Luxor, land of temples and tombs, is completely at ease with its tourist population…as long as the tourists buy their dodgy necklaces, suspect pashminas (um, from Peshwar?), faux papyrus or, perhaps, a glow-in-the-dark phosphorus pharoah. If you were Pharonically obsessed, you could even buy a t-shirt (Egyptian cotton, of course), screenprinted with a pic of your face superimposed on a pharoah’s head dress.
The city sits on the east bank of the Nile, where the Karnak and Luxor temples still stand, 2km apart, once linked by the Sphinx-lined road, the Valley of the Sphinx. That royal route was interrupted by Egypt’s most recent Muslim population, who built their houses between the massive sculptures. Most was cleared off to preserve the ruins, though a 13th century mosque still sits in between the two.
For two nights, we slept on the Dahabiya Hadeel, a new riverboat modelled on the elegant boats of the 1920-40s, with its wicker chairs, shady canopies and (very un-1920s) jacuzzi on the deck. The captian, Mustafa, prowled the decks in his sea-green gallibiya, asked mum if she’d consider being wife no. 2 (the current one has seven kids so it’s all a bit of a handful). Mother says no, but they’re quite a fetching pair.
The first day was spent in the Valley of the Kings, and can I say…I was disappointed? Spare me from the hate mail, but the combination of bad guiding, hot day and incessant rushing (if you spend thousands of dollars getting here, why do they rush you?) made for a less than impressive experience. There. I’ve said it.