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?