27th September - Tourism Day!

Yes folks, today is the "United Nations World Tourism Day", (Ok Mr Pedant; 'yesterday was'!) and of course, Luxor would celebrate it in some style.

There were to be two main venues; in the  morning on the plaza in front of Karnak Temple there would be traditional music and dancing, between 9 and 12. Then later at 5 o'clock till 9, a similar programme could be seen at the Abu Haggag Square, behind Luxor Temple. All were welcome, and there was no charge. Excellent, I thought, manna for the blog!

After a relatively hard day working on the guest apartment, I struggled to get a shower and get changed etc., without having an extended nap, but ever conscious of the need to bring you the latest news, Dear Reader, I managed to drag myself out!

Freda first saw a sign of celebration as we passed the bottom of Cleopatra Street, there was one of those stationary balloon things, which they often have at the opening of a new shop or whatever. It was just visible over the top of, and in between, the coaches in the Temple coach park!

We couldn't have any conversation at this point, as the Mosque speakers were going hammer and tongues, deafening, as usual. We made our way around the big Mosque and onto the Square, where there were quiet a few people about, as usual, with little'uns careering around in those electric car thingies. But no sign of any organisation of any sort, and certainly no dancing troupes!

I sat and warmed my bum on one of the stone seats, while Freda stood and looked forlornly around. Within the first minute, we'd seen off two sellers of chai and a nut man with his bogey. We were, admittedly, a bit late for the start. It was actually ten to six by the time we arrived, but, hey, this is Egypt, right?

We must have been there for a good twenty minutes or so, before we adjourned to the Winter Palace for a refresher. The sofa in the foyer was a tad more comfy than the stone in the square, even allowing for the stored heat! It was reasonably busy in there, three young men were sitting opposite us and playing with mobile phones and a 'tablet', I think that's what it was, anyway. One of them looked familiar, and I eventually twigged where I had seen him before; it was in a photograph supposedly taken at Herr Hitler's 'Eagle's Nest' in Berchtesgaden. He was the one in the SS uniform, all blue eyes and blonde hair! Funny that he should still look the same after all these years?

Then came three American sightseers, ostensibly looking for the 'terrace' (indoors?). The doorman explained that they had just passed it as they entered the building, but they weren't being taken in by an Egyptian, no sirree! They hung around for a bit, going out onto the rear terrace, and then coming back in and heading off along the corridor towards the ground floor rooms. One of them even thought to try and confuse one of the porters by asking for the 'bathroom'!

We have two friends staying there at the moment (Clive and Sue) but they were dining out at the 'Taste of India', so we missed them. Never mind, tomorrow is another day. After we'd enjoyed making up new lives for the people roundabout, and had our fill of tea and Nescafe (and the nice little home-made biscuits they are now doing) we made our way back up to the rear of the Temple. It was now about 8.30, and the show was supposed to finish at 9, so we thought that we'd catch the ending nicely!

You guessed it! No-one there apart from the usual suspects, Egyptian families enjoying the cool of the evening with their friends, and children running around blowing off a bit of steam. Yet another triumph for the organisational skills of the Luxor Governorate 

Losing the will to live? I'm really not quite sure; if I'm still here tomorrow I'll probably be OK.

Everyday stuff!

Freda has never liked the tiles on the guest apartment kitchen wall!

The builders were doing most of the work in there while we were travelling back and forward, and some while we were actually here, on 'holiday' haha. She had left instructions to just plaster the walls, and paint them white. "But you need tiles, Madame Fareda. For all the water." "Yes, when and where 'I' want them, only paint just now!"

As you might guess, we came back to (not quite white) monstrosities stuck onto the wall with a half inch of cement. She's complained about them ever since. So, the dearth of guests, and tourists in general, presented an ideal opportunity for her to have the brilliant idea that I could do away with the offending ceramics and make it a nicer kitchen altogether. Isn't Madame Fareda a lucky girl to have me as her multi-talented slave?

The only problem with that statement is that I'm NOT multi-talented, she only thinks I am!!!!

Never mind, "Ours is not to reason why, etc. etc." Here is the shot of the kitchen with the tilework partially hidden, and which is therefore allowed to grace our adverts etc.:

You wouldn't believe the amount of debris which accompanied the broken tiles and plasterwork which came off the wall! (That was when I nearly cut off my foot, remember, Dear Reader?) In-between times, I replaced the rotted plastic cable conduit, and re-routed some of the wiring to facilitate a new socket, and also re-worked the piping for the new kitchen taps. (Multi-talented? I'm getting there!) I eventually got two Egyptian plasterers to come and re-plaster that part of the wall, only it isn't plaster, it's a sand and cement mix, and as hard as bell-metal!

The finish isn't really what I would have liked either, but 'beggars can't be choosers' as we already know!

I've spent about a week trying to fill up the imperfections in the 'plasterwork' with 'majoon' which is a ready-mixed filling compound which actually acts like a coat of finish plaster. I had to buy a sander in order to make it presentable, though,  before I applied the first coat of paint.

I shifted most of the plasterer's waste, in a few smallish bags and bundles. But after cleaning up a bit  more after my 'majooning' and sanding efforts, I was left with a bag which was rather too heavy for me to get down the stairs. "Ah, the excellent Mr Rashad!" I thought. Here he is, stout chap!

 A while ago, I caught Adam beating one of his elder sons in the street, when I asked him what it was all about, he told me that he had been calling Rashad a 'Donkey', just because he's had little education and is used like a beast of burden by many people. Here was I, doing exactly the same, it's rather embarrassing, to say the least!

I've applied the first coat of paint, although just getting it was another (small) nightmare! Our 'Sipes' paintshop is just down the street, as many of you already know, and the Christian man who runs it is fine, he even speaks a little English!

In I trotted, with the remains of the last batch we had had mixed, in an old jam jar, complete with a bit of masking tape bearing the mixing number on the top. What could be simpler for a computerised paint mixing shop? You might well ask!

There were two cans of paint which he was busy with, one on the top of the mixing thingy and the other in the clever shaking-all-ways-together machine, which ensures that the added pigments are adequately mixed into the white base. He whipped the top off my gallon tin (pronounced jall-on, but which is actually 3 litres instead of the more normal 4.54 or whatever) and placed it under the row of mixing nozzles, only to then realise that the computer had given up the ghost! "Bloody Egyptian rubbish, Mr Edward, it makes me MAD!" After a good deal of computer adjustment (kicking and suchlike) and quite a bit if stamping around the shop, we arranged that I would return to collect it in the evening, when it would undoubtedly, insh'Allah, be ready!

It was, and I got the first coat on this morning, as I said. It has to stand 8 hours between coats, so I should have a reasonably easy afternoon. (Insh'Allah?)

See you later, alligator!

Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John!

"Went to bed with his trousers on, one shoe off and the other shoe on." That's enough of that!!!!

Freda had a bit of a brainstorm today, I think. You've all heard the old saying about being poor but not looking it, haven't you? Freda quoted it at me around teatime today, before announcing that we would get dressed and visit the Winter Palace!

That's three times inside 10 days, but I'm not complaining, I like it there. Also, the cleaner who has lain in wait for me in the Gents for the past 15 years for his tip, seems to have left. It's marvellous to be able to use the loos without having to make sure that you've got change in your pocket! Honestly, we could walk in there at any time of the day or night, and if I needed to 'go', he'd be there. I haven't the faintest idea how he knew, he must have had a small army of spies furtively sneaking about and keeping tabs on me!

Anyway, we sat in the lobby the other day when we went with our Yorkshire friend Melanie, so tonight we had a nosey into the Royal Bar. The staff at the Winter Palace always remember the little quirks of guests' orders. "One tea and one Nescafe, please?", and it arrives with the extra pot of hot water and the hot milk for the Nescafe without another word.

The people watching at the OWP is pretty good as well, even in these lean times! I was rather surprised to see the 'Orbital' rep sitting there with a youngish lady, the only other occupied table had two English ladies and their Egyptian guide (or whatever). The baby grand was being tinkled by the resident pianist.

I'm not sure whether I've told you this before, but even if I have, it's worth re-telling! A year or three ago, they would have a pianist playing in the Victoria Lounge, while guests were taking 'afternoon tea', it could have been really tasteful if the pianist hadn't learned to play at the 'Les Dawson Academy for the Pianoforte'! It used to take me all my time to not laugh out loud! He'd be playing away, not obtrusively loudly, and rather nice tunes, then all of a sudden, he'd hit a series of bum notes, in a minor key or something, which would grate on the ears of any listener with the slightest appreciation for music. Thankfully, this bloke they have now isn't all that bad, but one or two of his tunes, I think he picked up from listening to a Victorian barrel organ!

But that's not all! Our 'travelling to the other side of world, by road, friend', Daft Derrick, sent us a stack of DVD's, and among them was one of Dick Emery's weekly shows from way back when. Keep that in your mind, OK?

These two ladies, with the Egyptian guide, left shortly before us. They were both blondes, one a little older than the other, and dressed up for the occasion of being in the Royal Bar. They both were tottering around on high heels, and wearing mini-skirts, the slightly older one had long, very blonde, hair and the other slightly darker and shorter, she was also slimmer than her older chum. As they walked away from us, it suddenly struck me that the older one (from the back, anyway) could have been Dick Emery's blonde character ("Ooh, you are awful, but I like you!" Remember?) I fully expected her to trip over herself as she left, but she didn't.

Well, after 'splashing the cash' like a couple of mini Rocco Fortes, (it was 40 le, just over 4 quid!!!) we set off to walk home, only for 'Lady Bountiful' to decide that we would also dine out tonight! Our calecheman friend, Ahmed, was lazing about on the corner, so he was commandeered to take us to Karnak for 'Hawawshi'. (You remember that, don't you? Like a haggis sandwich?) He never quarrels with us about this choice of eatery, as he loves it as well, and invariably joins us. 11 le for the three of us wouldn't break the bank, I'm sure.

We usually sit in the caleche and have our food before we leave to come back home, and tonight was no different than usual. Except that; Freda likes to take her shoes (well, sandals) off and put her feet on the opposite seat when we're in the caleche, and she did this again tonight, but when she went to put her feet on the floor, lo and behold; only one flip-flop. It was the first time she'd worn them too!

Ahmed, being Egyptian, drove us all the way back from Karnak on the wrong side of the dual carriageway, facing all the arabiyas and cars etc which were coming straight at us! He was determined to re-trace our steps in an effort to retrieve the lost 'ship-ship'. We didn't, needless to say! Where is Prince Charming when you really need him?

Here's a picture of the remaining one, if any of you come across 'the one that got away', I think there may be a drink in it for you if you return it!!! (Tea, of course!)

Our caring neighbours thought it was a hoot to see Madame Fareda with only one shoe! HeHeHe!

I've got these feet, see?

I feel as if that should be the title of a poem by that girl, Pan Ayres? Or possibly the refrain in another comic song by the fabulous Victoria Wood.

Sadly, it's neither; it's me, I've got these feet, see?

I'm slowly coming to the belief that being in Egypt has caused me this grief, as it's only since I came here on a semi-permanent basis that they've been any trouble at all, apart from the odd eruption of the old 'Athlete's' foot. (I thought it was leprosy, when I first had it!)

If you've ever been to Egypt, and have any interest in people-watching, then I'm positive that you'll have noticed that a great proportion of Egyptian men walk as if their feet are causing them pain with every step! I'd noticed this for years, and simply put it down to some widely distributed congenital problem, perhaps caused by generations of their forebears tramping barefoot over hot sand, or maybe something to do with their modern version of 'seven-league-boots'; the cheap and nasty winkle-pickers which so many Egyptian men now wear! Even smart and well dressed men, hotel managers, lawyers and the like wear them. Even though they're a foot longer than the feet inside; they can't be comfortable or good for the overall health of the feet constrained inside them!

I've been designing again, furniture this time, and I needed a 30-60-90 degree set square to aid my technical drawing. Off I toddled to the 'school furnishing' shop over the road, better known locally as the 'Islamic Library'. Actually it's neither really, it's just a stationery shop, but being in a Muslim country where very few people read anything other than the Quran; that's mainly what they sell. Except, that is; when the new school year is about to begin!!! It was packed to the door! Trendy, giggly schoolgirls buying their next years textbooks; harassed, fully veiled mothers, with three kids in tow, wanting the right textbooks for three different year groups. illiterate fathers with their 'princess' of a little daughter, whom they want to have a better chance than they had. (Or they possibly want to be able to make her a better marriage prospect, who knows?)

And then along comes the daft tourist looking for an equally daft set-square, among all this pandemonium! To cut a long story short (honestly!), I'll get to the point very soon! I sat for a while with this Bedlam going on around me, until the rotund little shop owner finally got to me, and asked me to come back after one hour. I duly did so, and waited in the maelstrom again, only to notice a man's feet!

Or, perhaps more correctly, his heels!

How do you walk around with hard, cracked skin like that on your feet? It just has to be very painful, surely? Does the 'Laboratoire Garnier', for instance, sell some horribly expensive (but magic) cure, I wonder. Perhaps with added "make-up-the-name-of-an-ingredient-to-suit"? (Pentapeptides, possibly?) I doubt it, somehow!

My feet used to be a delight to behold. And no, I'm not boasting, they really were! But look at this one now, it's OK, it's clean!

Apart from the 'unresolved pain', which has plagued me for the past three years, on and off, it seems that I now have arthritis! The big toe joint has swollen to such an extent that it's shoving the other toes out of place. The latest one to be painful is the second smallest one, at times, I feel like cutting them all off!

But then, I wouldn't be able to walk around and see exciting things like this:

That's right, playmates; it's an MAN six-wheeled artic unit (more properly called a 'prime mover' I believe), and brand new, at that. Isn't it lovely?

Neither would I have been able to update you on the 'ripping-up' of the pavement on Youseff Hassan Street! How about this:

To this:

It didn't take long, eh? Just shows that Egyptians can really 'get cracking' when there is a need! (But it's still illegal, and therefore may be subject to being broken up again in the future, who knows, who cares? Maybe even "Who Dares, Wins"!)

I see that Tesco's Luxor shop is having a bit of competition:

Serious competition is now underway between the real supermarkets in Luxor, and about time too! With the opening of 'Ragab and Sons' further down TV St than Kheir Zaman, I see that prices are changing. The one that I noticed was that of porridge! The German imported stuff (Hahne) has dropped from 16.75le (in one shop a few weeks before we had our holiday) to 10.95le. That's worth saving, in anybody's money!

I think that's all I have for you just now, unless one of you is a 'twitcher', and can identify these birds of prey for me? They (three of them) often hover around over the Etap hotel, where I took these pics. One of them was chasing one of the big black and grey crow things the other day.

On looking more closely, these might be of the same bird! I was trying to snap the three of them together, but they wouldn't pose for me.

See you soon. xx

Never been known!

You and I both know what these are, don't we? No, it's not a trick question, they're glass cake stands. But Ikea call them by their foreign name (I think) and therefore they are 'arv brollups'. I'm surprised a young educated person like our friend Ruby Tuesday, didn't know that!

Anyway, they're lovely, and a replacement for our other two. The ones we've been using were ideal really, light and easy to use because they were made of plastic. The only problem was that they were starting to show scratches where they were being constantly washed, such a shame.

While I expect that the glass ones won't scratch, I am a bit worried that one of our guests might drop one of the lids and break it; tiles are such an unforgiving surface!

Never been known? That's right; three Blogs in one day, you lucky people!

I see that Max Bygraves, who could be a lot funnier than many of today's comedians, sadly died today. Who'd have thought it, eh?

Well well well, who's that a'callin'?

For some strange reason this 'Peter Paul and Mary' song has been running through my mind over the past week or so.

Today, as I went out and about looking for anything 'new', I realised that it was the 'Big Bad Wolf' who was 'calling' on Youseff Hassan Street, and he was determined to 'Blow your house down'! Just to let everyone know that he meant business, he had with him a detachment of riot police (complete with shields and everything) and soldiers armed with nasty looking sticks! Here they are:

The first sign that something was amiss, was that some of Mohamed Saber's 'stuff' had been hidden in our little alley, instead of lying in the street outside. Then, on gaining the actual roadway, I found the traffic almost at a standstill, with a smartly uniformed policeman trying to direct it, lol.

I could hear a siren coming from further up the street, but couldn't yet see what it was. After a good few minutes this armoured police van appeared, see the three portholes for their guns?

The Big Bad Wolf must have had a bad chest, 'cause instead of actually 'blowing' things down, he'd brought with him a great big Caterpillar digger and a tipper truck. (I'm very tempted to say "It's a lovely shovel", but those of you who aren't familiar with my mate in 'The Testing of Eric Olthwaite' mightn't quite get the relevance.) Here it is ripping up some delinquent steps:

The detritus was just left, the tipper truck was only there to take away the big pieces.

Here's the remains of the aforementioned steps, it's going to be rather awkward getting in and out of those shops now, don't you think?

They were very nice marble, always kept well swept and clear of debris. Like (I suspect) you and many others, I was appalled at the seemingly wanton destruction, but then I put my brain in to gear! 

Right is right, but wrong is equally always wrong! When I looked at the small 'Lotus Mall' just a few doors up, I couldn't help but notice that their steps were actually within the building, and not built on top of the public footpath! If the owners of that place could do it, then why couldn't the others? Laziness, and the will to use something to which they have no right, in order to benefit themselves. Or put another way: to not recognise the rights of others, and try to illegally gain an unfair advantage. Hurrah for President Mursi, he seems to be trying to create a 'level playing field' for business, something which UK governments have singularly failed to do over the last 50 years or so, to my certain knowledge!

Since the revolution, there have been many 'shops' appear on the pavements here and there. They're made of thin plywood nailed onto 3x2 spars. One such appeared at the end of the tourist souk, selling bottled water, cans of pop, and music tapes and CD's. When I took this picture, the boy was frantically running around looking for boxes in which to pack his stuff, before they swept his makeshift shop to oblivion! 

Poor picture, I know, but the police don't take kindly to tourists taking pictures of the less savoury elements of their work! The 'shop' in question is directly below the picture of the heart throb pop singer.

Here's a shot of the butcher's 'shop' which has been trading at the entrance to the local souk for a year or so. It was also in the process of being dismantled, hence the long spars at the left of the frame.

Let's face it, why should one man pay property taxes, and what have you, in order to run his small business, and then someone else nails a few pieces of wood together, parks them on the public footpath, and is allowed to trade and undercut the prices of the 'real' business. It's just not fair!!!

I laboured under the self-same circumstances in England for over 40 years, constantly being undercut by various cowboy outfits, and would have loved to have seen 'officialdom' acting as if they had the slightest concern for the people who actually paid their wages!!! Rant over, for a minute, anyway! 

As I neared home, I realised that I'd missed the action right outside my front door, so to speak! Just across the road, the two shops built into the school wall had had a nice metal framed canopy, to shelter them from the sun; not any more!

I cannot really imagine what harm the canopy was doing, as it wasn't on the pavement and you'd have to be about 8 feet tall for it to be in your way?  Likewise the frontal decoration on the Nubian Coffeeshop next door, but it's gone too!

I think that's quite enough excitement for the moment, don't you, Dear Reader? I'm about to try some packet soup, (not in a basket, though) which Freda brought from England, before having my nap. Who knows what we might come across when we venture out later?

The Homecoming.

Well, we're back, safe and sound, and with our two new 'arv brollups' (from Ikea) remaining undamaged into the bargain! I did have a panic on though, as I realised that I'd either hadn't packed the new camera, and it was consequently still in the bedroom at Windy Nook, or lost it while travelling, I actually felt sick! We'd emailed and sent texts to our son Benjamin, to ask him to search for it diligently, but his answer came back in the negative, I was beside myself! In a last, hopeless and frantic gesture, I emptied the carry-on case which had the breakable treasures from Marrakech in it. Lo and behold; it was hiding beneath the heavily packed three decorative plates destined for the kitchen wall of the Guest Apartment! I cannot put the relief which I felt into words.

It's lovely to be back, and it's lovely to see our friends and neighbours again, even though they're still moaning about the lack of tourists, as ever!
Old Mr Mohamed (he thinks he's 82 or 83) has moved into his nephew's house around the corner, for a bit of modern comfort, and so that they can more easily keep an eye on him as he becomes increasingly frail. He's still a loveable character though, shouting out "Are you English?" or "Bloody Wogs!" every time he sees me.
Adam's eldest son has a badly swollen face where he managed to get some highly toxic hair gel in his eye!
And, Mr Edward, the doctor's assistant, has turned over a new leaf (or possibly had a touch of sunstroke?) he's washed the stairs down TWICE this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was also a surprise to find that the daytime temperatures are only in the high 30's, very unusual for August but most welcome, I can assure you!

There are lots of different things that have been happening while we've been away. The police are back, and with a vengeance, or so it would seem.
Do you remember all the illegal wall building, after the demolitions for the new roads and the excavation of the Kabesh Road? (And maybe, more importantly, after they became 'FREE'!) I said at the time that they wouldn't endure, and I have been proven right!
These few pictures were taken up next to the railway line and on the junctions with Mustafa Kamel Street and Ramsis Street. The police have been around with demolition crews!

I do have a certain amount of sympathy with these landowners, who are aggrieved at the paucity of the compensation packages they received from President Mubarak's crooked officials. But I also think that they were daft to throw good money after bad, with these unauthorised brickworks.  

Whilst the demolitions are carrying on, there are still additional floors being built elsewhere and everywhere. This next pic is of a building on Youseff Hassan Street, I took it from our bedroom window. I've no idea if the work is kosha or not, some people still think that their newfound revolutionary freedom means that they can do whatever they want, without recourse to a higher authority! Mind you, it cannot be seen from the street.    

I can't now remember if I told you about abandoning our local baker? Well, I did, but I was surprised to see that his bakery is now closed and that he's also extending upover, with (at least) three floors being built on the top of the bakery:

 It seems as though the antiquities people haven't been idle either, as evidenced by the extension to the foundations of the perimeter wall on the Kabesh Road just beyond the Emilio Hotel. Have you ever seen so much in the way of reinforcing rebars?

I hope that the two churches in the distance are making the most of their  unintended reprieve, they're surely there on borrowed time by now!

Just past the 'government' shop on Youseff Hassan Street, a Christian organisation of some sort spent a year or two rebuilding (whatever was there) into a rather fine looking large house. I had been told that it was meant as a refuge for 'fallen' women! I had supposed something like the English 'homes for unmarried mothers' of our youth, lol. However, I'd only seen one or two nuns occasionally coming and going from the place ever since it was finished, strange?
On venturing out on Tuesday, I saw this:

Or, perhaps more to the point, this:

Yes, the prestigious 'German School' has moved from its premises in far flung Awameya to the town centre. It makes sense, I suppose, as their potential pupils will come from all over Luxor, and even possibly from the Side of the Dead!
We've just had an email from a parent of one of their pupils, it reads: "Apparently this building is just temporary until the new school is built as they were having problems with the other building."
With that news, it becomes obvious that they aren't moving into the town centre, really. With hindsight, I suppose that it's obvious that anyone who can afford to send their children there will probably be dropping them off with the family car, making the actual location of the school of little importance.

And now for something completely different, for a moment. Well, sort of!

After I'd been on the wander, snapping shots here and there, willy-nilly; I got back home to find Freda reading. Nothing unusual there, we both enjoy a decent book. The problem is that she insists on sitting on my side of the bed to do it, as the natural light is better there than on her's! As I was ready for a half hour kip, and being the thoughtful and obedient husband that I am, I chose to lie on her side of the bed, in order not to disturb her reading. Wasn't that nice of me?

As I lay down, I wasn't aware of anything being amiss, but an hour or so later, when I awoke, I was horrified! My hair was all wet at the back; seemingly it had come from Freda's pillow, as it also felt decidedly damp, I don't know how she puts up with it. I'm afraid that I'll have to have my own side of the bed in future, her reading will have to take second place!

Now then, where was I?

Ah, yes. The Supreme Council of Luxor must also have been busy! The following picture is of the new carriage horse shelters on Sharia Karnak, near the entrance to Luxor Temple. There are loads more of them near the site of the old Egotel, at the South end of the Temple as well. Maybe there are even  more for me to find? I'll keep you posted.