Peter in the Valley of
the Kings on the left and Anne with friend in
one of the temples
Our holidays can
generally be divided into the relaxing, the more
adventurous and the experiences.
Egypt in 2005
fell into the latter category. It was one of those
holidays we were glad to undertake, but not sure that we
ever want to repeat.
We found Egypt a
sad and even pathetic country, struggling with its
identity and poverty and clashing with the bright and rich
European way of life.
largely means either Cairo, the Red Sea resorts or for
most people a cruise along the Nile. Our holiday was the
latter. For a week we lived on a "cruiser" and
we use the word loosely. Perhaps a sailing barge might
have been a better description. The vessel carried just
over 60 passengers, was advertised as four star but in
reality should have struggled to make two stars.
And we soon found
out that there was an horrendous clash between the wealth
of European visitors and the abject poverty of the
Egyptian people that manifested itself in aggressive
begging at every twist and turn.
A short walk off
the main road of the towns we visited was a real eye
opener. While vast efforts have obviously gone into making
water front areas such as a Aswan and Luxor bright and
smart, you only needed to walk a few hundred yards to find
squalor and filth and that's where the Egyptian people
It is difficult
to criticise the Egyptians for trying to make the most out
of tourism, but it is also difficult to accept the feeling
of corruption that hangs over what seems to be an
immensely sad country.
I have a theory
about the problems that exist. The need for begging
obviously comes from the extraordinarily low rates of pay.
A police officer receives no more than £20 per month in
wages - hence the fact that they continually ask visitors
for handouts. But there are more underlying problems than
tourists' pounds and dollars come into the country every
year, but it seems that virtually none of this goes into
improving the country's infrastructure or the lives of the
people who are left to beg or sell virtually worthless
My real theory
surrounds the clash of religions and the reason for
tourists coming to the country which is simply to see the
historic sights. This brings a problem in itself. The
country is obviously deeply religious with the majority of
people following the Moslem faith. There are also a
minority of Christians. Visitors will be largely Christian
or non religious. But the draw of the country is the pagan
temples, monuments and burial chambers of the Pharoahs.
That poses a
large problem as I assume the Egyptian people see these as
pagan symbols that have nothing to do with their religion.
Places where vast sums of money have been spent on
restoration and discovery and places that "rich
tourists" come to visit. But these monuments are only
of historic interest and I would hazard a guess that most
Egyptians have a contempt of them.
word contempt comes high on my list. Under a very thin
veneer of being hospitable people, the Egyptians are out
to "fleece tourists." They continually tell you
what a friendly, welcoming people they are only, in the
next breathe, to try to rip you off with some worthless
souvenir which they pass off as being the "real
I know that many
travellers enjoy haggling to knock prices down, but in
Egypt this is totally false. It becomes a rather boring
game of "we know what price we are willing to pay and
you know what price you are willing to sell at so why are
we going through this charade?"
Every village and
every town has its own bazaar (or should it be bizarre?).
Most have many and large cities have hundreds. They are
all the same - tourist traps. The only difference is that
the selling methods in some are more aggressive than
Guides talk to
tourists about "having time for shopping." But
this isn't shopping as we know it. You cannot undertake
the good old English game of browsing. And making eye
contact with the "shop keepers" is fatal.
Tourists are continually pestered and the result can be
either buying a bag full of souvenirs that you just don't
want or buying nothing - even when you set out to do so.
See a shop where
you like the look of the scarves or T-shirts and before
you know it you are being offered models of cats,
decorated stones, cigarettes and just about everything
else imaginable that you have no intention of buying.
After a few days
of this you do get used to saying no in quite strong terms
but it is all very offputting. At one point I ended up
buying a shirt for £8 that I was later told was worth
only £2. I paid up simply to get out of a bazaar where I
was being physically manhandled.
I was fortunate
as we were later told that tourists had at times paid £50
or more for items just to get away.
Once we were off
the boat we became "fair game" for the salesman.
During a short half mile walk along the front of the Nile
at Luxor we were offered horse and cart rides, taxi rides,
boat rides (both sail and motor), cigarettes, old
newspapers, sunglasses, souvenirs. And the annoying thing
is these "salesmen" (and they all are men) will
walk alongside you whilst you are in conversation,
continually offering you goods and services that you don't
want. Taxis will happily do U turns in the road if they
think they have a chance of a fare.
And when you do
want to avail yourself of a service, the problems can
really start. In Aswan we wanted to find a way of going
across to the local Botanical Gardens on a nearby island -
a short boat trip from the mainland.
Unable to find
any kind of official ferry we were approached by a typical
Egyptian offering us a boat trip. On the surface he showed
all the traits of the so called friendly Egyptian. He
smiled, spoke relatively good English and seemed genuinely
friendly. We agreed a price of £8 to take us to the
island, wait for an hour and bring us back.
This seemed a
simple transaction. But firstly we had to go part of the
way on a boat laden with rubbish. We then had to clamber
through another boat to get to his which was moored just
off the mainland. On arriving at the island we were told
he would wait for us. This he did (presumably as we had
made no payment).
We were back in
the boat after an hour and subsequently back at the
mainland where our genial host began to turn nasty. Having
completed his service he pointed out that our agreement
was just for one hour and we had gone into two and started
demanding the equivalent of £15 and then a tip on top. So
started another round of haggling, but this time as we had
already had the service I wasn't in a very strong
position. I envisaged that if I failed to pay up a number
of his "friends" might suddenly appear and the
whole thing would have taken on an ugly appearance.
Eventually we came to some kind of agreement and we paid
up and made off as quickly as possible.
And that was a
trait of the Egyptian character I certainly didn't like.
Whilst trying to sell you a service they were almost over
the top with their politeness and friendship. As soon as
the bargain was struck they gave you the goods and ignored
you and moved on to the next "victim". If you
refused the friendly smile was replaced by a glum
expression and a much more aggressive demeanor.
Before and during
a sale it was "my friend" this and "my
And they all
seemed to have the same line of patter. There must be a
school or institute that offers degrees in fleecing
tourists. One particular purchase (and we didn't make all
that many) went something like this.
We stopped in a
small town which consisted of bazaars and piles of stone
and little else. Anne wanted a pair of sandals. So we went
into one shop where we felt we wouldn't be subjected to
being sold straw donkeys and statues of the Pharoahs.
how are you. You are Engleesh. I like Engleesh my friend.
My friend what do you want?"
would like a pair of those sandals."
At this point she
picked up a pair of pink ones.
you offer my friend."
expression came over his face. The same one we had seen
countless times before.
these sandals are £88 Engleesh."
"£88 - my
entire wardrobe of shoes didn't cost that," replied
my wife who is a cost conscious Yorkshire woman."
friend. As I like you. I will say £50 Engleesh."
replied going back to the starting point.
do you want the shirt off my back?"
for the sandals and shirt off your back," I wanted to
say but of course he was only speaking in jest (or was
replied like some old stuck record.
tell me what your lowest offer is?"
Well this seemed
a pointless question
At this point my
wife did what she usually does and dropped them on the
floor and started walking off. This usually leads to them
running after you for more negotiation. It can also make
them angry, but we at least seem to have a more laid back
Anyway to cut a
long story short we got them for £3 before he tried to
sell us shirts, scarves, cigarettes, bottled water and
many other things.
On the way back
to the boat I asked Anne how much they would cost in
"Oh about £2.50,"
she said with half a grin. Yorkshire people don't like
being diddled out of 50p as many of you will know.
scenario was typical. But whereas there was some fun in
this situation with the shopkeeper happy with his £3 and
us happy with our "bargain," there was a much
more sinister side to all this.
The streets were
not only full of beggars, but we were continually
approached for money and not just by the "poor."
expected payment for every service, however, small. They
approach you and ask if you want directions and then try
to gain payment and the worst scenario came in the shape
of the local police. In the botanic gardens one almost
dragged us aside to show us an orange tree and then asked
for baksheesh or a tip.
At one point our
boat had to negotiate a lock in the Nile. We were leaning
over the rails to have a look at the mechanics when an
armed policeman caught our eye.
welcome to Egypt. You Engleesh."
"My name is
Mustapha what is yours?"
And then came the
main and only reason for the conversation. The guy wasn't
interested in our names or welcoming us to his country.
"You give me
pound or dollar."
Our response was
to move away from the rail of the ship. And to me that's
what's so disappointing about Egypt. You aren't allowed to
go anywhere without being pestered. And the friendship is
totally surface deep.
It's almost as if
they are trained into how to con tourists. They all adopt
the same tone, the same voice. And of course if you gave
money to all of them you would need a permanent cash card
machine in your handbag.
came in a perfume shop where we were given "true
Egyptian hospitality" i.e a glass of weak mint tea,
whilst we listened to the salesman talk about his perfume
which mirrored all the great British, French etc, but
without alcohol. He proved this by setting fire to
deodorant from an aerosol can. Of course containing
alcohol it caught fire (rather dangerously I thought).
But his perfume
had no alcohol as he proved by trying to set light to it
we have the worlds great perfumes here without the alcohol
which dries the skin and causes health problems."
unknown reason he insisted on using an Arabic word "habeebie"
(or something like that) which means darlings.
call you this because you are my friends. I hope you don't
"We are his
friends as opposed to all the other coach parties whom he
quite obviously doesn't like as much as us. We are the
chosen ones," was my thoughts on this one. You can
probably tell that I work in marketing.
And then came the
hard sell. Buy presentation boxes of perfumes and get
special dispensers free. Seemed like a good idea,
particularly as the perfumes passed round were extremely
aromatic and strong. So we decided to buy four small
bottles in a presentation box.
pitch. He smiled, took us aside, put his arms round our
shoulders and called me darling! And when he thought that
perhaps a tad familiar he changed to Sir or a combination
of both. Oh at this point his voice lowered and he seemed
very very sincere.
Sir, Friend. Just think my friend how much better value it
is to have the medium size where you get twice as
much of our lovely perfume."
And I bloody fell
for it hook, line and sinker. Perhaps it had something to
do with the fact that we were late for lunch and my
stomach was doing cartwheels or perhaps it was more to do
with the fact that I'm a pushover (although after going to
Egypt I'm becoming less of one). But I agreed to supersize.
But still he continued.
Friend have you considered going for the large size which
is so much better for your money."
Our money at this
time would be approaching £100. But there was a get out.
but our coach is waiting and we were due back at our boat
20 minutes ago, so I'll stick with the medium," I
Now I felt I had
conned him, despite the fact that he had still managed to
get me to size up from small to medium. Nevertheless this
was a small triumph in the history of haggling for the
Steward clan. So that's what we did.
The perfumes are
now at home - three of them and some peppermint essence
which we were told was very good for colds and baths. And
certainly in the shop it unblocked the passages. Sadly the
perfumes seem to last for less than an hour and the
peppermint seems to give off no apparent smell. A bowl
full of it diluted, resided on a table in the middle
of the lounge a few days ago, giving a delightful aroma to
a Saturday evening (not). Actually I thought it was an
empty dish and spilt most of it on the carpet on the way
out of the lounge when I picked it up and swilled the
water over the side.
you had a bowl of cold water on the table," I asked
peppermint stuff we bought on holiday?"
"Oh sorry I
should have known by the smell."
So we were left
with the feeling that the entire Egyptian population was
trying to con us tourists. I have to say in their defence
that if you are prepared to stand your ground you can get
some bargains. The shop on the boat was delightful. A real
bazaar of tat and pointless souvenirs but great fun and to
get an entire Egyptian national costume for £8 really was
a bargain and will keep me going in fancy dress outfits
Also in Luxor we
found two delights. The first was a five star luxury hotel
where we were stopped from having a look round by a
doorman on the grounds that we were wearing shorts (what
else do you wear in temperatures of 40 degrees?) and
weren't staying there. But he did direct us to a
delightful terrace overlooking the Nile where we were
allowed to drink afternoon tea, even in our shorts!
Presumably because we were paying money to do so. I can't
help thinking that the doorman was missing a trick here.
For once we were asking to do something and he could have
charged us for a guided tour!
Then there was
the nearby department store where prices were clearly
marked and non negotiable and where a large sign told
tourists exactly what they wanted to hear namely
"Whilst our staff are friendly and helpful they are
not allowed to importune you. Please ask them if you need
help." We were so pleased at not being hassled that
we spent more money in this store than in all the bazaars
put together. And it has to be said that it was also more
And there I feel
is a lesson for the Egyptians. Leave us Europeans and
Americans alone to browse and you will sell more than with
your high powered timeshare style tactics. We want to have
a look round your shops, decide ourselves which ones to go
in and not be pressured into buying things we don't want.
We want to be able to look to the side and not walk
straight through bazaars keeping our gaze straight ahead
and being fearful of catching any eye. We want to be able
to ask for help and directions without being expected to
pay for it and, above all, we want to be left to make our
But as I have
already said there is a much more sinister underlying feel
about all this.
One of our trips
was to a Nubian Village and in visiting places such as
this you have to suspend belief. I use the word village
loosely as there is no resemblance to the concept of a
European village as we know it.
It is more a
conglomeration of huts, shacks and crumbling stone
buildings. Of course the entrance to the village is via a
bazaar especially set up to capture the tourist trade. The
centre of the village is a square with ramshackled housing
and rooms leading off in every direction. Our guide had
told us about village life, marriage and other facts of
Egyptian life. But he had spoken in European terms and the
reality was very different.
When we were told
that a family or individual buys an apartment bit by bit -
adding to the shell with windows, then tiles and
eventually furniture as and when it can be avoided we
visualised the process in European terms. But what happens
is the shell is added to with new rooms in a
higgledy-piggledy style that looks like a giant carbuncle.
certainly no attempts to tart things up for the tourists.
Sadly the locals lived in hovels and there was a certain
menace about it with armed police accompanying us. It was
certainly no surprise to hear on our return to England
that tourists had been killed in incidents in Cairo. In
the village we were subjected to begging at every twist
and turn from children who couldn't have been any older
than four - terribly sad.
And whilst these
people suffer the authorities continue to bring in the
tourism money. Perhaps the whole thing is summed up by the
fact that on entering the country you have to purchase a
visa for £10 each at the airport. To do this you have to
fill a form in on the plane and then, stand in a huddle
which passes off as a queue to have the Visa stamped onto
your passport by a man at a small window. This man takes
no notice of the form handed to him whatsoever ,neither
does he check the passport. It is purely a way of
obtaining millions of pounds from tourism from people
trapped into the system.
But enough of
that side of things. What about the temples and monuments
etc? Well they are impressive and largely unspoiled. There
was something eerie and powerful about an evening visit to
Karnak Temple with the moonlight shining through the great
Here follows the
journal of our Egyptian travels which was written at the
time and edited from my diary entries.
March 28th, 2005
Day one of eight
in Egypt and the first impression of this African country
is one of culture shock. The plane departed at 9.40 a.m
from Gatwick and the journey took 4 hours and 40 minutes.
As we touched down at Luxor Airport it was 28 degrees.
Our first taste
of Egypt was quite unpleasant as we had to join a rugby
scrum to get a visa which was simply a excuse for them to
take £10 a person from us. There appeared to be no system
whatsoever and visa cards we filled in were just ignored.
Purely and simply they just wanted our money. At least
there was no problem finding our coach as there were
plenty of Discover Egypt reps.
The journey to
the boat took just 15 minutes and the vessel was in a
promenade style area. The first impressions were that it
was dingy to say the least. It had none of the comforts we
have been used to on cruises. Our cabin was adequate with
twin beds, a shower and a toilet where you cannot flush
the paper down. You have to use a water jet to flush. How
unhygienic is that? Our cabin is also at water level.
We were feeling
very tired by this time and so went onto the sun terrace
and read for a while and had a pleasant beer. It was then
time to get ready for the evening meal. Earlier there had
been a welcome meeting for everyone in the "bar"
- a room with a wooden floor and school style hard seats.
In the restaurant
we were shown to a table (again school refectory style).
Food was buffet style and a real mixture of meat and fish.
It was acceptable. After the meal we returned to the sun
deck, although it was now dark and cool. The sun went down
very quickly and it got quite chilly.
29th March, 2005
The boat sailed
during the night as we awoke to different Nile scenery.
Many people on the boat said they hadn't slept due to the
smell of diesel, the noise of the engines and going
through a lock. I had no problem sleeping, but then rarely
Breakfast was a
good mix of meats, fruit, omelettes, etc. We then left the
boat for the first time with the party divided into two
groups - Pharoahs and Ramesis (how corny). Each had a
guide and each a coach.
We were at a
place called Edfu , 71 miles south of Luxor and 65 miles
north of Aswan. It has a population of 56,000 and was an
important sacred site to the Egyptians because according
to ancient myth it was where the falcon god Horace fought
a fierce battle with his uncle Seth who had murdered his
father Osiris (no happy families there then).
The temple of
Horace in Edfu (pictured above) was buried under sand and
silt for nearly 2,000 years and it is the largest and best
preserved Ptolemaic temple in Egypt. Construction began
under Ptolemy III in 237 BC and the main temple complex
took 25 years to complete.
the main street of Edfu on the way to the temple was
another culture shock. The streets were full of bazaars
and rubbish and most of the population seemed to be
sitting around on the pavements.
From the entrance
the temple looked like just two large pieces of stone, but
when you got inside the scale of the building took shape.
It was most impressive.
To get back to
the coach we had to go through a bazaar where the selling
was very aggressive and I took great exception at being
manhandled and pulled into one of the units. It resulted
in me paying £8 for a shirt and later finding that the
price should have been around £5 for two. It was an
unhappy experience and not one I wish to repeat.
We were back on
the boat for lunch and then an afternoon sailing along the
river and watching the agriculture taking place along the
banks. During the afternoon I sat on the sun deck
re-reading Rebecca. There was a very long welcome meeting
in the bar which was more about rates of tipping than
anything of use.
The boat docked
at 6 p.m at Kom Ombo. It seems to be a relatively small
town and at 7 p.m we took the short walk to the temple. It
was a much warmer evening and we were able to have a good
look round in relative comfort. Were back on the ship for
an 8.30 p.m dinner which was followed by a "cocktail
party" although the cocktails were foul. There were a
variety of games as well which helped make the evening
It was an early
start at 6 a.m for a 6.30 a.m breakfast ahead of a morning
tour which started at 7.30 a.m. The first stop, before the
heat of the day took over, was at an unfinished obelisk
and granite quarry. The obelisk was designed to be the
largest in Egypt but developed a large split and has been
left there for eternity.
The next step was
the Temple of Philae which was on an island reached by a
short boat trip. After the building of the new Aswan Dam,
the island's temple was partly submerged. With the
building of the modern dam the monuments were re-located
on the new island of Agilika which was landscaped to look
like Philae. The main building is the Temple of Isis.
So far our tour
has looked at myths and legends rather than pure history
and I find that rather disappointing - you can have too
many stories of family wars, spirits, omens and gods.
After a long look
round the temple it was back to the boat and then onto the
coach. Whilst we waited for the coach we were continually
pestered by tat sellers trying to offload their rubbish.
We drove across
the old Aswan Dam and stopped at the new structure with
the Nile on one side and the Nassar River on the other.
Then it was on to a Papyrus Institute which was very
interesting with a demonstration of how the papyrus is
made. It was only a short journey back to the boat and a
much needed rest before a Felucca ride.
Feluccas are sail
boats - many of which have seen better days with rips in
their sails. At times we had to be towed by a motorised
vessel due to lack of wind. We were entertained(?) with a
typical Nubian song which was followed (not surprisingly)
with the sale of souvenirs. Also we were constantly
hassled by youngsters in home made rowing boats insisting
on singing "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain"
in broken English, obviously thinking this to be a
typically English song. When we jokingly told them we were
French thy changed their tune to Aloetter (sorry not sure
about the spelling of that one). They seem to have a song
for every country. I wonder how they would have done with
the Czech Republic? Of course it's all a carefully
designed rouse to extort money. But how much are they
likely to get from English tourists by singing an American
to the boat and the evening meal we were entertained by a
dance troop who were surprisingly good.
Sadly there are
so many things to dislike about Egypt. The haggling and
selling is not haggling but aggressive and never ending
preying on tourists. As soon as you stop anyhere you are
approached. As soon as you make eye contact you have
somebody begging for money. If you change direction
somebody spots this and asks you where you want to go or
offers you a taxi ride that you don't want. The concept of
walking to enjoy the atmosphere seems to be completely
alien to them.
finishes with a plea for money and it makes
everything so difficult and at times thoroughly
unpleasant. In the bazaars you cannot stop to look at
anything, your space is continually invaded. We might have
bought a number of items but just couldn't face the bloody
hassle. Don't these people realise that their constant
hassling is counter productive, that it puts visitors off
rather than attracts them.
Today we declined
the trip to Abu Simble as it set off at 4 a.m. So instead
we had breakfast and decided to go for a walk along the
Nile as we were in Aswan. We were offered taxis, falucca
rides, carriage rides, cigarettes, out of date newspapers
and just about everything else. You name it and they try
to flog it to you. You cannot ask directions without them
asking for payment or what they call backsheesh (a tip).
I feel that there
is an obvious resentment towards tourists. I probably earn
as much in a week as they earn in a year and that is
terribly sad. But there is such an underlying contempt in
their attitude when they are pretending friendship to sell
their goods and services. We went through a bazaar and had
to walk straight ahead, trying desperately not to gain eye
contact and looking at goods only when we saw other
tourists engaging the sellers.
We wanted to go
to the botanical gardens which were on Kitchener Island,
just across from the mainland. But the problem was how to
get across to them. We couldn't find a ferry, but were
approached by a guy with a boat and started the ridiculous
haggling process. He said he would take us for 80 Egyptian
Pounds (about £8) and he would wait for us. That sounded
reasonable. Again he started the bargaining at a
ridiculously high rate and we started at a ridiculously
Top left the sands of
the desert are reflected in the waters of the
Nile. Top right is Philae. Bottom left a Nile
scene and bottom right the Nile at sunset
We had to clamber
across three boats to reach one piled with rubbish
(what if he kidnaps us and takes us off to live like
Egyptians we thought!!) Then we had to change boats to get
on his and he dropped us off at the island. It cost us £2
to get in and £2.20 for two cans of coke! As tourists we
were being fleeced left, right and centre.
The gardens were
unspectacular but pleasant. Event there a police officer
tried to show us some seeds and then asked for a tip. The
police seem to be as corrupt as everyone else. You get
used to ignoring the demands as they are constant. We
agreed to meet the boat at midday. He tried to drop us
back at Viking III to save us walking in the heat. It
wasn't his fault when he got the wrong Viking boat but
what happened next once again underlined the culture of
the Egyptian people.
Above are scenes from
the Botanical Gardens at Aswan and below the
Before and during
the trip he had been chatty, all smiles and pleasant. I
had intended giving him £10 to include a tip. This would
have been a reasonable amount as we were told the average
monthly wage was about £20. When we got back his whole
persona changed. He wanted £8 for each of the two hours
and then he asked for a tip on top. I ended up shelling
out the equivalent of £15 which made the trip no longer
good value. The phrase stitch up came to mind as he began
to get nasty and threatening with phrases such as "my
friend I need to have a word with you."
It strikes me
that they are all full of smiles and false friendship
whilst they are trying to sell to you, but once they have
got you their whole attitude changes instantly.
We walked back
via a park area which looked pleasant. When we were trying
to find the entrance we were immediately approached by
another Egyptian pretending to help us when all he wanted
was money. I think at this point I was finding the entire
Egyptian race rather loathsome.
After lunch we
set off for a Nubian village. This was dreadfully sad and
I was at a loss as to why we went there. Our guide seemed
totally bored, the village resembled a heap of rubble -
filthy and squalid. We got the boat over whilst some of
the party went part way on camels. It was just too hot for
that. Whilst in the village it was quite obvious that we
were shadowed by armed police (presumably for our own
safety). We were given coca cola to drink and bought some
very cheap souvenirs, but the place was a total shambles
and gave no insight into the Egyptian way of life which I
presume doesn't normally involve selling coca cola.
As we left there
were woman and children as young as three begging. To get
to the boat we had to negotiate another bazaar. Begging
seems to be so normal that they are brought up on it. As
far as I could see they were given no money whatsoever by
a party of English people who had been de-sensitised to
the whole procedure.
Back at Viking
III we had a much needed cup of tea on the sun deck and
then set off for the return journey to Luxor. After the
evening meal there was a treasure hunt which included
myself doing an Elvis Presley impression (something I
vowed I would never ever do). Here and now I re-state that
April Fool's Day
and a day spent mainly sailing. After breakfast we sat on
deck watching the Nile pass by. Eventually arrived at Esna
(better known as the city of a pile of bricks - sorry my
name for it). It has a population of 55,000 and is
described in one guide book as "a sleepy farming
town" which is certainly not how I would describe it.
As we walked into
town there were more and more beggars and the squalor
increased. Grotesque hovels are the words that sprang to
mind. Where does all the tourist money go? Again the
locals professed friendship but only when they were trying
to sell something. Once again you couldn't make any eye
contact and we are finding it all very tiresome. Anne did
buy some sandals where the guy started at £88 English and
we started at £2.50. As soon as he sold them he changed
from being "our friend" to ignoring us. Up until
that point he had been our best mate Mahmood. We gave him
a Norfolk Constabulary pen which seemed to leave him less
than impressed (I thought these were valuable sought after
The boat was due
to set off at 1 p.m but it was 3.20 p.m before it got off.
Esna was more interesting from the boat where the noise of
the calls to prayer on this the holy day mingled with the
traffic and local noise.
travelled very very slowly and we had to wait for some
time firstly to get through a bridge and secondly to get
through the lock. The locks are guarded by police and we
accidentally made eye contact with one of them who
promptly asked us for money.
The evening took
the form of a Galabaya party where we all dressed up as
Egyptians. I am pleased to say that we didn't behave like
them, however, and not once during the evening did we ask
the crew for money or tips. We had bought two complete
outfits at the small shop on the boat. It was a pleasant
The latest trip
started at 8 a.m and as we awoke we realised we were back
in Luxor at our starting point. First stop of the day was
at Luxor Temple where we had half an hour with the guide
and then "free time. Then went on to Karnak. The two
were very close.
dedicated to Amun Ra the Sun God and King of the Gods and
along with Abu Simble is the most popular temple in Egypt.
It was vast and extraordinary.
Of course we were
pestered all the time and offered rubbish. Most of the
morning was spent at the temples before we decided to go
on an optional visit to a perfumery. Whilst being quite
interesting it was another con. We were promised exact
copies of the world's top perfumes but without the
We were offered
hospitality in the guise of tasteless drinks whilst we had
to listen to salesman banter. The salesman seemed friendly
and knowledgeable but then, of course, came the sales
pitch and the offers that were just too good to refuse.
We decided to buy
perfume in a gift box for presents and plumped for the
medium size, but of course he told us all the advantages
of having the large. The only advantage I could see was to
his pockets. I could only think "Oh here we go again.
His voice lowered, he put his hand on my shoulder and the
rest as they say is history. The free gifts promised
turned out to be nothing like we expected and he even
asked us what we thought of the Egyptian people's friendly
nature. Of course I lied.
We were back at
the boat late for lunch and after eating we decided to
have a walk along the promenade with the usual pleas of
"do you want a falucca/taxi/ferry/boat/newspaper/film/cigarette
etc etc etc."
We tried to have
a look in the five star Winter Palace Hotel but were
refused entry because we were wearing shorts. I'm sure a
couple of quid would have got us in but I wasn't playing
those sorts of game. We were of course allowed to take tea
and coffee on the terrace where we would be spending
money. I have to say that it was still cheap, however.
Apparently one of our party had got into the hotel to look
round. Jackie had gone round the back and through the
tradesman's entrance. We didn't have that much cheek!
Close to the
hotel was a wonderful old fashioned department store
resembling Grace Bothers from Are You Being Served? It was
wonderful because the chairman had placed a large sign
just inside the door stating that his staff were not
permitted to importune customers. We bought a number of
things there simply because you were left in peace to make
purchases. Then we walked back to the boat and went to a
five course gala dinner.
Almost half of
the boat seem to have picked up a stomach bug which is
hardly surprising due to the lack of sanitation. After the
meal we were almost herded into the bar for a display of
belly dancing featuring a rather portly lady who produced
more of a belly flop than dance. Some of the female
passengers had made a much better attempt in previous
evenings. And we soon realised that the belly dancer and
her musicians were doing dual bookings when they waved
goodbye, gathered up their things and ran out presumably
to a nearby boat. Often boats are moored five or more
abreast along the quayside and to get to yours you have to
walk through numerous others.
The best trip of
the holiday by far as we travelled to the west bank for
the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. It
was very hot and tiring but well worth the effort. It was
our last full day in Egypt. The holiday has been an
experience but I can't say that it has been hugely
enjoyable thanks to the constant hassle which is only
relieved when you are on the boat.
Above left is Karnak
Temple and on the right is the Temple of Queen
Above on the left and
right are two views of the Valley of the Kings
We had an early
start with breakfast at 6 a.m and then on to the coach at
7 a.m for the journey to the west bank. It took about half
an hour and first stop was the Colossus of Memnon at
Thebes. These were 60 ft high partially preserved statues
of Amenhotep III. Today they are faceless and the tomb
they guarded has gone, but they are still an impressive
It was only a
brief visit there before moving on the Temple of Queen
Hatshepsut which looked very much like a modern building
but was certainly not. It was three tiered with a mountain
background and a small train took us to it from the coach
park. During our one hour look round we had the same
problem of being continually approached for money. One
Egyptian pointed to a wall painting of a cow, uttered the
word "Milk" and held his hand out for payment!
At least there
was some humour in the bazaar as we heard phrases such as
"I know you. I went to school with you" and
another one wished everyone a "Happy Christmas"
They also seem to think that British people walk around
using phrases such as "How Now Brown Cow,"
"Hi-de-hi" and that old favourite "The Rain
in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain." Personally can't
remember the last time I used any of those (apart from in
this diary of course).
The temple itself
was very interesting with some of the mosaics having
retained their original colour. On the way back tot he
coach Anne wanted to buy some cat figures. We got all the
"I am a good
man my friend - better than Allah" and "You hurt
me my friend with your price" We stuck to our guns on
the price offered and once again when we tried to walk
away the friendliness and smiles suddenly vanished and
turned into something much more sinister. We got short
changed as well and there was nothing we could do about it
as they wouldn't listen. As a result of all that we were
the last back on the coach.
It was a short
drive through the desert and shanty towns to reach the
Valley of the Kings which, not surprisingly, was very
busy. Our ticket gave us access to three tombs but not
that of Tutenkhamun which was extra. We decided to pay an
additional £14 to see this most famous tomb of all.
Virtually nobody else on our tour bothered with it which I
found rather strange.
When we got to
the tomb there were absolutely no queues and only about
five people in it. So it was straight down some steps to
the burial chamber. There was of course an Egyptian man
pointing out the obvious and asking for money!
The visit took no
time at all but it was one of those "I've been
there" moments. Other tombs were much more crowded
and that of one of the Rameses (not sure which one) took
about 20 minutes to snake down a long corridor to the main
tomb. People were getting hot and bad tempered by the time
we got there. We then visited two lesser tombs which were
nevertheless very interesting and we only just made it
back to the coach in time for departure.
It was then off
to the Valley of the Queens which was much less
impressive. There we visited two smaller tombs and by that
time we were very hot and tired and glad to get back to
the air conditioned coach and the half hour drive back to
the boat which took the time to 12.45 p.m.
After lunch there
was a departure meeting which was more of a run through of
whom we should tip and how much. After that sat on deck as
we couldn't face walking through the salesmen again,
although we did go for a short stroll later in the day.
The evening trip
was another "con". We were picked up by coach
for the five minute journey to the Karnak light show. The
tickets cost us £15 each. When we got there we found
tickets were on sale for £5 and the distance was easily
walkable. So we paid £10 for a coach journey of less than
one mile! The light show was rather long and drawn out and
at times confusing despite being in English. It consisted
of standing around for half an hour and then walking
through the temple while columns were lit up and actors
voiced some of the history of the Pharoahs.
It ended up with
everyone seated overlooking the "sacred" lake
for what seemed ages. That was the boring bit. I have to
say that at times amongst the massive pillars, gazing at
the night sky, it was almost mystical. You could imagine
the power of the place in centuries past. It was good
viewing it all in the cool and with everyone together in
the same place and walking in the same direction.
As we left the
whole show was being repeated again in French. They do
four shows a night in different languages and must make a
fortune which I presume goes again into the government's
coffers and not into the country's infra-structure. It was
subsequently well past 10 p.m before we had finished the
And finally back
to civilisation (thankfully), although first there was a
final day in Egypt to negotiate. I think most people on
the boat have had enough of it and there are a number of
bugs flying about. It will be strange to return to a
country where people in the main treat each other with
respect and are not constantly trying to con each other
out of money (apart from all those annoying cold selling
telephone calls of course).
We faced a long
and stressful journey to get back home and coupled with a
hot cabin and a sleepless night, neither of us felt 100
per cent when we got up. Got packed before breakfast and
paid all the bills and there was nothing to do until lunch
at midday. We decided to walk to the luxury hotel and have
another cup of tea on the terrace. It was a half-an-hour
walk and we got all the usual hassle.
Had an enjoyable
cup of tea as we were left alone and then returned to the
boat for a leisurely lunch. The coach for the airport left
at 1.45 p.m. The journey took 15 minutes but it took us an
hour to get the bags through check in. The departure
lounge was typically Egyptian. There was no order or
organisation. It was dirty, crowded and unsanitary and the
public address announcements were drowned out by a video
of Egypt they were trying to sell, which somehow seemed
typical. People seemed completely confused about flights
and it rather summed the entire holiday up.
We were back in
Gatwick by 9.15 p.m but even then there was a small
Egyptian legacy. When the bags came off the conveyer they
were filthy and battered!
travelogue is dedicated to the people of Egypt in whatever
way they wish to take it. I feel extremely sad about the
country and its future. Shortly after arriving home there
were news stories about attacks on tourists again in
This to me is the
essence of the Egyptian psyche. The country has many many
problems that money alone cannot solve. I am concerned for
The travelogue is
also dedicated to my fellow passengers on Viking III and
particularly the amazing Frank (Francesco) and his partner
Pat, sisters Katie and Louise and the delightfully
eccentric Jackie. Frank will never know just how
entertaining he was on the boat. Born in Tenerife, he is
at present applying for British Citizenship and kept us
greatly amused with his British accents. Frank thought
that he could do impressions of cockneys, Scots and the
Welsh but they all sounded like broken Spanish. Good luck
in becoming a marriage councillor Frank and thanks for
making us laugh, the UK needs more people with your sense
And finally to
the Egyptian salesman who when trying to con us stated
that we could trust him because he was not a clefty. I'm
not sure what the word clefty means, but it does sound
like an apt description.