The Lotus Eaters?

Do you remember the TV programme? With Kieth Barron? I'm not really sure if the bunch of misfits in the following picture could actually be classed as anything more than just "Hawawshi Munchers"! Even though they are regulars by the Nile, where the lotus blossoms once bloomed.

The tea towels and facecloths were kindly supplied by the photographer, you'll no doubt notice that I got the tea towel; Freda has a constant dread of me getting grease of any kind on my pants! Actually, she did a good job with taking this picture, she caught us all chewing away nicely, didn't she?

Sadly, Sandra and Mick are away home on Wednesday, so we won't see them again until next spring. (Insh'Allah.) It's at times like this that we realise just how fortunate we are in being able to stay here, while our poor readers are battling against snowstorms and even hurricanes. We do commiserate with you all, you know; well, sometimes!!!!!

While Sandra and Mick have been here, Freda has been trying to turn me into a painter, to add yet another string to my overburdened bow! The problem is, that I just cannot paint with gloss paint, especially black! No-one can say that I haven't tried, but it's truly AWFUL! It's that bad that I'm contemplating taking the pieces back to England and asking my favourite son-in-law to do them properly, and then cart them all the way back here again!

I don't know whether you have a favourite paint manufacturer, they're all the same to me, being the dunce that I am, but I can imagine people preferring Dulux over Crown, or Homebase's own make over B&Q's.  Here in Luxor (as you can imagine) we get whatever we can. I found the following primer quite good, but then I'm no expert. But, somehow, I don't think I'll be asking for it by name when I get back to England:

We've just been watching a couple of episodes of 'Spooks', it's great! I was almost on the verge of telling Freda about my exploits for MI5 (while she thought I was working with my coach on rail replacement for all those weeks away from home) but I thought better of it. I don't want to be picked up as soon as I arrive back in England and thrown into clink, again!

No shame!

Hello Dear Reader, I don't suppose that you expected to hear from me quite so soon, did you? But here I am with yet more fascinating facts about Luxor and it's inhabitants.

Despite the title of this post being 'No shame!', I have to tell you that I am currently consumed by it! I love this town, and I also care deeply about most of the people whom we come across in our day to day wanderings and transactions. But today, on this Eid el Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, I feel contempt for them!

I trundled out this morning in search of black gloss paint and wood primer, along with a few sheets of sandpaper, and some of Mr Alfred's tasty smoked ham, as I would be passing his little emporium on the way to the hardware shop and the baker.

As I stepped out of our Osman Alley onto the main road, I was shocked to see this:

We've had our apartments for seven years, and never, ever, have I seen such an accumulation of rubbish in our main street. It was disgusting! (There wasn't a thing there last night.) Is this the 'freedom' which the revolutionaries claim to have won for Egypt last year, to fill the streets with garbage?

As I went on my way, I found that there was no escape:

Don't get me wrong here, I've also seen the trash which is generated by festivals and suchlike in England. What gets my goat here (no pun intended on this day of sacrificial lambs) is that my local friends might say something like "Very bad, Mr Edward!". But then they'll sit all day completely ignoring these piles of rubbish just a few paces away, as if they just weren't there! (Ignoring, that is, until they then go and add to them!)

Funnily enough, there weren't the same piles on Sharia Karnak, where any stray tourists might spy them, only the coats of the ritually slaughtered sheep, and those were on display outside the Mosque!!!!

No shame? They just don't seem to care at all!

Perhaps a more fitting photo, on this day when all my neighbours are supposed to be turning their thoughts to the faithfulness of God, might be this one following. Our youngest daughter sent it to us, she knows the mother, but not yet the premature daughter who was born three weeks before the picture was taken. I hope that those of you who are able will remember them both in your prayers.

Foodie Snobs?

We do get some strange people in Luxor! Some complain about the heat; well, it is Egypt! Some complain about the dirt; well, it is Egypt! Others complain about the hassle; well, it is Egypt! Yet more complain about the 'rip-off' prices; well, it is Egypt! Then we get those who are looking for fine dining experiences; well I'm sorry but, it is Egypt!

I'm sure that you're aware by now, Dear Reader, that we like our food. As long as it's tasty and properly cooked, Freda will try most things; then she tells me if I'll like it! I can still remember the day she made me try this new foreign muck, 'yoghurt', sour milk, more like???? (It was 'Ski' strawberry, actually. Whatever happened to them, |I wonder?)

I knew a relatively famous darts player, who wouldn't eat 'Spam', wouldn't even taste it! "Poor man's meat!" he would say as he turned up his nose in disgust. One of my greatest friends won't touch spready cheese (you know, the stuff which comes in triangles). He reckons that it's all the rubbish which would otherwise be thrown out after they've finished making everything else.

I even have Egyptian friends who turn their noses up at the mention of the likes of hawawshy, simply because it's made from offal, like haggis. It's a touch of the 'poor man's meat' syndrome, I think, rather than just the fact that it's offal. Never mind!

As I reported, Sandra, Mick and Freda and myself had a lovely hawawshy supper the other night. We followed that with a bit of a falafel feast the following night, from these blokes up the street:

I always had a fancy that falafel would be enhanced a little by a touch of HP Fruity Sauce, I tried it, and it certainly is! You see that Osman? He's over 70, and his hair, moustache and eyebrows are still a very youthful (and suspicious) black, don't you think it's a bit far-fetched?

Over the years, we've tried quite a number of Luxor's 'restaurants'. The inverted commas are there because I don't consider most of them to actually be more than just cafes, pretentious cafes, but cafes nevertheless! It's no wonder that the food snobs complain so bitterly when they've been to one of them that they've read such glowing reports of, only to find that they are sitting in something which resembles an all-night coffeeshop from the sixties. All some of them need would be a sixpence-a-play juke box belting out Stevie Marriot to make the illusion complete!
"What....ya gonna doooo aboud-it?" Hehe!

Here's some fine 'Eid el Adha' dining, waiting in the souk yesterday:

They had the place humming! (Colloquialism = stinking.) Let's all wish our Muslim friends a 'happy eid', with the hope that they'll have a bit of meat to celebrate with, God bless them!

It's high time for my beauty sleep, so I'll say, "Goodnight."

Tutti Frutti as a wedding venue?

We were in for a bit of a surprise this evening! A family staying at the Etap had been talking to Sandra and Mick about their holiday. It transpired that, as part of it, the husband and wife planned to renew their weeding vows of 20 years ago!

Today was the day, and they asked Mick to do two readings (which they had chosen from somewhere on the Internet) so he did. Lo and behold, they were having a 'bash' at Tutti Frutti at the same time that we would be there!

Now then, if I'd known beforehand, I wouldn't have booked for that time (being anti-social and all) but we were in an awkward position, weren't we? Never mind, we went ahead, and when we arrived we found an Egyptian band in full flow, it was almost deafening!

The music ceased after a minute or so, and we took our seats. The place was really quite busy, I'm pleased to say. No sooner than we were seated, the 'bride' came over to thank Mick for his ministrations, and we were introduced. Here she is in her lovely bridal gown:

The meal was as you would expect, we don't usually go anywhere where there would be any doubt as to the quality of the food. Sandra disappointed me a little, as she couldn't manage all of hers. However, Mick, being as gallant as ever, managed to finish it off for her!!!!

The band started up again before we had actually finished:

I only could get a small video, and sadly it doesn't have much of the singer's extraordinary voice, very powerful!

Before too long, Christine and most of her staff had joined the bride in dancing to the music. It was very entertaining, and they were clearly loving it!

I captured another shot of the bride, this time with her husband, as she took a well deserved rest.

Seeing as the revelling was going to continue for some time, and Mick couldn't get the Egyptian fiddle to work properly;

we decided to take our leave and find a quiet spot for a cuppa and a chat. The Sonesta St George was the nearest to walk to for people with full stomachs. But what a shame such a prestigious hotel couldn't provide any staff to serve us! There was no-one to be found, except a receptionist who was too busy talking to another person to even acknowledge Freda as she stood right in front of him.

The Nile Palace never treats guests or visitors like that, so we went there, and they got our trade, yet again. You'd imagine, in these straitened times, that businesses would learn that it's customers who actually pay the bills, and not their gossiping friends!

We were joined there by another friend, Ann, who stays at the NP twice each year. Ann brought us some Wrights Coal Tar Soap last week when she arrived, it was completely out of the blue, bless her.

All in all, we had a very enjoyable and successful evening. It's good to have friends, isn't it?

David Attenborough, eat your heart out!

I can still remember being transfixed by the pictures appearing on the black and white telly as David Attenborough stalked the fearsome, and yet unidentified, creature which had supposedly been eating the village children. It turned out to be the 'komodo dragon'. Do any of you remember that programme? Or are you all too young?

Anyway, as you know, the tourist numbers in Luxor recently have been at what must be an all-time low! (And no, I'm not ascribing the dearth of tourists to the appetite of an Egyptian version of the aforementioned dragon.) But I'm trying to tell you that we haven't been going to the Etap of late, just because of this shortage of tourists. It's no real fun for us to sit and watch noisy Egyptian families misusing the hotel and abusing the staff, while embarrassing and disturbing the few foreign guests who would so like to just have a peaceful time. Sometimes, they act as if they owned the place, honestly!!!!

However, this week is a little different! We have two good friends from Lincoln staying there; Sandra and Mick. They both have a severe case of the dreaded 'Luxoritis'! They've been staying at the Etap for over 20 years (no, not continually, silly!) so should know Luxor very well. They arrived last Wednesday, with the very welcome gifts of a packet of ginger snaps and and a Jamaica ginger cake.

We strolled down there tonight, hoping to catch them as they ventured out for their evening meal. We were parked almost in out usual seats (our usual ones were taken up by a rather noisy group of Egyptians who must have all had worms, as they couldn't sit still for more than a minute or two!!!) as we awaited Sandra and Mick's appearance from their upper floor, Nile View, room. We needed to make the arrangements for tomorrow night, when we are all dining at the delightful Tutti Frutti, where we shall partake of Christine's lovely 'Sunday dinner'.

This is where the fabulous David Attenborough came into the story, no, not the hotel! I don't know what sort of 'ologist' the famous man is, but I should think that he must be responsible for introducing more young people to an interest in the natural sciences than any other person, living or dead.

We had a question for the ornithologists out there, the other week, and now I have one for all the entomologists among you, or your families? As we sat out front of the Etap, we were concerned about this huge beast which kept almost dive-bombing us as it flitted from plant to plant with it's long proboscis.  Can anyone identify the following creature? (I hope that David Attenborough is reading this, and thinks that my wildlife photography is worth appearing in the same piece as his name.)

He was about 2 inches long (50mm) with a wingspan of maybe 3 and a 1/2 to 4 inches. He didn't seem to make any particular noise, as you might expect from a bee or wasp, but he was nor'alf a whopper!

We caught Sandra and Mick as they were heading out to 7 Days 7 Ways, and have arranged to meet them at 6.30 tomorrow. Looking forward to another scrumptious meal from Christine!

I seem to be eating very well lately, just had a quarter of an absolutely gorgeous mushroom quiche tonight, after a large dish of corned beef hot-pot at lunchtime. I think Freda might be fattening me up for the coming Eid, like all the poor sheep who are tied up all over town just now. I'd better keep an eye out for her coming towards me with a smile on her face and some strong string and a sharp knife in her hands, what do you say?

Now it's time for my hot chocolate, delicious!

For Your Eyes Only.

Hello there, long time no see!

You're going to be the first to see the latest improvement to the "Our Luxor" Holiday Apartment. We started out with this:

That's right, it's the kitchen! It was always functional, without being flash or showy, with enough equipment and utensils to make a wide variety of meals. But it was never what Freda had actually wanted.

When we were having the apartment re-built and finished (seven years ago) she told the contractor, "No wall tiles in the kitchen. No door furniture. White paint everywhere. The man thought she was as mad as a hatter! But she wanted time to think, and time to see what was available from which to make her choices of decorative finishes and style touches.

Of course, back then we didn't know that wall tiles in Egypt were pressed into the wet plaster (which is actually a rendering of sand and cement, and not plaster as we know it, at all) and that using a tile adhesive was the equivalent of expecting Freda's famous relative, George Stephenson, to fire his first Stockton to Darlington steam train with a few crystals of Scottie's 'trilithium'!

So, while we were in England, our contractor put some lovely big, oblong, white, monstrosities on the wall. "But Madame Fareda, the water from the sink!" I'm surprised she didn't actually eat the poor b****r! Seeing as the tiles were all a part and parcel with the stainless steel sink and drainer (which was sitting on a frame of one inch water pipe cemented into the wall and had been stained with cement or something being mixed in it) and the wooden under-sink unit, we didn't have the heart to make him pull it all out and start again. (We would have done if it had happened now, mind you. You have to learn by your mistakes!)

So there we were, 7 years down the line, still with a kitchen sink which was annoying Freda every time she saw it, no guests for a while, and nothing to keep yours truly out of mischief. You just know what's coming next, don't you?

You won't remember my bungled hari-kari attempt while I was knocking the said tiles off the wall?

That's Nu-Skin holding my foot on there! It took 4 hours to stop the stupid thing bleeding, here's some blood in my Croc, and some more in the bottom of the shower! I felt a bit like Tony Hancock in the 'Blood Donor', my lifeblood, ebbing away!


My word, they're sharp! The blood was everywhere. Never mind, onward and upward, as they say. I eventually got to the bottom of it all, and as I described in a former posting eventually got the plasterers in and the first coat of paint on. Here's how far I had to take the wall to bits:

Freda would have a more modern 'inset' sink! Which meant a new stone workbench. That was a saga in itself, over three months of sending out samples of what I wanted and stone men from all over Luxor coming with entirely different colours. Again, they thought I was mad, just because I wanted it to match the two other pieces in the same room, actually within a few inches of each other! At last, Mohamed Marble (strange name, even stranger bloke!) came and told me that the quarry where my Aswan granite had come from had been closed for a few years, but he had the nearest match that there was.

Frightening blokes these! Can you imagine a man cutting a 32 mm round hole in 2 cm thick piece of granite with only an angle grinder with a 7 inch diameter diamond blade and a small hammer??? No, neither could I! I shouted "Stop him, what's he doing?" Mr Mohamed smiled (that mad, knowing smile of the 'initiated') and assured me that it would be OK. (I thought to myself, "It'll be OK if he messes up the whole sheet of granite, 'cos I haven't paid for it yet, and I won't be if he does! Haha!") 

Of course he didn't, he's been doing this job all his working life. Necessity is a great teacher, and if you don't have the right tools, then you have to 'make do'. I should have had more faith, as I spent a great deal of my youth repairing old wagons and cars with all the wrong tools!

Anyway, Freda and I finally got it finished this evening, so here it is; the new kitchen:

We brought quite a few trinkets from Marrakech, especially with the new style in mind. I'm sure that you'll be able to pick some of them out.

Well, that's it for just now, hope you like the new kitchen. More to the point, I hope that our future guests will like it.

The times they are a'changin' (or are they really?).

OK then, Clive and Sue departed today. We've had a few laughs with them as they're as daft as two brushes! Here's Sue at the Nile Palace the other night:

We were there on the evening when the dance troupe start off by coming down the back stairs into the bar, before the 'real' show gets underway in the atrium. The pantomime horse is the best I've seen:

I'm sure that some of the folk dancing troupes in England would just love it!

There's been a rather large gathering of medical types at the Nile Palace this past week or so, attendees from all over the world at the "7th International Conference on Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy". Sounds very interesting, eh?

It has to be better than the breakdowns which I used to deal with; which invariably meant lying under some scrapheap of a wagon or 'bus, on some side-road in the 'back of beyond' in a blizzard!

On one of the nights we were there, the conference lot were having a special 'gala' dinner by the pool:

It looked fab, but our contact at the hotel couldn't get us a ticket, I'm sure that we could have passed ourselves off as Mr and Mrs Doctor Edward!

A week or so before this, the Sonesta St George Hotel was hosting a load of film stars and technicians for the first "Luxor Egyptian and European Film Festival"

The Nile Palace also had some guests in who were to do with that, they were obviously film types as they swanned around, looking glamorous! I've heard several people (who should know) saying that it was expected to be the first of many, let's hope so?

It's obvious that the hotels (who are losing millions, by the way) are trying their best to attract a different clientele, while the normal tourists are still staying away.

You'd think I was an advertising agent for the Nile Palace by the way I go on about it, but the fact is that we do go there quite a bit, and they really are trying!
As well as their three for two happy hour deal on tea and coffee (actually on all drinks) they have speciality pastries on offer, all at one price. Here's the "Hot Date Pie with Ice Cream":

It is currently one of the five or six date based sweets on offer for 22le, and absolutely georgeous!

Of course, after lashing out on such a luxury, we were actually guilty enough to then go and have a 3le Hawawshi at Karnak. After Freda losing her flip-flop on our last outing there, she kept them firmly on her dainty little 'plates of meat' this time, at least until we'd stopped and were waiting for Ahmed to get the food. I joined her in allowing the air to circulate between my toes:

What a lovely sight, eh?

When we went to see Clive and Sue off from the Winter Palace, this afternoon, we asked about the cost of the 'Afternoon Tea' as we had heard that the price had been increased dramatically. It had, and was now 150le per person!!!! Yes, that's twice as much! Of course, I registered my dismay, but was somewhat put in my place when the head waiter informed me that 'Afternoon Tea' at the Old Cataract was now 400le, and I should consider myself lucky! 'Nuff said squire!

Before I leave you; I'm sure that I've made the point to you before now that some aspects of Luxor seem to be a couple of hundred years behind the ways which we are now more used to in the West. Well, how about this for modern book-keeping? I'm quite certain that old Ebenezer Scrooge would have been proud to own a ledger like this:

There's a bloke sits there all day, recording column after column of figures, just like poor Tiny Tim's dad, Bob Cratchett.

God bless us, every one!