Only in Egypt: Woe is me!

Only in Egypt! How many times have you seen that as a title for yet another ridiculous picture of an overloaded donkey/bicycle/ truck or bus? It's what I would class as a hackneyed phrase; overused and overly simplistic. Yet, here I am utilising the self-same cliché!

I'm confident, though, that you Dear Reader will indulge me. Many of you will have already been to Egypt, and will therefore have an idea of the hap-hazard 'rules of the road' in this topsy-turvy land. Those of you who are yet to have the privilege of visiting the Land of the Pharaohs; pin back your lug-holes and rub the sleep out of your eyess!

It's just very recently that I've realised one of the simplest of the 'Egyptian Rules of the Road', and that is that a driver is wholly responsible for driving into anything, but not at all responsible for anything that happens behind his direct (frontal) field of vision. Once this becomes clear, then a great deal of the stupidity (or that which we Westerners would view as driving stupidly) comes more into focus, and seems less stupid, after all. So, driving around roundabouts the wrong way, or pulling out into a major road without bothering to look first, becomes 'not my problem' (another very common Egyptian phrase). Like this:

Yes, we drive on the right here in Egypt. That's the left ear of our caleche hose in the bottom right hand corner, and a small car toodling along in the 'fast' lane. On the opposite carriageway, there's a tourist coach coming in the other direction, possibly from Luxor Airport, as it's the airport road that we're on. But, the next coach, right in the middle of the picture, above the car,  overtook our caleche a minute or two previously and is  now travelling on the wrong side of the dual carriageway! It's alright though, as it's big enough to see. As I said, "Only in Egypt".

By sub-titling this post "Woe is me!" I thought that I might pre-warn you of impending written 'doom and gloom'. (That's one of the Master Carpenter Jim Crow's old sayings, I hope you don't mind me referring to him yet again, but I still regularly imagine him looking over my shoulder whilst I'm attempting some woodwork!)

Honestly, why any sane person would contemplate living here is completely beyond me! It's like some sort of debilitating and incurable viral infection; once it's taken hold, there's no stopping it! And, as well as there being no cure; none of us sufferers want to be cured anyway.

(Sorry, that was just a little frustrated aside, and not a genuine complaint.)

So, back to the current woes! You'll remember the debacle of  Mr Hashim's 'tradesmen'? Well, to further the job, I decided to carry on myself. I set to with my lovely Aldi angle-grinder and equally lovely Aldi stone and ceramic cutting discs, and cut out the old shower tray and surrounding tiles:

Although I'd had the vacuum running to try and catch some of the dust, and was wearing a mask and goggles and a plastic bag over my hair and ears, the dust still managed to get on my chest. So much so, that the following morning I was struggling to breath and my chest was very painful. In fact, I was convinced that I was actually gasping my last, right then and there!! Of course I wasn't, and it turned out that I (again) had a belly bloated with wind,  which was pushing upward and interfering with my lungs; hence the pain and the difficulty in getting much air into them.) Anyway, it meant a day off.

I had almost decided to just persevere and complete the whole job myself, but reality kicked in when it came to chiselling out the concrete shower-tray base; I'm not young and energetic enough for that kind of hard labour any more!  

A female English friend and her husband are busy constructing a flat, and she kindly put us in touch with her plumber. He, eventually, landed with a 'boy' and the two of them spent two days with hammers and chisels digging out the whole floor and more of the bottom row of tiles, God bless them! They also helped me to move the electric water heater from where the new extended shower will be and into, the spare W.C. next door. (It really should have been in there in the first place!)

They came with a load of sand and a bag of cement, the man with the motor-bike-truck thing wanted 100le, but I got him down to 50. Seeing as he carried most of it up the stairs, I don't suppose it was all that bad. He looked pretty plugged by the time he'd finished.

The plumber, Ayad, and his labouring boy got the shower tray in place, and promised that their tiler (ceram-IQUE) man would be here "after tomorrow". That was three days ago, so we're not sure how many 'after tomorrows' he meant!

I'm sorry about the picture quality (sound familiar?) but I just don't know how to improve these, all the pics I've taken of the guest bathroom are rubbish, they're an embarrassment on our adverts too. It must be something to do with the camera settings, about which I haven't a clue! Anyway, you get the gist don't you?

I'm not being completely idle, mind you. I have been doing bits with the large and expensive pieces of timber which I've been acquiring for the stairs, and doing a great deal of thinking about how best to tackle that job. More about that on another day.  

Of course, all this is going on in the midst of irregular power cuts! Here's a shot of my beloved searching her pockets for her phone, which has a good torch on it:

It wouldn't be so bad if the temperature was in the normal range for May, but it's getting just too hot for comfort. In fact, Freda decided, yesterday, to move downstairs, as the A/C units down there are so much better than our own. Of course, that means moving everything else as well! 

The electric kettle down there hasn't been de-scaled since the last guests were here, so I part filled it with white vinegar and set it to boil, with the lid open, so that it wouldn't switch off automatically. That's a wonder cleaner that white vinegar! After a minute or so of letting it boil away, I switched it off and poured it down the sink; spotless!  After refilling it and boiling another couple of times, to get rid of the vinegar smell and taste, I poured the last lot into the sink just in time to get newly boiled water splashing all over my plastic sandalled feet! Lo and behold; the heat had expanded the piping below the plughole in the sink and it had come apart. There was water everywhere, as you can imagine! I've slathered silicone sealer all over the inside of the pipe joint today, and we'll see how it performs by tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm having to cart dirty dishes up and down the stairs in the scorching heat to be able to wash them, it's getting rather tedious.

Another catsafterme (Colloquialsim: catsafterme is Stan-Laurel-speak for catastrophe.) occurred yesterday as well. Freda was just about to step into the shower, when the water stopped! At first we thought that the water might have been cut by the powers-that-be (like happens regularly, apparently, on the Side of the Dead), or maybe a charming child of one of Dr Al Malach's patients had clambered onto the wall and turned off the main, which has happened once before, or possibly the water filter had become blocked? Armed with a screwdriver and a new filter, I trudged down the stairs. 

Yes, everyone else had water. No, the main hadn't been turned off. And, I would change the filter anyway, now that I was here.

I normally open the bleed screw for a few seconds, just to, take the pressure off the filter bowl before unscrewing it. I was mystified as to why, after about five minutes, the water was still emitting from the bleeder under a seemingly enormous pressure. Removing the screw altogether, I got a jet of water which bounced off the ceiling of the stairwell! The water was red hot! So was the water pump and the pipework leading away to the upstairs apartments. It seemed as though the pump taken a wobbler and had just gone on and on building up pressure without the actual water going anywhere, how could that be? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way.)

With much to-ing and frowing,  up and down stairs, switching taps and the pump on and off, it all seemed to be back to normal, the filter hadn't been ready for a change, but I've no idea what had happened. 

Only in Egypt? Who knows? What I do know is that it's still too hot for May, look at this:

That's what greeted me when I carried some dishes up the stairs this afternoon. You cannot get much closer to 50 degrees Centigrade than  that without it being 122 Fahrenheit, can you?

I'm off to luxuriate with my three and a half horse-power A/C! Goodnight.

Calling all plumbers!

I'm not a nasty man, I know I'm not because everyone (including my wife, even) tells me how nice I am! I hope that they aren't winding me up, as I do genuinely try to see the good in everyone and treat them accordingly. I want to treat tradesmen fairly, in fact I want to treat them generously, either here or in the UK.

After all; I've been there, done that and got the tee-shirt too, haven't I? Over forty years of self-employment, over forty years of trying to keep successive governments, in their various interfering, controlling and money-grubbing forms, off my back, over forty years of cow-towing to some of the most awful people, because they were customers, over forty years of doing without while other families were enjoying foreign holidays and riding around in cars that were painted all over in only one colour (instead of the "bitsa's" that I had managed to cobble together). And NO, I'm not bitter, that was the life that we (more or less) chose for ourselves and our long-suffering children, and we've all managed to come through in just about one piece. I'm only making the point that I do know what it's like to struggle for a living, and that knowledge and experience certainly colours my dealings with other people in similar or worse situations.

So, why is it that so many of the tradesmen I meet here try their level best to take me for a ride? Do they really believe that all "tourists" are that stupid, and that rich? Long-time Readers of this Blog might remember the running battles I've reported on which I've had with so-called "tradesmen", those who bluff their way around day-to-day as they baffle people who don't know any better with fancy sounding talk and twiddling a few knobs here and there! I'm sick to death of them!!!!!

Freda goes mad with me when I suggest doing any sort of improvements to our property; she's the one who remembers the frustrations and rows that we invariably have with either workmen or go-betweens or suppliers. (My failing memory just blanks out the unpleasant things, or so it seems.) Hence, I've become something of an expert electrician, even though I'm seriously colour blind, and a passable carpenter, even though I cannot pick up a saw or any other bladed tool without attempting to cut off a limb. I'm now something of a dab-hand at fitting A/C units, and kitchen design, manufacture and fitting.

You, Dear Reader, understand well that I don't want to be, or do, any of these things, I've done my stint "at the coal-face" proverbially speaking!

I've not been happy with the guest bathroom for quite some time, as you'll remember. The replacement of the old-fashioned pedestal wash-basin with the lovely counter-top sink was a vast improvement, in my opinion. But it wasn't enough!

At last, Ahmed Hashem (of the flashing teeth and perpetual 'flu) the owner of Hashem Tower bathroom and ceramic shop on Medina Street, has our "Ideal Standard Ultra Flat Shower Tray" and accessories in stock, and they are being delivered to our humble abode tomorrow!! (Insh'Allah.) I had the marvellous idea of asking him to provide the labour to accomplish the fitting etc of the shower tray and the tiling modifications which were required to accommodate it. Good idea? I thought so, after all, he must know the good tradesmen. And, he should be able to command proper prices (to which I would add a worthwhile bonus if the quality of the work warranted it).

Am I really as green as I'm cabbage looking? Mr Hashem duly sent his best man (Ayman) with a "professional" plumber and two tilers (who both looked as if they had taken the day off school, and with oily hair and vile baseball caps, to boot!) Between Ayman and myself and a few translatory phone calls to Mr Hashem, we all eventually understood what each of us wanted to get across, and the gang retired to work out their estimates and deliver them to Mr Hashem, whom I would call "after one hour".

He rang me, within a half hour with the awaited quotes. I was (well, almost) dumbstruck when I heard the price from the plumber, he wanted a month's wage for the hour or two's job of fitting the shower tray! "WHAAAT?" I yelled down the phone. Freda nearly jumped out of her skin, as she hadn't quite been prepared for me losing my cool with the man with whom we'd dealt amicably for the past 9 years. Following a slight pause, he came out with the price from the tiling children. It really was one of those "Richard Littlejohn Moments", when you just "couldn't have made it up"! These two little scrotes wanted two months wages to sort out less than four square metres of tiles!

I didn't dare to go and see Mr Hashem until the following evening, and even then I was still fuming! I couldn't accept the fact that he'd actually given me those prices, knowing us as he does. But, he passed it off as being all he could do. He had complained to both the "tradesmen" that the prices they were offering were far too high, but they wouldn't drop any lower, so much for wanting work, eh? I told Hashem that I'd rather knock the building down altogether than be held to ransom by these clifties.

So, unless you, Dear Reader, knows someone who is skilled enough to complete this task for me, and wants a week's accommodation in Luxor free of charge, then it looks very like I'll be adding becoming a skilled plumber and tiler to my list!

And goodnight Vienna!


Picture Book.

Now then, I'm sure that many of you will have enjoyed "Watch With Mother" when you were little boys and girls (I certainly did) before the advent of Game Boys and all the other mystifying electronic gadgets that the young'uns seem to waste their time with nowadays. And I'm equally sure that you'll now be thinking that "Picture Book" was on on a Monday, washing day, and not a Wednesday like we have here in the "Twilight Zone" which is Our Luxor! But don't despair, it's not of earth shattering importance, it's just that I've got a few recent pictures to share with you, and it's a Wednesday......OK?

We've been invaded again by pigeons! We came back here to a warning from our temporary caretaker (Coffeeshop Adam) that we were playing host to a nest of the dirty little beggars on top of one of our A/C's, but that we shouldn't disturb them as there were two fledglings just about ready to fly the nest. We, accordingly, left them alone as they dropped bits of nest fabric (twigs, baling wire and the like) all over the roof terrace, along with ploppings here and there. Then, the other day, I noticed that the adults seemed to have moved on, but when I looked properly; lo and behold the young were still there; and very still. They were, in fact, dead!

I got the steps (remember; selem kheshup...stairs wooden?) and a dustpan to shift the corpses, but they seemed to be well and truly stuck, somehow, to the top of the A/C cover. After taking down the cover, it became clear that their little feet had become entangled in the pieces of wire that the parents had used to build the nest, thus preventing them from their normal progression of flying away. Poor little things, there are no pictures of their pathetic little cadavers! Instead, here's a one of another cheeky blighter who was intent on doing the same on the top of the other A/C unit:

While we're doing our Johnny Morris (a sometime animal programme presenter on the BBC, years ago) bit, here's another animal, one which is very close the heart of one of our regular readers (and commenter):

The foal is Annabell and the horse is Edward, Ahmed the caleche-man and his nephew Bedawi can be seen at top left. I took the opportunity of snapping Annabell while Freda was across the road getting the bread, fresh from the baker on Madina Street.

A bit later on, I snapped the "Luxor Helter Skelter" again, as we neared home. I'm amazed that it came out so well, as the caleche was trundling along at the time.

After the indignity of having our A/C in the bedroom freeze up, we had to have the man out to see to it. It was short on Freon, apparently. (Why?) Here's the boy helper posing for a picture while he was replacing the one in the livingroom, which we had checked out at the same time:

And, I had almost forgotten, here's the mess they left behind!

Dirty beggars, like workmen everywhere; they hate to clean up after themselves!

Meanwhile, the ongoing saga of the guest bathroom goes on! (What a surprise there, then!) You'll remember, of course, that we bit the bullet and replaced the hand-wash basin and stand etc, which I do believe was a major improvement, but not quite enough of an improvement to really satisfy us! So here we are (now biting the heavy artillery shell) and finally replacing the shower cubicle. Of course, it's turning in to a saga all of its own! We could now easily find our way to the Ideal Standard shop of Ahmed Hashem, across in Madina Street, even if we were doubly blindfolded!!!!

Enough moaning, "I didn't get where I am today by moaning, Reggie!" (Another reference to long-gone British TV, this time a situation comedy, which will be lost on some of you, I know, but it tickles me, and I hope one or two others who might recognise the character). Here's the forlorn state of the guest bathroom today:

Yes, I know; it's a terrible picture, but up to my usual standard, eh? The new job will be beautiful. (Insh'Allah!) We took the mowgoff (Translation: 'bus terminus) bus from Sharia Karnak up to New TV Street and the plumbing emporium branch of Ahmed Hashem, to have a look at alternative bibet (the floor-mounted drain, as in the one next to the W.C. in the picture above) styles, and found a rather pleasant looking one, which we'll have in the new-look guest bathroom.

While we were there, we decided to have a butchers (Colloquialism; "butchers" is Cockney rhyming slang for "look", as in butcher's hook.) at the second-hand-man's burgeoning empire. He's now extended his stockroom space onto a second floor, which has recently been built, but doesn't have a proper staircase in yet! (See the third picture down.) A bit difficult to access, but what the heck? I think he's going into competition with "Cairo" (being the only place where we have been told certain articles are available) in the matter of cane and wicker chairs and tables.

 He's even set up a workshop (of kinds) where he has men repairing them!

That's all that I have for you at the moment, Dear Reader. But don't worry, as soon as I know anything; I'll pass it on.

Whale meet again! (Insh'Allah)


Well, that isn't strictly true, as you might guess Dear Reader. There's only the following little movie which I don't feel really qualified to comment upon, and I know what you're thinking, "That doesn't usually stop him!" So maybe I'll offer just a few words of explanation?

Anyone from "Oop North" (as those Southerners would call it) will have heard about the annual "Hoppings" held on the Town Moor (where the public hangings also used to take place) at Newcastle, yes? But I suppose that I should explain for those poor souls who do have to suffer living in the South (i.e. farther down than Middlesbrough.) The Hoppings is the biggest travelling fair in Europe, and the showmen have gathered in Newcastle, from all over the country, since time immemorial, to the general delight of the local populous. It's held whilst the world's tennis stars are all occupied at Wimbledon, and that's why it nearly always rains during Wimbledon fortnight; because the Hoppings MUST have rain to remain authentically disappointing!

My favourite attraction at the Hoppings when I was a youngster was the "Helter Skelter", it was marvellous rushing down those wooden runners sitting on a raggy piece of coco matting, and then getting a hot-dog and some candy floss! (Not forgetting, of course, the mud trying to suck the little shoes of my feet!!!!) Lo and behold, what did I see on my return to Luxor......(what I imagined to be) a lighted up helter skelter! There it is, in the short video above.

After rubbing my eyes, I realised that is wasn't an Egyptian helter skelter, it was the minaret of the Mosque in the in the local suq! Apart from being appalled, I'm not able to add further comment.

The above pic is what I thought minarets should look like.

Never mind, ours is not to reason why etc etc! I also came across a new hotel name the other day, although I wouldn't suggest that it's namesake should stay there:

The name has been added to the Queen's Valley Hotel. which is directly behind the Emilio, facing onto Sharia Karnak and the Sphinx Avenue.

One more picture to go, and here it is:

OK! Two more pictures. (I feel like Michael Palin in the "Cardinals" sketch):

Do you know what these pictures are? They're the air intake of our bedroom A/C unit........blocked by ICE!

Freda was sitting on the bed with her Kindle, and I was in the livingroom, doinmg something important (like eating?) when I was disturbed by her shouting through that the "note" of the A/C had changed. Of course, being the ever vigilant husband that I am, I immediately went to her aid. On removing the filter, which hadn't been cleaned for a while, I must admit, we could see that the heat exchanger was a funny grey sort of colour through the grille. Thinking it was more of the furry stuff which collects on the filter, I removed the front of the unit (using one of my recently acquired new tools from Aldi) to find that nearly all of the exchanger surface was covered in ice. What a turn up for the books, eh? After letting it alone to melt for a while; it seemed to be working again quite normally. (I did check the operation of the unit, and found that it blows four tenths of a degree colder when the fan is on "low" than it does when it's on "high", I'll bet that surprises you, eh?)

I think that's enough boring news for tonight, don't you? TTFN.     

Kindness in adversity.

Just another short one tonight. I'll get this in quickly, in case we have another power cut! We've already had 4 today, three were for more than an hour each, and the latest one, at 11pm was only for 15 minutes. It wouldn't be so bad if "Yours Truly" wasn't such a dumbbell!

We'd almost come to the end of watching an episode of New Tricks (for the foreigners among you; it's a British crime drama about retired detectives re-examining unsolved cases for the Metropolitan Police) the crime was solved and there was about a minute left of some awful jazz singer. So no harm done there. As expected, I thought, "Seeing as we cannot go to bed", the bedroom being too hot because the A/C hadn't been on, "we'll put a bit of time in by having a nice cup of tea." Of course, I immediately realised what I was thinking, and that it was impossible as we have no other way of heating water other than by electricity. "We'll just have some hot chocolate, instead." Another case of "You couldn't make it up", I think.

It's not only us who are suffering, though. All the other inhabitants of Luxor are also experiencing these cuts. It does seem rather odd, mind, that they have only reinstated since we returned from Windy Nook; there hadn't been any for weeks, while we were away. One of our friends commented today that it would be better if they cut the electricity during the night, then people wouldn't really notice. Even when I remarked that doing so wouldn't actually save any electricity, he still didn't click!

Apart from the current daytime temperatures being in the high 30's or low 40's, and not having A/C being very uncomfortable, the next worse factor, for us, is that we do all our cooking with electricity as well! (I bought a small gas cylinder and ring, for emergencies such as this, but the extreme heat seems to perish the rubber seals and I just don't trust it.) This knowledge was perhaps in Adam's mind last night, when he announced that his wife would cook for us tonight. Although he's sometimes a bit of a pain regarding certain things, his heart is in the right place.

The power cut finished at about 6.40pm, and the doorbell rang at 7.15. Up the 83 stairs came Adam's eldest son with the large tray, laid with our feast:

Two bowls of steaming lark's tongue soup (no, they aren't really bits of small birds) three decent sized chicken breasts (fragrantly spiced), rice with vermicelli, salad and my favourite; potatoes. There was enough to put some in the fridge for tomorrow, I'm looking forward to that, I can tell you!

I do like living among people who are so kind!

You couldn't make this up, really!

The power of the written word?

You'll remember this:
"I was horrified to see that the recently closed and abandoned Oum Kolthoum Coffee Shop (in the middle of the tourist souk) was now becoming a dumping ground for everyone's rubbish,"..............from the last posting, do you? Well, I happened to pass there today while returning from the bakery behind the Temple, and I noticed that all the rubbish had been carted away!

What do you think, Dear Reader? Does this mean that there is actually someone in power in Luxor who is reading my Blog, and has taken heed of my complaint? It's a bit worrying if that really is the case, I'd better watch my tongue/pen/keyboard in future, as I don't want to be thought of as a trouble-maker or dissident of some sort.

The exact opposite would be nearer the mark, though. I'd actually love to make even the tiniest difference when it comes down to removing any of the obstacles which might be stopping tourists from returning to our blighted little backwater of a town. The build-up of filth and rubbish is often cited as an off-putting feature of Luxor, so I'm delighted that this has been removed from the tourist souk, at least.

Onward and upward, eh folks? Goodnight.

Hello strangers!

I know, I know, it's me who's the stranger, really. It's just that I've been boring boring boring these past few weeks, not much of interest doing at our home in Windy Nook and cleaning cleaning cleaning here in Luxor since we returned during the night on Tuesday, at about 01.00.

I've been catching up on the various Luxor Forums (I'm only a reader now, sadly) and notice that there's been a few goings on here; like a meeting with some big-wig and ex-pats to suggest ways of making Luxor seem tourist friendly once again. Some hope! And like Mrs Akshar reporting on the discovery of 50 mummies over on the Side of the Dead; as if that was going to bring the masses flooding back.

In fairness, though, I can imagine a fair number of (vaguely) interested people coming to have a look at the new discoveries as part of their holiday, as well as those whose main purpose in coming is to view the marvellous antiquities, which are readily on show here in abundance, in the flesh so to speak, but cannot be found anywhere else in the world. These more 'specialist' travellers and Indiana Jones look-a-likes will always want to visit Luxor, along with the usual suspects; the 'Egyptophiles' of various sorts, who just cannot keep away.

I believe that the mass British tourism which Thomson Holidays, Cosmos and their ilk encouraged will not return to Luxor for a long time, if ever! There are other, less complicated, destinations to suit their requirements of sun sand and booze. Not that I'm knocking sun sand and booze in particular, or the folk who look for those elements in a holiday, but Luxor has never been, and in my humble opinion will never be, a suitable place for that sort of vacation.  (Extreme heat and alcohol being a very unhealthy combination, especially in a country where the vast majority of the indigenous population view strong drink as an instrument of the devil!)

The last thing I want for Luxor and her inhabitants, is for people to come here and go away home with bad memories of bad experiences which spoiled their hard earned annual holiday. After all, the first thing they do on returning to good old Blighty is to moan to their friends and associates about how dirty the place was, how 'in your face' the touts were, and how they were 'ripped off' at every opportunity, plus the additional warning that no-one should give the place a second thought when considering a future holiday. Mind you; I do know of some (normally quite sensible) Egyptians who believe that it doesn't really matter what visitors think about how their compatriots have treated them, as long as there is a transfer of money from the tourist to the Egyptian. They firmly believe that the number of people who are willing to suffer this ill-treatment in order to see what Egypt has to offer, is inexhaustible! (And so it would have seemed up until recently, seeing as travelling people have been complaining about the same things since Roman times, at least!)

Of course there are many other aspects to Luxor which a great number of us have grown to cherish beyond almost anything else! These are the reasons why a multitude of English (and other Europeans) either live here for much of the year or hope to do so in the future. (These are quite apart from the few foreigners who come hoping to find lurve!)

We cannot claim, nor would we, to be seasoned travellers; having not ventured further afield than Western Europe before stumbling across fabulous Egypt,
and neither are we blind to the host of faults which our chosen second home has! Even after experiencing the splendours of Marrakech, with its clean streets, fabulous architecture and hospitable tourism workers, we still wouldn't prefer to live anywhere else.

Although I was horrified to see that the recently closed and abandoned Oum Kolthoum Coffee Shop (in the middle of the tourist souk) was now becoming a dumping ground for everyone's rubbish, I also realise that this behaviour (as much as it disgusts people like you and me) must be acceptable in the overall scheme of things where the Egyptian descendants of desert dwelling nomads are concerned. It tickles me that locals hate to see you trying to photograph piles of rubbish, and will stop you if they can, but they won't do anything to clear it away or to stop people actually dumping it there in the first place! "Not my problem!" Like so much in Egypt, this particular situation defies logic!

In the same way, most of the street traders, shop and restaurant owners and hoteliers whom I know are horrified at the antics of a tiny minority of the local youth and/or several of the caleche drivers (I won't say caleche men, as many of them are now only children) as far as their insulting demeanour and dishonest dealings with foreigners go; they stand by, watching it happen, but don't lift a finger to intervene. I cannot fathom it!

Nevertheless, all is not lost! Whilst these phenomena are real and indisputable, they do not convey the full story of wonderful Luxor. These are only the horror stories which the dissatisfied holidaymakers take back to their home countries and which are subsequently splashed all over the newspapers and TV shows, "DON'T GO THERE!" they scream. But, in reality they're only a perception, and a perception from someone who had no idea of what they were getting themselves into in the first place! Someone who expected this third-world country to be like a poor UK (with sun) or a more heavily populated version of the Mojave Desert, perhaps.

Something that really amuses me at times, (I know it shouldn't, but I cannot help it!) is to read of complaints about the hassle or whatever which have been written by "experienced travelers" or the "well traveled", i.e. those who think they should be well able to cope with the machinations of a few simple-minded foreigners. These tend to be the ones who do not succeed in getting much benefit from their time here in Luxor, in short; they get eaten for breakfast! They didn't realise that the ability to milk every last penny from someone is firmly implanted in the genes of their swarthy-skinned nemesis, even when he is coming across as someone with whom they don't want to deal. They come away feeling 'conned' because they've spent £10, or a few more dollars, on a papyrus picture or an alabaster jar which would have cost ten times as much in their home country! (For fans of a certain ancient comedic TV programme: they would also have been wondering where the Watney's Red Barrel was to be found!) Dis-satisfied customers are the death-blow for any enterprise, be it a newsagent on Old Kent Road or a country like Egypt; no-one wants them, in reality.

Over the years that we've been here, we have always tried to give our guests as much advice as we possibly could, before they actually set foot in Egypt. I still remember our initial visit (being our first trip to a really foreign country, we booked a complete package with Kuoni) and being shocked by almost everything we came across. I was so pleased to have been 'sheltered' in the way that tour groups generally are. Mind you, we both very soon realised that this was only the beginning of our love affair with Egypt, and that we would come to terms with the 'strangeness' of it all if it was the last thing we did!!!!

It is now one of our greatest joys to see our guests (who prefer to travel independently) thoroughly enjoy their holiday simply because they've taken to heart some of our advice, which has equipped them to by-pass most of the possible unpleasantness which can sometimes lurk in the most unexpected of places.

So, Playmates; we've (Freda and I) come to the conclusion that the Egyptian (Luxorian in particular) culture, which so many complain of, is highly unlikely to change any time soon, and neither should it; it would no longer be Luxor! We have realised that the only sensible way for us to cope with the daily trials it presents, is for us to adapt to and/or circumnavigate the attitudes and situations which are too far out of our current comfort-zone. So far, we're managing reasonably well and learning every day. If we can pass-on a little of that experience and learning to our guests; then it has all been worthwhile, but if they won't listen, then do we really want them to come to Luxor at all?