensive about how hot the Hawawshi would still be. I needn't have worried, it was still quite hot to handle, and just a comfortable temperature to eat. Our two friends both loved it! (And this time, it was MY treat for a change. Those of you who were beginning to wonder if I EVER pay, take note.)
Kev and Jean (our current guests) leave for home tomorrow, then we have three whole weeks (due to the revolution scaring people off?) before our next ("Geordie") guests arrive. One of them is a regular visitor to Luxor, but a first timer in our apartment. I hope they are suitably impressed, or they'll be sent back to the "Coaly Tyne" forthwith!!!!!
Bye for now.
Last week, Freda and I were talking to the chairman of Steigenberger at their beautiful Nile Palace Hotel, and he was telling us that hotel bookings throughout Egypt are running at between 25 and 28% of capacity! Is this what the revolutionaries envisaged, I wonder?
Of course, people who were planning to visit Egypt this summer are now having second thoughts, mostly because of the safety doubts which have been massively helped along by selective and misleading reporting by worldwide television news programmes, and by foreign governments "taking in water" and issuing travel "advisories" against coming here, which are also linked to adverse reporting. It's like being back in the middle of the revolution itself! Misinformation abounds!
I cannot pretend that nothing here has changed, it would be less than honest to protest that everything is the same as it was before the revolution. Although I am not aware of it personally, I believe that Luxor (and probably other areas as well) is experiencing more criminal activity than before. Apparently, the other day, a man was shot dead in a robbery at a local petrol station. Now, while I don't want to trivialise such a serious and despicable crime, this wouldn't even make the national news if it had occurred in England! The crime situation here reminds me of a holiday we once had in Haverigg in Cumbria; the local newspaper front page headline read "Bike Stolen In Millom!" We had a laugh about it then, and still do on occasion. But the point of relating this little tale to you is to emphasize the difference in the actual (and perceived) level of criminality between Egypt and the countries from which our tourists come from.
MI5's security "Threat Level" for Great Britain is currently at "Severe", the next level is "Critical" and is the highest threat level we have; where terrorist attack is genuinely thought to be "Imminent", none of Mr Bliar's "45 minute Weapons of Mass Destruction" scaremongering in this case!
The following was lifted from the travel advice of a large English speaking country today:
"On 22 January 2010, UK authorities raised the threat level for the United Kingdom overall from 'Substantial' to ‘Severe’, meaning that a terrorist attack is assessed as ‘highly likely’. ............... in the United Kingdom should be aware of media reports that in January 2011 security arrangements were increased at major transport hubs in the United Kingdom."
If you add these warnings to the well documented, appallingly high level, of "ordinary" crime in the UK, then all British subjects should decamp to Egypt, for their own safety, immediately!
If you are considering a trip (of a lifetime) to Luxor, then check out your governments travel warnings, here's the UK's regarding Luxor:
"Between 25 January and 11 February there were major political demonstrations in Cairo and other locations across Egypt, including Suez, North Sinai, Rafah, the Delta region and some areas of Upper Egypt, including Luxor"
"There is a nationwide curfew in place from 02:00 to 05:00 local time. Timings are occasionally adjusted and you are advised to listen to media announcements or seek advice from your tour operator or hotel management. The curfew is not being enforced in the Red Sea Resort area or in Luxor."
Yes, that's it! They then go on to say:
"1,346,724 British Nationals visited Egypt in 2009 (Source: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism). Most visits are trouble-free. See General - Consular Assistance Statistics. The majority of consular cases occur in Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh."
Another feather in Luxor's cap? And don't forget to check up on the "Threat Level" in your own country, it's maybe time you went somewhere sunnier and safer for a little get-away-from-it-all holiday, eh?????
I did threaten to show you the pics from the fitting of, and hiding of, the new "Hole in the Wall" A/C unit for our bedroom, well here they are, with running commentary.
That's not quite true, actually. The trauma of watching the vandals fitting it was too much for me, and consequently, instead of clicking away with the old Brownie, I was trying to keep sane while not killing the men who were attacking my home! So, the first picture is of the machine being measured with my ever present measure: a 12inch (30 cm) shoe!
For the next one, we jump directly to the unit actually fitted in the wall.
It is rather ugly, wouldn't you agree? So, the mashrabiya it is, then. We wondered if an ordinary lattice would be less expensive than the fancy Islamic one? Yes it was, but only by 10 le per two square metre sheet. Nuff said! Here they both are on display in the little Christian shop in Cleopatra (or Kelopatra) Street.
I knew that the spare wood from the old fitted wardrobe would come in useful one day, and so it did in making a frame for the Islamic pattern lattice to mount onto. But first there had to be a way of securing it to the wall? This was overcome by using more bits of what would otherwise be waste from the wardrobe. The plywood from the shelves!
Problem No 1: It's only very thin 3 ply! Solution: Make it thicker 6 ply by glueing it together!
Problem No 2: How do I manage to keep it pressed together while the glue hardens? Solution: Take the granite top off the bathroom cabinet and use it as a uniform plate press!
It's difficult containing oneself, when you're so imaginative, you know! Freda knew that she would come across problems like this when she chose me for her life's partner. Wise woman, that one.
That task being completed, it was time to turn to the Islamic Lattice. Originally, I thought this was some kind of sheet material like MDF or something similar. But no, it is a proper lattice with half lap joints at every junction. Anyway, it lay on the roof terrace floor, waiting to have itself ravaged by an electric jig saw!
Along with the aforementioned bits of waste wood, some more glue and a few panel pins, I eventually got it to this stage:
After snapping, and making a right dog's breakfast of, the lovely (but very fragile) right-angle molding I had bought to cover the corners with, and then a great deal of trying to make decent 45 degree cuts in beading etc., I managed to cobble together something which almost met with Freda's approval.
I was toying with the idea of leaving it in its natural colours, but, having all my taste in my mouth, I was overruled for a change. It would be painted white, in order to blend in with the wall. Have you ever tried painting something that's full of holes? It's an absolute nightmare! Of course my brushes are "quality", from Poundland! Before too long, the inch brush would have been more suited to cleaning toilets, the 1 inch measurement was now about four and a half! Plus, the paint was drying as quickly it was going on. It was then that I remembered a small roller which I had hidden away somewhere. It only took me about five days to locate it, in the big dikkeh on the roof terrace. Now I would be "knocking doors out of windows"! The roller just squeezed into the star shaped holes in the lattice, and with a bit of a waggle about as it came back out; all the side surfaces were covered. I was like a bairn with a new toy!
Here's the result, all we need now is another tin of paint to go over the patched-up wall. What do you think?