Your personally guided tour of the "Best Holiday Apartment in Luxor"

Whilst King Tut's Mummy, and the mosquitoes of the West Bank, are great to visit for a couple of hours; we chose the relative civilisation of the East Bank for "Our Luxor"! We like to be around everyday folk in what passes for a 'normal' environment here in Egypt.
Just take a few minutes to come along with me and enjoy this personally guided tour of our beautiful and exclusive apartment, where we might be persuaded to let you stay as a part of your fabulous Egyptian adventure! We'll start out in the main street, look up to the left to see the name plaque; "Haret Osman". (If you click on any of the pictures, you can see them all together, and bigger!)

Our street sign is of the old fashioned type, it was rescued by one of our neighbours when they changed them to the more modern design. The street is named after his grandfather, Ahmed Adam Mohamed Osman; Haret Osman translates to Osman Alley.

While our alley is typical of the 'old style' Luxor, being very narrow and inhabited mainly by different branches of the same family, the mud-brick house at the end is a relic of the original architecture, the rest of the buildings are now of the more modern, reinforced concrete, construction. We still have the odd small earthquake here now and then, lol.

After climbing the stairs, past the clinics of a local surgeon and dentist, we come to the privacy and comfort of the third floor, which is exclusive to our guests and ourselves. Here we find the extraordinary oasis known as "Our Luxor"!

Peering through the open entrance doors; we catch our first glimpse of unmistakable Arabian style! The ablaq Moorish arch is emblematic of Egyptian architecture from the Mamluk period, and the meshrabiya screen is redolent of a faintly remembered, bygone age of the mysterious harem with its seductive ambience! The hallway is otherwise sparsely furnished, with antiques set on a handmade woollen rug.

As we turn towards the large livingroom, we pass through another piece of meshrabiya work as we behold a room fit for a Pasha! Some of the sumptuous soft furnishings in this 'salamlic' (traditionally, the room where the Master's guests would be entertained) have been traded around the world before finishing up gracing the specially designed and commissioned handmade furniture of "Our Luxor". Antique desert prints, from the hand of a French artist, adorn one of the walls.

In addition to the A/C and TV etc, a major feature which departs from tradition is the large balcony windows. We Westerners like the natural light, but seeing as light equates to heat; Egyptians prefer the gloom created by the pitiful light seeping through their small windows, which are usually fully shuttered! 

The exquisite hand knotted carpet and heavy fabrics are yet more reminders of the opulence enjoyed by the fabulously turbaned Turkish Pashas of old. (Those who once ruled over the downtrodden descendants of Egypt's all-conquering ancient civilisation.)

Temporarily leaving the gorgeous sights and textures of the One Thousand and One Nights, we can have a quick look into the kitchen; here there are all the usual (boring) kitchen things! 

If you really do need to cook while you are on holiday; then the kitchen at "Our Luxor" has all that you will require: Pots, pans, crockery and cutlery, an electric oven with two hobs on the top. There is a fridge and a stainless steel sink and drainer.                                          
Why are we even in here? There's an adequate restaurant on almost every street corner, and food is very cheap, but what's more: if you're staying with us you will be on holiday! Who wants to slave over a hot stove when the sun is shining and you're in a very foreign and exciting place? 

On the way into the bedroom, there is the en-suite with shower, handwash basin and WC. Not terrifically exciting, but worth a quick look!

The bedroom is usually set with a kingsize bed, although twins can be arranged if required. The bed is as comfortable as it is welcoming, with European style mattresses and a decorative mozzie net. (Being on the East side of the river; this is just for effect and is not required as protection!) We commissioned an English artist to provide us with the lovely stylised lotus flower. 

Like the livingroom, this room is also air conditioned, so it can be cooled during the sultry summer nights, and warmed against the mild chill of our short winter. Again, the furniture was designed specifically for "Our Luxor", and handcrafted by local artisans.

Well, other than the balcony (off the livingroom) which is reserved for smokers, and a separate WC and handwash basin; that's about it for the actual accommodation! All that really remains to be seen is the roof terrace, on the next floor, where our B&B guests are fortunate enough to be served their famous "Our Luxor" breakfasts. We are great believers in the 'ample breakfast' philosophy, and our six courses come with copious amounts of tea and coffee in order to set our guests up for the day!

The terrace has various seating styles, and rugs and cushions can also be provided. While there is a large shaded area in which to hide from the sun, there is also ample room for the sun worshippers to acquire their daily 'fix'! 

Under the canopy; are the doors to our small rooftop flat.You can see that we are very nearby if required! 

The view to the West Bank is particularly impressive in the evening.

Now that you've seen it, what do you think? Search as you may; you'll only find inferior copies of this classic style anywhere else in Luxor, and not one of them in the prime position of the actual town centre! While you are here with us; you will have the complimentary use of a local cellphone and Internet access.

If you're interested in joining us as guests, you can email us directly at "Our Luxor" The basic cost for the accommodation and breakfast (for two people) is currently 360EGP per night, or 2420EGP per week. We realise, of course, that not all tourists come as couples. We can accommodate extra guests, and we also offer a self-catering deal.

Just email us (on the link above) with your requirements or questions, we're only too happy to answer, as our purpose in being here is to make our guests' holiday the true 'experience of a lifetime'!

All that guiding has given me a thirst, so I'm off for some tea! Bye for now.

The Latest Project.

While it's universally acknowledged that 'Many hands make light work'; with the diminution of the numbers of folk who actually believe in the Devil (or any force of evil) then fewer would acknowledge that 'The Devil finds work for idle hands'.

I think that is why Freda always has a 'list'! Knowing that I am easily led, and prone to bouts of laziness, I'm sure that she believes that keeping me relatively busy is good for me, physically as well as mentally and spiritually. She's usually right in most things, so I suppose that she's right in this as well. (It is infuriating, yes.)

Just as an aside: It appears that the Devil did indeed find work for 'idle hands' yesterday, here in Luxor! A large meeting in Abu El Haggag Square (which was supposed to be about trying to reinvigorate the tourism market, and held in a party-like atmosphere) was spoilt by what was described to me as, 'rubbish people' who had been paid to disrupt it by some rich locals who still hankered after their positions of financial power, which they enjoyed for so many years as 'friends' of the old regime! Apart from these local stooges; there also appeared a delegation from Cairo. Beards and burkhas were flown in to condemn the tourists as 'sinners'; courtesy of Egypt Air's offer of 150le return flights (so I'm reliably told). So, it seems that the Devil and his cohorts are determined to keep the people of Luxor in their subservient positions of poverty! I don't know, maybe we'll yet see a counter-revolution by the poor, that would put the 'cat among the pigeons', wouldn't it?

Anyway; enough of the outside world! 'Our Luxor', and what goes on here, is much less taxing on the nerves than all of that stressful stuff which the rest of the world has to deal with on a daily basis, thank you very much. Why do you think we stay here, the sun, the antiquities, the culture, the kindness of our neighbours? Yes, all of these, but the peacful life without the urgencies of modernity must also be rated very highly! 

The 'Project'. 
You may, or may not, know that we didn't build in enough storage space, when we designed 'Our Luxor'. It's been a constant problem, ever since we finished the original remodelling work.We've had dikkeh/storage units made for both outside and in, but they really aren't enough.

I've bunged stuff on the roof (like the Egyptians), but you know how unsightly that can be, here's a snap of our neighbour's roof, just in case you don't believe me:

And stuff on the roof is awkward to retrieve when you want it, plus anything that comes down from there is absolutely filthy! Talking about 'unsightly' we had a large recess in the stair wall, which was never finished off properly, some concrete reinforcing steel was poking out here and there, and some of the concrete had just been left rough and not plastered over.

It also catches a lot of dust! I honestly cannot remember whose idea it initially was, but we both thought that such a space was wasted, I mulled over several different ideas as to how to make better use of it, and eventually came up with a PLAN!

I'm sure that I've mentioned my collection of scrap wood; chucked on the roof, lining the bottom of dikkehs, and also hidden behind them? Well, now it was time to call this army of ragged misfits and lame-jointed leftovers into service once more! (If you're sick of reading this rubbish; you can follow the rest of this post just by looking at the pictures, lol.)

The first (of many) problem was that the building was built by Egyptians; modern Egyptians that is, who have lost the artistry of their ancient ancestors! As one of our past guests remarked in astonishment, after strolling around the town: "Nothing's plumb!" He was an architect, and is now in charge of planning at a large county council. Hello Waz, if you're reading this. (The upright in the above picture IS perpendicular, it must be a trick of the lens which makes it look bent.) That try square once belonged to the well loved and world famous coachbuilder, time and motion expert and lover of Blues music; Jim Crow. He died and had his funeral while I was on holiday in Luxor; I still haven't forgiven him for that, even after all these years! But I still miss him.

Ingenuity is the name of the game when you're working with scrap which is NEVER the size that you would really like.

If this cupboard could sing; it could make a cover version of the Dave Clark Five's 60's hit record: 'I'm in pieces, bit and pieces'! See that box of drill bits? No rubbish here; they're 'Bosch'! Actually, I had asked my brother-in-law (Roy) if I could borrow a masonry drill, and he turned up with this, saying, "I've got two of these, so you might as well have one." Now, that's the sort of BIL that everybody wants, yes?
So, there it is, the outside; the bit which everyone sees, anyway. Our Susan, my sister, does patchwork quilts sometimes, so I'm sure that she will appreciate it!

Such a high space wasn't much use by itself, so I had Sir Terence Conran design and custom-build this classic shelving, he'd never had to work with scrap timber and walls that were made of bell metal before, and he told me that it had been quite a challenge. (Not really.)  I'll soon fill up the rest of the space, once my back eases off! 

The finished article! The second picture is to show you that the cupboard is much longer than the opening part; this is to accommodate some of my long pieces of wood from on the roof.

All in all; I've got to say that I'm quite pleased with the result of my labours, and there were no injuries or accidental breakages, for a change!

"The grass is always greener on the other side" and "Worse things happen at sea!"

Well, we've now progressed from conversing in proverbs to living in proverbs!

Today, we have had a really lovely time, even though we were on the "Side of the Dead"! Of course the poor folk who have to live there think it's much better than the "Side of the Living", they tell us (and everyone else too) that it's much quieter, much greener, there's no hassle etc etc till you're sick and tired of hearing it!

Actually, I'm sure that there are parts of the West Bank which are much quieter, greener and even less hassle, but there are also quieter, greener places and some with  less hassle on the East as well. What the West Bankers don't tell you (of course) is that they have power and water cuts on a regular basis, or that their lovely gardens and nearby sugar cane and banana plantations are a lovely breeding ground for mosquitoes and other biting insects! Or that scorpions can sometimes be unwelcome guests in the apartments and hotels.

Even though we had a really good afternoon's chin-wag with WitchHazel, I don't believe that the grass actually is greener on the other side. Sorry! Mind you, they do have a baker over there who makes speciality breads for the many ex-pats who live over that way, and WitchHazel was kind enough to get us some for our visit. After consuming copious amounts of tea (to keep the old voice boxes going) at WitchHazel's house, we moved on to the rooftop of the Masala Hotel, for more tea! We also had the guided tour of the place, as we have friends staying there next month. It's very nice! We crossed back over the river by motorboat, hoping that the "worse things that happen at sea" wouldn't happen on this titchy river. They didn't, but little did we know; they were waiting for later on!!!!!

Back at home, we had some of the new bread with Sardine and Tomato Paste (an Asda vintage, I believe) and more tea, while we watched a dvd of Spooks.Then we had some of the onion bread, I had spready cheese on mine and a few crisps with it (and more tea) while we watched another episode of Spooks. It's a very good programme, and we're on to the fourth series.

Two hours, or thereabouts is enough televisual type entertainment for one night for us. So, the night being still quite young, Freda suggested that I might get on with some painting on my latest project, to save some time tomorrow. Good thinking, as usual. Before I went out to start, I changed into my working shorts, as my trousers were clean on this morning.

I had the 'piece' on the back of two bamboo chairs on the roof terrace, already filled, rubbed down and primed. Apparently, primer in Luxor comes only in bright orange or brown, no idea why, but I'm assured that that is the case. Never mind.

To save the laborious job of stirring paint, I always grasp the tin, and holding the lid firmly, give it a good shaking for a few minutes, this seems to get the stuff mixed adequately. So there I was, shoes and socks (knee length, of course) cut off trousers and singlet vest, shaking the life out of this 'jallOn' (actually three kilos) of Sipes 'Luxury Emulsion'; when all of a sudden my vest felt wet! "Eh de de?" (What's this?) I thought. As I stopped shaking the paint bucket, I realised that there was white paint all over my shoes! My vest! My pants! The floor tiles! The plastic lid hadn't been 'clicked' into place properly, leaving about an inch where the paint was being forced out by the violent shaking which some bonehead was giving it!

I whipped off the vest and shorts, and asked Freda to shove them straight into the washing machine. Well, water based paint wouldn't do it any harm, I'm sure. She'd already given me the kitchen roll, with which I was trying to get the paint off my stomach and shoes. I've drastically cropped this picture, so as not to traumatise the young or impressionable!! 

 It looked as if half the bucket had spilt onto the floor:

Never mind, we managed to get it all cleared up, and I did my Magnus Magnussen bit, in deciding that "I've started; so I'll finish!" and carried on in my underpants and slippers. It didn't take very long to coat the piece I was working on.

Got back in, hands washed and tea made and as I was taking Freda's tea (and English cake from theWest Bank baker) through to her, where she sat on the bed, we heard a strange clanking noise coming from the washing machine! This time, I didn't think "Eh de de?" I thought "Where's my telephone?" You've guessed it, haven't you? In the panic, neither of us had checked the trouser pockets, and consequently my phone was getting a good wash!!!!!

Worse things happen at sea? You don't need to tell me that, I already know: that's why I would never go on a sea cruise!

I once dropped a phone into a full mop bucket, (in Lincoln) retrieved it immediately and stripped the coach demisting ducting where I placed the phone, and drove back to Gateshead with the demisters on all the way. It worked! So I've stripped the phone down as far as I can, dried it off with Freda's hair dryer, and I've now put it on charge and crossed my fingers!

We'll see what the morning brings? Now, it's time for tea!

The Untold "Benefits of Snoring"!

In a minute, in a minute, you know how I hate to be rushed!

A good friend of ours died today, Noora (originally Dawn).She'd had cancer for several months, but as far as we can tell; she didn't suffer too much and the end eventually came quite quickly. Being a Muslim, she was in the ground ASAP, I was told that she died in Assuit at 03:30 and was buried in Luxor at around lunchtime! She will be missed by many.

Anyway, we went to the Etap Hotel to try and find some tourist friends of another, mutual,  friend who is visiting Luxor at the moment, in order to get a message to her to tell her about poor Noora's demise. They were an English couple, the husband being of Indian descent. It's actually rather embarrassing, just going up to someone whom you've never even seen before and saying "Are you such and such's friends?" The lady kindly sent a text message to our friend, and she subsequently rang and got the bad news.

But that wasn't what I wanted to relate to you at this unearthly hour! (It's 01:45) I wanted to tell you about the conversation that Freda and I were having in proverbs while we waited! No, not King Solomon's 'Proverbs' from the Old Testament, the ones you learned at Infant School (or was it in the Junior's) in the olden days! You can imagine the sort of way the conversation would go: "Well, a stitch in time saves nine!" "Even so: every cloud has a silver lining, especially if you look before you leap" "Ah yes, but only if you don't put all your eggs in one basket", get the picture? Then I remembered  the 'proverbs' homework which I took home one night: One of them was "As hot as a ............".We had to fill in the missing words, and Dad came up with (you've guessed it!) "As hot as...........Hell" How embarrassing can parents be? I honestly cannot remember if that's what went on the homework sheet or not, but the right answer was "As hot as a poker", which is just plain stupid! A poker isn't hot at all, unless it's been in the fire.

I've now lost the thread as to how this related to the "Benefits of Snoring", but you can trust me when I tell you that it certainly did, in a roundabout sort of way, can't you?

The following Hot Air Balloon pictures are a "Benefit of Snoring":

Freda hadn't long been up out of bed (to escape my snoring) when she saw the balloons getting into 'Attack' formation and heading for our roof! Being a first rate 'second' camera operator;  she leapt into action and got these snaps off double quick! A second benefit, was that I didn't have to get up at some unearthly hour to get the pictures for you, or indeed, defend our property from aerial attack!

Now you can judge for yourselves, are they 'Benefits of Snoring', or not? Wasn't there a famous line from a film which went something like "I love the sound of snoring in the early morning!"???? It couldn't have been "the smell of snoring", the right quote will come to me eventually! So don't you go losing any sleep over it. Hehe!

(I spent two hours, last night, till almost 03:00 trying to get this to load. I've had to come back to it today, before it would work properly!)

Open again!

I just thought that I'd make you all jealous.

The Salahadeen Restaurant has re-opened, and we dined there tonight! It was, of course, absolutely lovely as ever, and as we fully expected. Slight change in that there are now four rotating menus, all similar in the amount of grub served, and in the same style, just different dishes. There have been a few changes to the dining room as well; some very nice meshrabiya screenwork has been added and the effect is nicely in keeping with the rest of the decor.

As usual, I took a few dodgy pictures of the food!

The two large bowls of soup are serve yourself, and come with Egyptian flat bread, (as does the whole meal) tonight it was a vegetable soup which had a distinctive (but quite subtle) Egyptian tang to it, I managed two of the smaller bowls full before moving onto the 'Larks Tongue' soup, which was also delicious! (For the animal lovers among you: it's not the actual tongues of birds, it's just bits of pasta which look like they could be lark's tongues.) I've always enjoyed this soup, wherever I've had it, and you know what I think of pasta ordinarily!
Being a slightly greedy fellow, I kept forgetting to take the picture before we'd started on the food! So that central dish in the picture (which was full of fried aubergine) is a bit misrepresented, sorry. That's my platter in the foreground, and you can see the roasted sweet potato on the left, which comes as extra to the dishes on the central tray. As this banquet is meant to be an introduction to Egyptian cuisine; not everything on offer might be to everyone's taste, I don't like the molokheya, or the stuffed vine leaves for example, but I just loved most of it! There were eleven dishes to choose from. It's nice to know that the food is real Egyptian fare, and that the kitchen hygiene is impeccable, so that you're safe from any tummy troubles.   

 The sweet consisted of strawberry halves, a scoop of ice cream and a slice of basboosa. Strawberries (ferrowla) are in season here at the moment, and they're lovely! We make the most of them while we can; strawberry tarts, strawberry crumble, strawberries and Coronation milk (really Carnation), strawberry trifle. The list goes on!
Basboosa is typical of Egyptian cakes, sticky and sweet. I've never had it with ice cream before, more usually with a cup of tea, but the two go very well together!
I forgot (again) to take a picture of the dining room while we were in there, mind you, the other diners might not have been too keen. So I got this quickie through the open doorway just before we left, after having a drink and chat in the bar. The setting is as magical as it always has been, there's nowhere else like it in Luxor!

At 100LE per person, I think it is very good value for money for a splendid meal in a setting which makes the occasion a true Egyptian experience.

I might just get around to doing similar reviews on some of my other favourite eateries soon,watch this space!

Just a little something to ponder!

You all know, of course, why industry isn't allowed in Luxor? Why the people are either compelled to make their living from tourism, slaving on farms or travelling long distances for other employment? No?

Well, it's because the authorities don't want any pollution to further damage the priceless and magnificent antiquities. So it's rather sad to see just how much some locals care about this policy, or for the antiquities themselves.

I snapped this from the East Bank Corniche yesterday evening. I am told that such burning is illegal, but with the current lack of law enforcement.....we can see just how important these timeless and irreplaceable monuments are to some of the locals.

It seems typical, I'm afraid. "It's OK as long as you don't get caught!" Maybe they've been taking lessons from British bankers? Who knows?

Luxor's General Strike and Day of Civil Disobedience.

Well: Yesterday was the first anniversary of the resignation of the hated despot/father figure (choose whichever is applicable) Hosni Mubarak, the former 'President of the Arab Republic of Egypt'. The day was to be marked with a 'General Strike' and a 'Day of Civil Disobedience'.

It is my experience that a great many Egyptians are paranoid; about privacy, crime and the seemingly ever present threat of interference of one sort or another from outside their immediate circle. Consequently, the thought of whatever might be about to happen yesterday had many of them in a bit of a tizz! A visitor, who is staying on the West Bank, told me that his hotel owner was "worried" about things in general. It seemed that the hotel man's concerns had also taken hold of him; the visitor, to a certain extent, as he went on to tell me that; "Times are tough here, it could go either way. For sure it would be much worse in Cairo, but if that blows up, it will have an impact on Luxor." I've no idea why an Egyptian should be fomenting such idiotic and fearful ideas in the minds of impressionable tourists.

Perhaps he was trying to pull off the same trick as the big hotels on the East bank have been doing every time there has been any mention of possible disturbances, "You shouldn't leave the security of the hotel today my friend! That's right, stay here, and I'll get in a few bottles of Stella to help keep you occupied, but don't tell anyone, as I don't have a licence!" Perhaps not, I'm an admitted cynic when it comes to Egyptian businessmen!

So, being English (and obviously incredibly brave) we left our 'rose tinted spectacles' at home and ventured out as usual, as we have done on every day since the revolution began.. Lo and behold: the buses weren't on strike, and seeing as we were awoken, at 07.45, by the Egyptian National Anthem from the school across the road; neither were the schools. The calechemen behind the Temple were working (if you consider lying around talking and smoking to be work) normally. I didn't notice any closed-up shops. If truth were told: there was nothing out of the ordinary! No indication, at all, of a 'General Strike', and even less of any 'Civil Disobedience'.

Now then, that is of course, only 'our' experience! I'm quite sure that there will be a foreign journalist, or someone on 'Facebook' or one of the Egypt forums (who isn't actually here in Luxor at the moment) who will know of some atrocity perpetrated against a tourist, or group of tourists here in Luxor yesterday, which was a direct result of these highly organised forms of protest. Let's just wait and see, eh?

Does it show, that I'm starting to get a tad annoyed at all the misinformation which is being spread abroad by people who really should know better? 

Here's a picture I lifted from the Luxor4U website, it might give you an idea of how seriously Egyptians can take things (and quite literally, as this sign maker certainly did):

And these are the people who are warning gullible tourists about upcoming problems?????????