Domestic drudgery in Egypt and an 'Incredible Journey'

They're two easily connected subjects, aren't they?

Domestic Drudgery.

Many Western women who visit Egypt are horrified at the seeming plight of many of the Egyptian women whom they come across. Older women are invariably emaciated, with cadaverous looking faces! The younger ones don't necessarily fare much better, except when they're getting married off. Then, they're fattened-up, like the prized cow!

You'd be amazed at some of the many wedding videos which I've had to endure over the years. There they sit; the groom in his hired suit and this big plump girl wearing a 'meringue'. Trouble is, she bears no resemblance to the skinny young bint who's just given me a glass of tea, as she's been back on normal rations for a twelve-month!

Girls are brought up to realise that their place is to be the property of either their dad or their husband, therefore (although you'll see many women in the streets and markets) a large proportion of them see their lives as one where they need not interact whom they don't want to, so they needn't really leave the house. They can live in seclusion, only having to trouble themselves with their immediate families and female friends, and one or two male relatives. Wearing the niqab (where only the eyes are visible) is really just an extension of this practice for many women, a natural progression, if you like?

By and large, what (to an outsider) might look like a life of subjection and confinement can also feel like a natural and straightforward progression from girlhood into being a wife and mother, just like the generations which have gone before!

Perhaps everyday kitchen implements, like these, might strengthen those generational connections, as they obviously haven't changed for a very long time:

How about those for food processors? I believe that they're mainly used for grinding okra. Or how about this which little Mustapha is holding; it's a new rolling pin for his mam. I have to admit that it resembles a pin much more than the one which Freda has, or the one my mam used when we were young, lol.

Culture and the preconceived ideas and opinions which come along with yours or mine don't necessarily help us to understand one another, do they?

The Incredible Journey!

Well, here we are, back in Windy Nook once again. We had been a bit concerned about the flights having to go via Cairo to Manchester, mainly because of the
possibility of the checked-in luggage not making it from the domestic flight to the international one. We've read a number of complaints on the internet where the luggage wasn't transferred because of the short time between flights. In the event, everything went smoothly, and the flights were champion. (Colloquialism: champion = OK, very good, or even thank you.) I even ate all the meal, which was chicken and veg with RICE, instead of my usual preference of potatoes,  to the point that I even tried a piece of Freda's beef on top! 

We sailed through Cairo Airport with plenty of time to spare, and by the time we were approaching Manchester, we realised that the pilot had shaved at least a half hour off the flight time. But our run of good fortune could not continue forever, could it?

I had hoped that we might be able to change our train to the earlier one, about 2pm 
instead of almost 4 o'clock, but we weren't able to, partly because our journey consisted of three separate trains! Never mind though, we waited in the cafeteria come waitingroom until it was time. Freda couldn't book the seats on the first train, as it was only going as far as Manchester Piccadilly, but on the other two we had pre-booked seats, that was fine!

The platform at Manchester Piccadilly seemed to be an afterthought built onto the outside of the main station,  very queer! Eventually, our train arrived at the next platform along from where we were waiting, and by he time we got to the entrance; it was packed like a tin of sardines! Look at this:

No kidding; it was almost as bad as that! When we finally managed to get aboard, and eject the two blokes form our booked seats, I had to sit with a full sized suitcase on the table in front of me, while the bloke opposite was trying to work on his laptop. It was Bedlam!

Swearing never to take the 'changing trains' option again, we soldiered on to the next change-over, at York. We were late getting in, due to the staff not pushing hard enough to get the passengers squeezed in at the other stations, I presume, we were dashing to make our connection. Now, which platform??? 

By some miracle, Freda found a station employee who directed us to platform 10, just a few yards away from platform 9 where we were, but also told us that all Northbound trains were delayed because of a trespasser on the track near Durham City! There was a train already standing there, with Aberdeen on the front which meant that it would be travelling via Newcastle. Obviously, I asked the conductor if we could go with him,  but he refused, wrong train operating company!!!

Someone else informed us, that due to the delayed trains backing up, our train would now leave from platform 11, and that we would have to take the lift (elevator, for our friends across 'The Pond') which would take us down a level to the undertrack walkway, so that we could get from platform 9 to platform 11, with our numerous bags and cases. We did that, and found another train there, with Newcastle on the front, yippee! After finding carriage 'C', we squeezed on board, managing to stow our baggage here and there, only to find that our seats were again taken by someone else. Sadly, the printed booking notices indicated that they'd been booked from Birmingham to Newcastle, so something was amiss!

On miraculously finding another railway employee, we were told that this was actually the wrong train, and that ours would arrive on platform 9. You can imagine how we were beginning to feel, so when we found a Chinese woman and her two loud children in our seats; we just left them to it and sat in two other (unbooked) seats for the rest of the journey. I was as 'pleased as Punch' when we crossed the Tyne into Newcastle via the King Edward Bridge, I can tell you!

New to Luxor; or just new to your reporter?

We haven't been to the Winter Palace for a while, maybe because of the 100le cover charge? Never mind, we were there this afternoon, along with the Quad-Bike Queen, enjoying our tea and Nescafe when all of a sudden some dramatic music piped up!

It reminded me of the beginning of the intro to the Nile Palace entertainment, which used to be on every night (when there were tourists to entertain, remember?) but it wasn't the same piece. Nevertheless, it was obviously an introduction to something, but what?

Ahaaa! I caught sight of these be-costumed folk on the main stairs:

Then, they processed down the staircase, when (being the master cameraman that I surely am) I switched over to 'movie' mode, and got this hopelessly lit sequence for you: 

Wait, it gets better! (The camerawork, that is.) The whole thing would be called (if it had a name) "The Ceremony of The Lighting of the Candles", because that was what it was! The four ladies circumnambulated the central table, the one with either the flower display on it or the black statue of of the cross-legged scribe, Senmut (?) and then they and the one gentleman traipsed all around the room lighting the candles, thus:

The girl did stand still, for a moment, but her moment wasn't quite long enough for me to get myself properly into gear. Sorry! A day late and a dollar short, as per usual!!! (But I do try.)

It wasn't a startlingly wonderful display or anything, but it was something new and a bit different to look out for if you're ever at the Winter Palace around sundown; they did it at 5:30pm today.

Yes, well................

Yes, well what? Nothing really, well as far as the bigger picture goes, that is. But when you're living in would think that all our birthdays had come at once!!

It all started about 5 or 6 years ago, when we found a dirty and dishevelled English girl planted on the sofa in our friends travel office on the Corniche. Well, I say 'girl' but she was more of a woman, really. The 'girl' bit was more of a description of how she was acting. She was actually so thrilled by her experience of quad-biking on the West Bank that she couldn't stop raving about it! This was our introduction to the 'Quad-Bike Queen', a girl who would become a dear friend whom we've cherished ever since.

We were so taken by her enthusiastic manner that we invited her to take tea with us at the Nile Palace, and we were so glad that she accepted. We stopped off at the St Joseph's so that she could get cleaned up a bit before heading off to the posher surroundings. She'd actually been coming to Luxor for over 10 years, always staying at St Joe's, and she'd never even had a nosey around the other hotels, preferring to just lounge around the St Joe's; reading, relaxing and dipping in the pool occasionally. We soon changed that by introducing her to all the lovely spots where the 'special offer teas' can regularly be found!

She stayed with us at 'Our Luxor' the next time she came, but was spending nearly all of almost every day with the quad-biking gang over on the West Bank; she just loves bouncing and bumping over the wild desert terrain! Of course, it eventually dawned on us all that it would be more convenient for her to stay over there, on the 'Side of the Dead', than her travelling back and forth on the ferry every day. So she has spent her subsequent twice yearly visits (apart from the odd night or two at our place) staying in a flat arranged by her mates from the quad-biking garage. Mind you, she always visits us and brings us home-made goodies; like her mother's ginger biscuits for yours truly!

Anyway, she arrived in Luxor two days ago, and we arranged to meet her off the ferry today, for a day with us, here on the 'Side of the Living'. It was lovely to see her again. Back at 'Our Luxor', I made the tea while Freda and the Q-B Queen caught up with family news and a little gossip. Shortly before lunch out came her bag of goodies.......home-made biscuits, mmm, Jelly Babies for Freda, a very stodgy ginger cake made by her own fair hand (we'd better hide that, as we have a different friend calling for lunch tomorrow!) a magazine and a Daily Telegraph, champion! But then! But then!

That's correct, Dear Reader, four individual pork and pickle pies!!!!! Branston Pickle, at that! Now, we're not really great big fans of pork, and apart from a few of John the Butcher's pork sausages and some of Tesco's smoked side bacon, we don't have it very often. Freda occasionally buys small pork (and something) pies from Fenwick's of Newcastle, but that's only now and then. Never mind, these had been frozen until today, and seeing as the giver is a veggie, we saved them in our fridge until tonight.

Here we are getting ready to watch another episode of Spooks, and ravenous to get stuck into our Luxor rarity! A little cheddar cheese from the Forty market (nicely creamy) and one or two spiced cheese crisps, just to set the pies off:

Honestly, they went down a treat with a nice cup of tea, the second cup of tea was nicely complimented by a slightly over-large slice of the heavy ginger cake, just to complete the job!

I'm constantly amazed by people's kindnesses. And not only to us, I know of several people who are sending money over to help Egyptians who are in dire straits, and just trusting that it gets to the right people. It warms my heart!

A Feast or a Famine? (On the Eid El Adha.)

Hi folks, here we are again on the Feast of Sacrifice. When Egypt celebrates Abraham's obedience to God in offering his son as a burnt offering, only the Muslims believe that it was Hagar's son Ishmael, whereas everyone else believes that it was Sarah's son Isaac! Never mind, it's only one of the many fundamental differences between Islam and the other Abrahamic faiths. By the way, did you know that Sarah was a Luxor lass? Neither did I until a man from the West Bank told me, mind you, he was also adamant that Egypt had won the Six Day War against Israel!

Egyptians; they're a queer lot at the bottom of them!

I purposely didn't take any bloodthirsty pictures of slaughtered animals this year. As we strolled around this afternoon, we had to side-step quite a few puddles of blood mixed with water where the streets had been 'cleaned' after the butchers had done their business. (The thought of getting John the Butcher's black pudding recipe for next year, did cross my mind, but it might not go down too well here, eh Dear Reader?)

I keep reading, here and there, that there are no tourists in Luxor. But that's not actually true! There aren't many, admittedly, but there are a few; we see them every day. There certainly aren't enough to keep tourist businesses viable, and ere's a shot of the Savoy Market, just to illustrate the point:

Of the 90 or so units spread over three floors, there are only about six shops open for business. Those of you who know this bazaar will know just how busy it can be during normal working, as people use it as a short-cut to the Corniche!

I'm amazed at people here! We all know that tourism has been the life-blood of Luxor for a great many years, even those who never see a tourist rely on those who deal directly with them for the livelihood. Most of the money coming into the city has been tourist money for probably over a hundred years. And, I see people in desperate straits every day. Yet........many act as though nothing is wrong at all, as if they have no desire for well-paid employment!

Those of you who know Our Luxor, will recognise this dodgy wrought ironwork as the boundary where 'Our Luxor' starts and 'Their Luxor' ends! It's where beyond which, the 'Thousand and One Nights' experience awaits our guests, combined of course with the many much needed Western necessities!

The flat below, on the same landing as this metal gate, is now the clinic of Dr Ashraf. He's a dentist, and I've been to him for a filling. I was most impressed with all the brand-new equipment as well as his kindly manner and reasonable charges. But some of his patients are typical Egyptians!

"What does that mean?" I hear you ask. I don't want to appear racist, or anything like that, however, the typical Luxor Egyptian drops or throws his/her rubbish or litter wherever they happen to be at any given moment. Which means that some of it (fag packets used tissues etc) ends up on our side of the wrought iron! Dr Ashraf's assistant (no, he's not another Igor) is quite conscientious regarding keeping the stairs and landing clean, but obviously, he cannot clean on our side of the ironwork, so we had to come up with a 'cunning plan'.

It eventually became clear that the best solution to the problem (whilst also reducing the possibility of being disturbed by any noise from the lower floors) was to replace the triangle of ironwork with a brick wall, and having the remaining ironwork fitted with Georgian Wired Glass. Ideal!

Seeing as Coffeeshop Adam has had some brickwork done recently, I thought I'd ask him for an introduction to his builder-man.

Adam brought the man, and explained exactly what we wanted doing, and that we wanted it doing on a Sunday (when Dr Ashraf was closed, him being Coptic Christian). It was all arranged, the price was a bit on the high side, but hey-ho, we'd bite the bullet! I got cracking on Saturday, I didn't expect a brick-layer to have an angle grinder to cut through the welds on the ironwork, so just I did it and
left one cut to make on the Sunday morning before he would land at 08:00.

Eight o'clock came and went, so did nine! There was no sign of Adam, the coffeeshop was still closed, so I went to bed. (I hadn't slept at all, with this job running round and around in my head all night.) When I awoke, I went down to remonstrate with Adam, who went off immediately to the man's house. On returning, he told me that the man had had an accident, but that another man would be here shortly. He came at 3.30pm, and after looking at the job (about 3 hours max) quoted me about two weeks wages, plus I had to supply the sand and cement and bricks!!!!!

I just couldn't reconcile this with a people who are in general financial trouble, and I'm sick and tired of strangers trying to take me for a ride just because I have white skin, and am therefore deemed to be 'rich'!!!! So, he was given his marching orders, and the ironwork was humped back up the stairs, and fastened back in with some electrical wire until the welder can come tomorrow (sorry, it's now today!) and tack it back into place. I suppose that it'll get done the way we want it eventually.

People keep posting on various forums etc, that there are no Nile cruises currently
running. What's this then, that I saw today from the terrace of the Nile Palace?

We stopped off to get some eggs from the egg shop, I don't know whether I've ever shown it to you before, so here it is, just in case I haven't:

You'd be amazed at just how many eggs Egyptians can get through; it's not unusual to see someone carting away three or four trays, yes, that's 90 or 120 eggs! And, there's another shop exactly the same not 100 yards away.

As I said, "A queer lot!" (But we still love them.)

Yes; sadly, Luxor is in Egypt!

We went to the dead 'Eatabe' Hotel yesterday for tea. (Actually, I'm exaggerating, there must have been a half dozen foreign tourists there really!) The new governor was there though, along with his entourage and quite a gang of Egyptians, mostly female, or so it seemed.

I think it may have been the same sort of meeting that the Boss had with the ex-pats the other night, but with (what looked like) influential Egyptians. We didn't bother going to the one for foreigners, as they're always the same (in our experience, that is) plenty of suggestions and promises, but nothing ever actually changes! From one report it seems that the main point of the ex-pat meeting was to encourage the foreigners to email or telephone their government's Foreign Offices and try to get them to lift their travel warnings. I hope that his meeting with the Egyptians was more constructive.

I mean; does he really think that the FCO would listen to the English rag-tags here in Luxor?

Today, we tried our other favourite haunt, the Nile Palace. As we passed the Iberotel, it was 'Changing of the Guard' time. You couldn't get stirred for armoured personnel carriers!

Does anyone know what make they are? I wouldn't like to have to drive one, as the drivers compartment looks tiny! They're parked up all over the place, and the poor lads manning them look as bored as can be.

Further along, we passed the Sonesta St George, and couldn't help but notice that the Governor was there! The road was choc-a-block with cars and pick-up trucks, but we've no idea what he was doing.

As it was still light, we sat on the terrace, overlooking the NP pool. There was a European woman in the pool, and her friend came to join her when she decided to recline on her sunbed. There was a bloke,  by himself, wandering around waiting for his swimming trunks to dry before donning his shorts etc over them. And, there was a communist agitator and his wife occupying two of the sunbeds!

You may well ask how I know that this gentleman was a communist agitator; well, I just happen to know these things! He was short, with almost as much pale wispy hair on his face as he had on his head, and he wore small swimming trunks with his pot-belly. Mind you, the real give-away was the fact that he wore wire-rimmed spectacles! (He also had a rather furtive look about him, nasty piece of work!)

His wife was another fairly easy clue; she was much larger than he was, obviously a sweetener from the Kremlin! Say no more!!!!

(I'm currently reading "The Red Dancer, a life of Mata Hari" and we've just watched two particularly thrilling episodes of "Spooks", the series about MI5 !)

That's a nice 'misty morning' picture of the West Bank, isn't it? Well. actually, no it's not! It was taken this afternoon, and it's smoke! You know, of course Dear Reader, why we don't have any industry here in Luxor (apart from tourism, that is, and the reason why many of the locals are on the verge of starvation at the moment) don't you? Yes, that's right; so that there's no pollution to damage the monuments! But burning your farm crop waste is the easiest way to get rid, isn't it? Never mind a bit of smoke here and there!!!

Isn't this fascinating? OK, suit yourself!

While we sat enjoying our tea (and Nescafe) and English cake, I suddenly noticed the Luxor Red Kite, just above us. As usual, I wasn't quick enough with the camera to get any really good pictures, this one's the best, though:

Our caleche mate, Ahmed, took us shopping from the NP, and then on to Karnak for some hawawshi and macarona. It's ages since we had it, and we really enjoyed it. It made me think of our great friend Sandra, in Lincoln, who loves hawawshi, but who's going into hospital today for an operation. Will those of you who pray, pray for her, and her husband too, please?

On the way back, I remembered to get the camera ready to take this next pic, which I've wanted to for ages, but always forget until we're past it. It's Luxor graffiti, and although I've no idea what it's supposed to represent, I think it's splendid!

Time for bed, bye-eeeee.