Wednesday 14 January – Luxor, Egypt
Michael is unwell today – something has bitten him on the hand (not the snake he apparently saw at Karnak yesterday) and it has swollen painfully. So the planned itinerary was altered.
We started on the west bank with the remnant Mortuary Temple of Merenptah, who was the thirteenth son and successor of Rameses II – the old boy lived to such an advanced age that his first twelve sons predeceased him. Despite fifteen seasons of work and the establishment of a small museum by the Swiss Archaeological Institute, this is not a charismatic site. There is little to see, and most of what there is, is kept under lock and key in sheds. A most contrary ‘guardian’ kept changing his mind about whether or not we could take photos. Fed up with this sort of arbitrary nonsense from these idiots, I pushed past the dreadful man and went outside to await the rest of the group.
Reaching the Tomb of Ay involved a couple of kilometres’ trek up a valley just to the west of the Valley of the Kings. The exercise, while warm, was welcome. We were (quietly) allowed to take photos in the tomb, which was well worth the visit.
Lunch at the Marotonga Restaurant (chicken, babaganoush, tomato salad, rice and vegies – the classic Egyptian menu, but good for all that) was dominated by humorous speculation of the likelihood of the Mina Palace Hotel still being standing by the time we returned.
Ever since our arrival in Luxor, we had seen evidence of the widening of the Corniche and the wholesale clearance of buildings along it. Ostensibly the reason was tied up with the excavation of the Avenue of Sphinxes between Luxor and Karnak Temples. Rumour suggested that the real reason was to allow for the construction of new five-star hotels in the centre so they could relocate from their current positions at the edge of the town.
Early in the day we had felt a tremor as a building adjacent to the hotel was demolished in a single detonation, and Mike and Patricia were concerned that their bookings at the Mina Palace for their next tour in mid February might not be honoured, as it was scheduled for demolition in late February, hence the joking.
We returned to the Mina Palace in the mid afternoon to discover the power had been disconnected and we told that we had one hour to pack up and depart! No amount of appealing to the tourism police (why do they even bother having them?) would change matters. Apparently the Prime Minister was due to visit Luxor in a few days and had let it be known that he wanted to see the Corniche cleared, so that was that!
We were bundled off to the nearby Emilio Hotel (at more than twice the price, but with marginally better plumbing). Patricia coped magnificently, as Mike was still barely conscious. After checking into the Emilio, the tour party regrouped to decide the next step. Most were OK with the added cost, but David and Anita needed a less expensive option so had a look and checked into a nearby place, Nefertiti Hotel, a few streets away in the souk. Wandering past later in the day we met the proprietor who was very friendly, and it looked OK.
Patricia stayed in to work and tend to Mike; the rest of us adjourned to El Kebaby for dinner (beef and okra tagen/tagine). Naturally discussion turned to the day’s events and to the standards of building safety generally in Egypt. Chris mentioned that a professional building safety specialist had been on the first tour he’d done and had been horrified by the hotels then. We noted the omnipresence of fire extinguishers (this seems to have been the main item checked by the river police before we were permitted to leave Aswan on the felucca).
We joked that fire safety standards at the temples may be lax; I suggested that as the temple guardians were all wearing towels on their heads, perhaps they were in fact well equipped and prepared for fighting conflagrations! Anita and David’s sense of humour seemed to have come through intact.
The Emilio was noisy throughout the night; it transpired that there was an incredibly loud belly dancing establishment just around the corner from my room; also a lot of street noise, and the air-con, even at these prices, isn’t working. A move is in the offing!