Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Luxor—Searching the Nile….For Our Boat

February 5-6, 2010
By Claire

We arrived in Luxor around noon and were shown our room. I have to admit, I couldn’t believe we had sunk this low. It really is ghastly. But, the owner, Mahmoud, is very friendly and helpful, it’s clean and it’s only €10.

Our room

Balcony view


Happy land washing

I did something I don’t normally do, that is release control over planning our Nile cruise to a travel agent I didn’t know who was referred to me by someone else who was trying to be helpful. The price was definitely a factor—it was way more reasonable that any others. Communication with the travel agent, Maha, has never been great—most of her responses are as if she is texting me on a cell phone. I had so many other things going on getting ready for our trip that I just had to let it go. We finally touched based with her via phone and paid cash to someone she sent to our hotel in Cairo. We received a voucher with minimal information, like “Where do we find the boat?” I asked her this specifically in an email and her response was “Next to the meeting place.”

So, Mahmoud helped us by calling her and getting more specific information. He then wrote it out for us in Arabic and gave us directions so we could go in search of our boat and be able to find it in the morning. We headed off on foot.

We came to the Temple of Luxor—amazing and surprising. We didn’t expect to see it so close to the Nile. On we walked, mostly in the street since the sidewalks are crowded with overgrown plants placed right in the center of the walkway.


Remember the Customs Warehouse debacle? This was beginning to feel like déjà vu. We walked and walked, passing numerous Nile cruise boats, none of which were the Nile Jewel, our floating hotel for the next 4 days. We asked several Tourism Police who called other Tourism Police on their walkie-talkies and we walked back and forth and back and forth. One would say “Down three boats” and we would arrive there with no Nile Jewel in sight. We would ask another Tourism Policeman and he would say “Down four boats” the other way. Finally we found Tourist Information and a very helpful man ran out to find the guy who knows which boats go where. It was finally determined that ours was still on its way to Luxor from Aswan and will in fact, be next to the Conference Meeting Center.

My advice is this: Get a package tour and a decent hotel with transport to your boat. I mentioned this to Chuck who told me I would hate a package tour and he’s right; I hate the idea of traveling in a herd; but, occasionally, it sure would be nice to have the luxury of just showing up. We did have that all the way through Cairo and to Luxor. One of the issues about Egypt is that communication is really, really difficult. The other issue is the people. We enjoy meeting people and talking to them about their country and their culture. Not so here. They are quick to take offense and basically just want money from us. They are not particularly friendly, except for a very few that we have met, mostly hotel staff. The exception is the Bedouin who work for Mr. Peter in Bahriya and of course our guides in Cairo. It’s not a good feeling to be on guard all the time and we don’t want to be Ugly Americans but sometimes I feel that I have to almost be rude. The expectation for tips is just constant, and if that were not bad enough, we can’t get any small bills or coins! The ATMs spit out money in 100’s and 200’s and tips are 10 or 20. When we try to pay for something that costs 20 with a 50 they always ask if we have change. I’m not sure how this economy survives with it being so difficult. I don’t know how other people find change. There must be a way that we are unaware of. Maybe we should have found a bank to see if they could exchange some small bills for us.

We did have a surprising and good experience with a taxi driver. We walked a couple of blocks to a place where we thought we could catch a taxi to see the Karnack Temples since according to our guidebook and where we thought we were, the distance was over 3 km. A very nice man picked us up and told us it would be 5 pounds (about €.65). Chuck was digging for money as we drove off and the man was saying “No money, no money.” We assumed we were being scammed and it would cost even more. Not so. Two blocks from where we were picked up, we arrived at the Temples. The driver laughed and kindly took us to the door and refused payment. I guess he thought it was a funny joke on the dumb tourists who didn’t know how close it was. It was nice not to be hounded for money for a change. We walked through the useless metal detectors and non-operating x-ray machines to the vast complex. It was truly stupendous.

Metal detectors

Meanwhile, I woke up the night before with chills and Mummy Tummy. Even dressed in two layers of wool on top and wool leggings on the bottom, plus thick wool socks, I could not get warm. On top of that, the street where Happy Land Motel was located was alive with children playing, all night! Add to that, the stadium type lights and it was brighter than day. Friday and Saturday are the “weekend” days for Muslims and this was a Friday night but we just couldn’t believe the racket: screaming, yelling, pounding on something metal, laughing, plus honking cars and motor scooters. It wasn’t a good night, hence the inability to walk 3 km. to the Temples. Chuck came down with it a few hours after I did. We assume it was the lunch we ate—another story about a guy, Yusuf, who helped us find a place to eat then sat with us and questioned us and kept asking me for American money. I told him I didn’t have any then later got the impression he wanted money from any country so I handed him a Turkish coin. He was annoyed, exclaiming “I told you I want American money!” Chuck handed him a 5 pound note and we were out of there.

The good news is, we found our boat with the help of the taxi driver who Mahmoud had called and explained where we needed to go. The taxi driver found the spot then called out to someone to make sure it was the Nile Jewel. All went well after that and check-in was easy. Our room is nice enough, though not lavish. The bathroom—yes, that is one of the first things we check out—is really nice. And it’s good to have one close at hand as we are still dealing with whatever bug we picked up. We brought some meds and they seemed to help. We started with a probiotic and some kind of antiseptic that we purchased in Turkey from a very knowledgeable pharmacist. It seemed to help and I liked the idea of a probiotic. However, by the next morning, I turned to the big guns: a prescription from my doctor: Diphenoxylate. Either we were just about finished with Mummy Tummy or this one knocked it out completely.

Window view

Back to the package tours: we enjoyed walking around the Karnack Temples and I noticed some large tour groups, most of the people stumbling to keep up, with mouths ajar and glazed eyes, when the truth is, you don’t really need anyone. You can easily see this place on your own. Naturally, the police will let you into roped off areas for a price. We declined.

We walked back to our floating hotel and immediately lay down. We were both feeling shaky and were just dropping off when the phone rang. Apparently, there was a man in the lobby waiting for us for our 3:30 guided tour! Chuck went out to meet him—I decided I just wasn’t up to it—and came back a few minutes later to say that we have a private guide, included in the price of our cruise and we will be picked up at 8:30 in the morning. The travel agent kept telling me that all sightseeing was included but when we checked in, the reception desk told us that sightseeing was on our own, which is why we walked to the Karnack Temples. Once again, mass confusion and terrible communication. We asked what time dinner would be served and were told 8 pm. At 7:25 a man walked through the halls banging a gong indicating dinner time. Two different people told us the boat would be leaving the next day at 12 and 1 pm. Somehow, I’m letting it all go and everything will work itself out. We just got another call, this time from the man at the front desk telling us that there will be a complimentary tea tomorrow at 4:30 in the bar. I think we’re going to have a good time.

Sunset on the Nile

What a dump! ~ Bette Davis

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