The Lotus Eaters.

I remember this as the title of a television programme, many moons ago, but never really knew (or cared)what it actually meant. Nevertheless, I know now, as we foreigners who enjoy the inordinate excesses of life here in the exotic climes of Luxor, could well be described as people who are 'given to indolent enjoyment'!

As you might expect; we Westerners who enjoy life here are always on the lookout for new ways to indulge our insatiable appetite for pleasure, and I've just found a brand new one!!!!! Don't let on to anyone else and I'll tell you about it. Hush now!

It started a few days ago while I was looking on the Luxor4U forum pages on the laptop. Someone was asking (perfectly innocently) what tins of food people kept in their cupboards, and someone replied "tinned lentils." I'd never heard of tinned lentils before, and became intrigued. Eventually it was explained that the tinned lentils were actually cooked, and not those which I was more accustomed to as being in packets.

Anyway, Freda is an expert in making lentil soup. (Or more correctly; lentil soups, as her English variety differs entirely from her Egyptian one, and the same flavour is never exactly replicated from one batch to another in either country.) Whichever way it comes; I'll eat it! I love it! We had some last week and there was a bit left over, which I had the following day at lunchtime. As I scraped it out of the large pan, it occurred to me that it might be just as nice cold as it is when it's hot.

At about the same time, Freda happened to mention that she could just fancy some 'Sardine and Tomato' spread; and the idea struck me like a blow from a quarter hammer (Colloquialism: quarter hammer = a long shafted, two handed hammer with a head weighing 28 pounds [being a quarter hundredweight] or 12.72 kilos, and formerly in common use in shipbulding and engineering):  LENTIL SPREAD!

As Freda made some more soup yesterday; today has been the first opportunity to try it out and I've got to say that it isn't half bad! I thought that it would go better on sliced bread rather than on the local bread rolls, and in hindsight,I think that was the right decision; plenty of butter and a generous spreading of the new wonder spread. Delicious! (Look out Shippams and John West, here we come.)

As you can see from the places where I stabbed the knife in in order to load it for spreading, it's quite firm. This wouldn't be possible with tinned stuff from Heinz or Baxters, it just has to be lovingly home made. I'm not sure whether to have some more spread or whether to heat it up for teatime, what do you think?

Another of my secret little indulgences is to read back copies of Private Eye! We tried having them posted to us, but they never arrived! I suspect that, being satirical, they were deemed to be anti-establishment or something and were confiscated by customs or someone in Cairo. Now we get them in bulk, about six months at a time. (I cannot reveal how we get them in, for obvious reasons!) Anyway, I was perusing one the other day when I was shocked to the marrow to come across the following picture:

Now, I don't expect you young'uns to recognise this iconic American worthy, indeed, I had almost forgotten about him myself. Private Eye were implying that he might be the son of that jug-eared TV newsreader chap; Andrew Marr, but I (and I suspect a great number of 'my g-g-generation') know full well who he is. He is the all American boy with 'no worries': Alfred E Newman, made famous by his appearance and exploits in the 'Mad' magazine from DC Comics, since 1952. (I'd bet he'd like my new spread.)

That's enough of the secret habits of the Luxor ex-pat society made public for one day, or you'll all want to be moving here and spoil it! Now I'd better get back to my cleaning, as we have new guests arriving shortly.

Meet the Gang!

I thought that I should maybe introduce you to some of our neighbours. Then you won't get such a shock when you actually see them in the flesh on your visit to Our Luxor.

Firstly there's a picture of our street sign, it's high up on the left of the picture. It's different from the other Luxor street signs in that it's an old fashioned one. When they came to take down the old signs, Adam hid ours away. (The street is named after his grandfather Osman) and then, after they had erected all the new signs, ours came out of hiding to be displayed in a position of some prominence. 

To the right of the street sign, you can see the small minaret, with the loudspeaker attached, which is on the top of our little local Mosque. This is the view which greets you as you approach from the Railway Station.
Coming up from the River (passing the Emilio Hotel on your left) you come across our Mosque on your right, and the road 'dog-legs' right and then left. This next picture was taken from the middle of the 'dog-leg'. 

Out of shot, to the right of the above picture, sits Mr Mohamed (also known as Bhageery). At 82, he is our oldest neighbour, a lifelong bachelor and 'English Speaking Antiquities Guide' who,has lived in the same house since his birth. In this next photo, Bhageery's front door is at the far end of the cul-de-sac. The young man on the right of the pic is Michael, who has the watch and clock shop on the corner. He is caught here trying to stop one of the local buses to get some change from the driver, see the note in his hand?

I caught Mr Bhageery off-guard, he doesn't like his picture taken!

I wish I could bend like that now, at 60, never mind at 82!

Don't be concerned if this ugly mug looks familiar, he's featured on here before! He was wanting baksheesh for the picture, but I got him anyway. It's Mohamed the Scrap-man, shot in front of his emporium where he has everything but the kitchen sink!

Next up is young Michael, a Christian boy who rents the small corner shop from Adam, where he sells and repairs watches and clocks. He's well liked among the neighbours, so much so that Adam has just agreed to grant him a new lease on the shop.

Directly behind Michael's shop is Adams Coffeeshop. He's been investing in some new tables and chairs recently, and the old place looks all the better for them, he's even put some kilm pictures on the walls!

Left to right are Ishmael (standing) who is a cousin of Adam, then Radwan, also a cousin and also an English speaking tour guide, then Adam himself, and on the extreme right, Ahmed who is Adam's younger brother
 who usually lives with his family in Hurghada, but who has brought them here while there is no work there.

Looking back from Adam's I took a quick one of Abdu's shop. He's not here today as it's Friday (the Holy Day for Muslims) and he stays in his home town of Qus, about 30 kilometres away. He sell all sorts of nick-knacks, from satellite dishes to plastic gearwheels for food processors to gas taps and screwdrivers!
That's all I have for the moment, I'll try to remember to catch some more of the local characters on another day. Don't forget to click on the pictures if you want them to appear larger. Then you click on 'Show Original' and on the picture again to make them full screen. Bye for now!


Dear Reader, we are in difficult times here in Luxor! But you are already aware of that, aren't you? Not only Luxor, but Egypt in general! What, with the religious persecution in various parts of the land, supposedly government-backed thuggery, even though the dreaded Secret Police are no longer here. The Army supposedly siding with Islamist groups to cause division between the two major religions, where it would not otherwise be apparent.
It's no wonder that Egyptians might be seeking asylum in another country.

But that's NOT what I'm on about! I'm talking about Luxor actually BEING an asylum: a lunatic asylum!

Bob62 (of Gloucester and TripAdvisor fame) was asking me just the other day if all our water problems were finally sorted out. Like a fool, I said that I thought they were, me and my big mouth! Do you really want the saga of the water meter? Probably not, unless you're that bored that you are contemplating suicide! Never mind, I need to get it off my chest, so here we go!

Do you remember these two? No, it’s not ‘Stinker’ Murdoch and Arthur Askey in disguise, it’s Uncle Mohamed and Mr Aboudi. When Mr Aboudi once mistakenly thought that I had questioned his integrity, his indignant response was “I am Aboudi!” It was rather embarrassing, and his integrity is, of course, beyond question!

Nevertheless, when we bought our property from him over six years ago, the water and electricity meters weren't part of the deal. Being as green as grass, I just imagined that they were part and parcel of buying the flats. NO not in Egypt! Since then, he has been trying to get me to cough up extra money for these two items, but eventually, his kindly and generous nature got the better of him and he finally agreed to transfer them to us at no cost. Alhamdulillah! This was a good few weeks ago, before Ramadan. Mr Aboudi had to go personally to the Luxor Water and Waste Water Company to do his side of things before we went to do our bit. He kept putting off because it was too hot, and then because it was Ramadan, and latterly because we were having a bit of an Indian Summer, which I reported on a while ago.

Never mind, Uncle Mohamed came ringing at our doorbell last week with the completed paperwork from the Aboudi end of the business. All that remained to do was for Freda and I to go along to the Company (Opposite the Sonesta St George Hotel) and get signed up, plus, of course, part with some more money! We would need an interpreter, as well, so decided to ask our neighbour, Adam Haggag, who has the coffeeshop opposite.

Adam has proved to be a good friend, and indispensable on many occasions. His wife sometimes cooks a real Egyptian meal for us, he helps us with tradesmen, and he also sometimes arranges a mini-bus for our guests’ outings to the various sites, at a price which is less expensive than the tour operators which we have previously recommended. He’s also our eyes and ears for what’s afoot in the neighbourhood, he notices all the strangers round about, and points out those whom he thinks might be from the dreaded West Bank, and therefore may be trouble!

We arranged to meet him at 9 o’clock this morning, when we would get the ‘bus together and sort out this last bit of officialdom. He wasn’t there! I shouted up to his bedroom window; no response. I telephoned his mobile and the window above burst open. “Have a seat with Michael, I’ll be down in a minute” (Michael is the Christian boy who has the watch shop on the corner.) Adam appeared at 9.30.

After several buses had gone past full of bodies or going in the wrong direction, we eventually got the Awamaya bus which dropped us off exactly opposite the Luxor Company for Water and Waste Water. Of course, we went in the wrong entrance, and had to be ushered along the street a little, to the entrance to the public office. We didn't have to wait too long before we were seen to by a very pleasant and seemingly efficient chap in blue jeans and an impressive set of whiskers. (Freda saw me eyeing up the beard, and told me in no uncertain terms that no, I couldn't’t have one!) His little office was at one end of a 35 ft long waiting room, with a full length counter with glass partition. When he had done his ‘bit’, he directed us right to the farthest end of the stone counter, as he shouted for his colleague to attend to us. He then appeared behind said counter, telling the new man what to do. We got a few more bits of paper and were then sent along to the other end of the counter, where our first chap again told a young man what needed to be done. Here, we were handed a bill! Several water payments had not been made and these had to be out of the way before we could proceed further. We were directed to the cashier’s window, where the friendly cashier took our money. “Is that it, Adam?” I innocently asked.

You know the answer! “No Mr Edward, we have to go to another office near the Kebash Road, and we will need to pay more money, only about 200 pounds, mumkin.” (possibly) I didn't have 200le, so we stopped off at home and while Freda went upstairs to find some more cash, Adam and I had some tea and a smoke in the street. We decided that Freda needn't trail around with us, as she had signed her life away at the first office, and wouldn't be required to again. Adam and I walked.

We found the office a couple of blocks behind the two churches on Sharia Karnak. It was a dismal place, in a small yard with a couple of trees and stacks of old cast iron pipes and man-hole covers lying around, as were several ‘workers’ with bare feet, either eating or smoking. We were pointed to a door, and went in. Three filthy desks, piled high with folders, used tea glasses, water meters and other detritus. Every piece of paper had to be weighed down, as the ceiling fan was rather strong. The gaffer’s desk had some plastic flowers stuck in the end of a small armature from an electric motor, a nice touch, I thought! I dearly wanted to take a picture of the inside of this place, ‘A picture paints a thousand words’ springs to mind, but the camera batteries are flat, and I wasn’t sure how much we would be left with after today’s expenditure, so couldn't buy any. Suffice it to say that it was like a cross between a pig sty and a scrap yard!

After some concerned looks in my direction, the three men, who seemed to be the office’s permanent fixtures, decided that they should dispatch someone to read the water meter at home. I waited, while Adam took the man on the bus, there and back, only about 40 minutes or so. In the meantime, another customer arrived and the gaffer and he had quite a shouting match! The man turned to me with a torrent of Arabic, in a pleading manner. Apparently, he had mistaken me for a plain clothes policeman! It all ended well though, as he made his way home with a new water meter under his arm.

When Adam and his new meter-reading friend returned, there was obviously some problem, which Adam seemed reluctant to translate. “Mr Edward, today you say it is OK for you to have the water meter for the building in your name, but what if you change your mind tomorrow? What about Dr Al Malach?” (Our first floor, surgeon, neighbour.) This was one of the desk jockeys, speaking through a falafel sandwich! But, after managing to convince them that I was actually sane, we were dispatched off to the first office again, to pay some more money. (Our two bus journeys back towards Awamaya made it 12, so far, today.)

We felt quite at home, with the bearded man shouting the length of the building again while dealing with an elderly Egyptian couple. The wife kept presenting her hands with the palms up-over, like Jewish women do in films, to express frustration. The bearded one was trying to explain something by speaking s-l-o-w-l-y, which I think was getting the woman’s back up a bit! (Colloquialism: Getting one’s ‘back up’; getting annoyed.)There were three others coming and going, in a generally dis-satisfied manner as well.

The beard got around to us after a short while, and took our paperwork hither and thither before giving it back to me and pointing out that I now had to pay a further 218.60le to the cashier. The cashier’s window was firmly closed! It transpired that all these other people were also waiting to pay the cashier, who just happened to be at the bank. They telephoned him. “He’ll return after fifteen minutes.”

The cashier’s window opened after about another 45 minutes of sitting in an overly hot waiting room, on uncomfortable chairs and without even a sip of tea! Adam jumped up to be first at the window, naturally, I suppose, as he’s Egyptian. But I manage to pull him back out of the way (to much protesting) to let the others (who had been waiting longer) get seen to first. The elderly gentleman was waving a fifty pound note about, looking for change. Adam gave me a look, as I went into my wallet, “You might need it yourself!” I relented. When it came to our turn, I handed over five fifty pound notes, expecting 31 pounds change with a few coins. The cashier just handed one of the notes back. “Faqua” (Change) he exclaimed. “Lay” (Why) I retorted. “Mish faqua” came his reply.

This is where I lost it, I’m afraid to say. “We've all been waiting here for over an hour while you've been to the BANK, why haven’t you any change?” “Didn't you think that you might have customers this afternoon?” I was shouting by now, and all the office doors opened and the room was filling up with all sizes and types of Egyptians trying to calm the situation and apologising for the stupidity of their working practices and for keeping me waiting etc etc. The poor old couple, who hadn’t had a chance to escape before the volcano erupted, obviously didn't matter, as they wouldn't have dreamt of complaining.

Adam, knowing that I was wasting my breath, had snatched the fifty and gone outside to search among the (dead) shops for change. He was back in a few minutes, by which time the bearded one was almost prostrate on the floor in his bid to placate me. Anyway, that part of the job got done and we ended up with another set of receipts and other papers which we had to present at the second office in order to complete the transaction. Adam, bless him, had the foresight to make sure that the other office would still be open before we trailed down there again.”Oh yes, they are open until 10 o’clock.”

Sixteen bus journeys and five hours after we started, we arrived at the office behind the churches on Sharia Karnak at 2 o’clock , to find that they were now closed until 3!

We’ll go back tomorrow.

Now then, you may think I'm being rather too harsh in saying that I'm living in a lunatic asylum! But look at this country: A government which seems to believe that it's a GOOD THING to have a system whereby to get anything official accomplished, a member of the public should spend a whole day filling in forms and traipsing from one place to another and then stand in queues at each place while the staff please themselves about what they do and when they do it (if anything) and then wonder why no-one bothers to get building permission or apply for licences for this that or the other? Then look at the members of the public who seem perfectly willing to be herded about like cattle, without a murmur of complaint! Egypt will never get anywhere near having a decently fed and housed population as long as this shambles is allowed to continue in the civil service!
It's all lunacy!

There's nowt so queer as folk!

I'm constantly amazed at some of the words and phrases which some people type into their search boxes. Below is yet another selection of searches which have brought people like you, Dear Reader, to peruse my Blog. I'm sure that it has been quite a shock to a good number of them, lol.
I mean, how would you feel if you'd typed in "How to paint water", and then were directed to a crazy man's Blog about struggling with Egyptian workmen and 'Egypt Time' etc. I know I'd feel that the computer had let me down, again!!!!

walkway information desk                                                                             
hindi song, english, gone is the summer the sumer hs gone away                      
how to paint water                                                                                      
bedroom computer mixing paint                                                                    
queer bags                                                                                                  
dark street 3d                                                                                             
Nescafe Cupboard                                                                                      
Horror breaking windows and walls
famous painting of a bride meeting her groom                                                
luxor pinhole glasses
luxo decorating man's
pictures of dead jasmine plant                                                    
how to get blessing in Luxor                                                                         
Display unit for salad                                                                  
queer as folk wallpaper bed                                                                          
+oldluxo decorating man's apartment santa clauses                                           
luxor saidi region map                                                                                  
golden name tag to hotel staff                                                                      
walls of Judah                                                                            
camel eyebrows

I'd better leave it at that, 'cause we've got some visitors due soon and I'm not dressed yet. (It's only 11.48 in the morning!)
I'll be back.

Water problems solved, for good maybe?.

Our latest guest is a plumber! He very kindly brought me a pressure regulating valve and some copper pipe and adaptors/couplings. He even offered to actually do the work as well, but as he's really here for a holiday I didn't feel able to take him up on that. Here are the bits I needed:

Here's where they have to go:

Not being a plumber, I don't have plumbers' tools, in particular a set of Stillsons. However, I got talking to our neighbour Mr Gamal, who has the next building and a wedding shop and a household goods shop, and he used to be a hotel plumber! How handy, I thought.
Using a mixture of sign language and dodgy Arabic, I eventually managed to ask him if he would loan me some Stillsons. He would, and he would meet me here at ashara (ten o'clock) in the morning.

He arrived at about 10 25, which is OK for Egyptian time, as you know. But there were no Stillsons. Mafishe mushkellar (no problem), he just popped along the street and took a new set off the shelf of Ashraf's tool shop! He hung around to make sure that I didn't get into any bother with the waterworks, very kind.

I switched the pump off, and turned the spindle of the ball valve to the off position (the handle is long-gone, and a pair of pliers now do the job). I knew, of course, that there would be all the water from the pipe which goes right through the building and up to the fourth floor, to contend with when I loosened the connection. I wasn't expecting it to squirt out quite so devastatingly though! It was like something from a Laurel and Hardy picture! Mr Gamal had been standing in the space on the landing, and got sprayed all down his right side. He came around to the actual stairs as I got to grips with removing the pipe, with water still flowing from it.Off it came, but the water was still gushing forth from the clever new switch, I knew the ball valve on the main was switched of, so there shouldn't be any pressure there. I stuck my thumb over the outlet; there WAS still pressure there, and it forced the water past my thumb and (you guessed it) straight at poor Mr Gamal again, this time catching him right in the face and down his front. It transpired that (not having my specs on) I hadn't actually closed the ball valve completely!

Anyway, I eventually stopped the flow of water, and Mr Gamal and I got the new gear out of the Egypt Free Shops carrier bag, at which point he managed to drop the heaviest of the brass fittings on to my left middle toe! You can see the discolouration just below the nail. I'm not certain, but it could have been in retaliation for the soaking, what do you think?

After it all came apart, I tripped off to the plumbers merchant shop down the street to get the pipes cut and threaded, and to see if they had a one-way valve to put in to save all the water pouring out of the interior pipes if I had to take it to bits again at any time in the future. I was pleasantly surprised when they charged me 35le for the lot, valve included!

Gamal and I soon had it back together, with about two miles of P.T.F.E. thread tape in the joints. One of which has a slight weep on it, but Gamal (him being an ex-plumber) reckons that it will dry up within a few days. (Insh'Allah.)

Here's a shot of the finished article, the one-way valve is at the top left.

It works a treat! Now our guests can have a shower without getting their skin peeled off.