Of course we missed the train to Luxor. Blame it on the rain. It rains in Cairo around six times a year – just enough to settle the dust and not enough to warrant bringing everything in off the roofs or balconies, which are the city’s junk and rubbish repositories.
The roads, which dip in the middle, filled instantly with mud, the traffic – already bad as it was Friday, the first day of the weekend – went into overdrive. A friend told me he spent five hours in the car yesterday, crossing the city for a business lunch. And my newly-arrived mum and I spent 40 minutes in a taxi doing what could have been walked in 20…
The train was there, we could smell it, taste it, but alas, not touch it, falling in a heap of bags and backpacks seconds after its departure, to be picked up by Ibrahim, the same super-schmoozy tourist policeman who had helped me buy my ticket a few days before.
So imagine his delight in scraping me, mum and our junk off the floor, to give me a dressing down. “What did I tell you about arriving half an hour beforehand?” he asked. “The rain, the rain!” we protested. He shook his head, but after an hour of idle chat, some string-pulling and promises of everlasting, non-marrying friendship, scored us the last two seats on the 12.30am train.
Which is why now, at 9am, we’re having our third cup of tea and watching the harvest from our seats as we trundle slowly toward Luxor and a week on the Nile.