January and February 2006 – Egypt
Hello. Unable to hear the word ‘felluca’ without flinching we decided to take one of the small cruise ships that journey up and down the Nile between Aswan and Luxor.
Good little backpackers that we are we weren’t going to take the first price offered. There are scores of ships of varying comfort docked in Aswan and the easiest way to get a cheap trip is to walk on and ask. Walking the length of the corniche we asked the same question dozens of times: “How long is the trip? Where do you stop at? How much?”
The answers varied a little but typically the cruises were for three nights and two days, stopping briefly at Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna. Our trip cost US$85 each including all meals.
Coming down from Cairo on the train had been an ordeal of broken seats and noisy swinging train doors, but going back up the Nile on that ship was fabulous. None of those clever sneaky buggers that wanted to empty our pockets could get on. The boat was mostly populated by Norwegians (or Danes?), also enjoying the seclusion a cruise ship could offer.
The Norwegians were enduring the unusual phenomenon, for Norwegians, of being hated across the land due to the controversy that resulted from the prophet being insulted in cartoons published in a Norwegian newspaper. They travelled with an armed guard and pretended to be from Iceland.
Reluctantly leaving the ship, we tramped around the spectacular sites that Luxor has to offer. Luxor Temple could be viewed from outside, the challenge in doing so was finding an angle without the McDonald’s sign in the background.
The massive Karnak complex is worth a couple of visits, by day and night, while the Thieving Metropolis, sorry, I mean Theban Necropolis, takes a couple of days to cover in full.
The cheapest and most flexible way to do this is by public transport and walking allowing you to decide how long you want to stay at each sight. After walking to and around the Valley of the Kings we were among the last to leave and missed the last bus. In the approaching dark, the taxi drivers outside told us we weren’t allowed to walk back. Yeah, yeah, nice try pal, heard it all before.
We walked for about two minutes before getting a big shock from the local police that the cabbies were actually telling the truth. In 1997 58 tourists and four guards were killed close by at the Deir el-Bahri temple near the Valley of the Kings. For our own safety, the twinkly eyed Major Taba gave us a lift in the cab of his police truck.
After a short while we picked up more policemen from their posts and gave up our seats to get in the back of the truck with around twenty policemen. I entertained them all with my ‘in handcuffs’ impression, which didn’t go down well.
The next day we saw the Major again at another temple and for a small sum were offered, without the Major’s knowledge or consent, an AK47 assault rifle by one of his policemen for a photo opportunity. The thought of how much of a prat I’d feel every time I would look at that photo led me to decline.