1001 Nights - Stories of Traditional Handcrafts from Egypt

History of Garagos Pottery and more ……….

Posts for Tag: valley of the kings

Sunday 4th March 2012 - Hooray - We Make it to the Valley of the Kings!

This morning the alarm goes off at 5:30 AM. The driver Mahmoud is due to pick Lou and Bev up from their hotel at 6 AM this morning. Peter calls Mahmoud who tells him he will be at the hotel shortly. At 6 AM Peter phones Mahmoud again who says that Louis and Bev are now with him. They tell us they are fine and ready to set off. We keep in touch with them until we know that they have 'finally' made it through the checkpoint – which thank heavens they did! We decide to get a few more hours sleep before getting up.

At 8:30 AM we get up and go for breakfast and then sit in the hotel foyer waiting for them. During this time Peter makes more phone calls to check their location. At about 9.30 they arrive at the hotel. We greet them and invite them all into the hotel for a cup of tea before we start the days excursion. We sit out on the terrace and let them take in some refreshments after the 3.5 hour journey. I then take Lou and Bev down to the bottom of the hotel grounds to show them the view over the River Nile. I point out the Theban mountains and tell them that this is where we are going to go first. 

I advise a toilet break to everyone as the toilet facilities cannot be guaranteed once out of the hotel. We set off in the car with Mahmoud and head out of Karnak into Luxor. There is still a light breeze today which I'm sure we will be grateful for once we reach the Valley of the Kings. We drive down the Corniche and head out towards Awamia, passing the Sonesta Hotel on our way. We tell them that they won't see scenes like this along the red Sea coastline - this is the real Egypt. After we cross the bridge over the Nile Peter explains that the West bank is the gateway to the amazing Valley of the Kings. The east bank of the Nile is the city of the living. Luxor and Karnak temples greet the sunrise. The sunset on the west bank throws shadows over the City of the Dead - the Tombs of the Nobles, the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut’s temple.

The first stop is at the Colossus of Memnon - this is only a quick photo opportunity especially as the hassle from the souvenir sellers is too much - very persistent - even when Peter tries to intervene.  

We get back into the car and continue our journey into the Theban Mountains. We can see how much more excavation has been done behind the Colossus of Memnon. Several statues that must've been laid flat out during the earthquake, have now been re-erected and are standing vertically once more.

We drive past Carter's house sitting on top of the hill overlooking the mountain. In front of us we can see old Gourna village and the last few remaining houses sitting on top of the necropolis. We tell them about how families have lived there for generations and have made their living from robbing the tombs that lay beneath their houses. We then tell them how Hassan Fathy the famous Egyptian architect was commissioned to design and build a village to rehouse these local people.


To the right of us we can see the Ramuseum and in front of that some mud brick granaries. We drive down the winding tarmac roads that takes us up into the mountains and then down into the valley. When we get out of the car we are surrounded by men and children trying to sell as postcards, statues, anything that they can. Again the hassle is still quite full on. We walked through a small selection of shops selling the usual tourist items and then head into the museum entrance where there is a model of the Valley of the Kings. Waiting for us on the other side are small carts that will drive us further into the valley – and again more souvenir sellers trying their best to make a sale. One young boy climbs onto the front of the vehicle we are sitting in – I can see that Bev finds it difficult to refuse the children. We have already bought a pack of postcards. As the carts set off the boy is still clinging to the front of our vehicle. Eventually he gives up and jumps off – returning to the entrance for the next batch of tourists.

Once at the ticket kiosk we decide which tombs we are going to see and the man in the kiosk recommends the tomb of Tausert. Tausert was the Queen and last pharaoh of the 19th dynasty. We also decide to visit the tombs of Ramses the third and Ramses the fourth. The man also tells us that we must leave any cameras we have with him. I said that in the past you used to be able to take photos outside of the tombs and he said not any more. He said that he trusted me as long as I can my camera in my bag he wouldn't take it from me. Oh well I said to Bev - it's not just about the photos!

We walk up the incline towards the first Temple, although not hot by any standards at this time of year, we really begin to feel the heat. We go into Tauserts Temple which is really quite impressive. Peter does an explanation of the paintings. There is a sarcophagus at the bottom of the tomb. The Guardian of the tomb starts to make conversation with Peter. I ask what he wants and Peter tells him that he thinks that he knows him from somewhere. Shortly after he tells Peter that he can show us something special. He waits until the other tourists have left the tomb and then takes out a torch and shows us an inscription underneath the lid of the sarcophagus. I'm not quite sure what secret this was as we had already seen tourists coming in with their own torches and looking at this inscription. Anyway, with this we feel obliged to leave him a tip.


We go into the tomb of Ramses the third – I'm not able to do this tomb justice in my description but this link does a better job.


After this Louis and Bev go into Tutankhamen's tomb – you have to pay extra for this ticket and Peter and I have already seen it so we wait outside. The tomb itself in comparison to some of the others is not as outstanding in terms of its wall paintings and it is also quite small. I think any visit to Tutankhamen's tomb must also be done in partnership with a visit to the Cairo Museum to see the treasures that the tomb once held. This is the point at which you will become awe inspired. It is just incredible to imagine that such a small, unassuming tomb would have held such amazing treasures – but especially in such large volumes.



We then go into the tomb of Ramses fourth. The photo from the Flickr website was clearly taken by someone before the ban on camera's onto the site.


The heat has rather exhausted us so we go to get the little train back to Mahmoud. An old man selling statues of Bastet the cat god. He approaches us making miouowing sounds. The same children also come towards us but there is little energy left to humour anyone.

We make the short journey on the carts back to the car park where Mahmoud is waiting for us. We now leave the Valley of the Kings and make our way to Queen Hatchepsut's Temple. We don't have time to visit the temple but just wanted to show Lou and Bev what it looks like from the outside and maybe a quick photo opportunity. (By hook or by crook I will keep everything on schedule!)  Mahmoud parks the car and we get out to have a look. It isn't long before a man in a uniform comes over to us and tells us that we are not allowed to park there without paying. He tells us we are not allowed to take photos either. Things have really tightened up in the tourist spots and not necessarily for the better. We wonder if it is because over concerns of security. Peter is more cynical and says that it's more likely that after the police were humiliated during the revolution they feel they need to come back strong – it's a matter of pride!

We get back in the car and head away from the valley passing numerous alabaster factories on the way. We head back down to the Ramla - Peter has already phoned Osman to ask him to arrange a motorboat to take us back across to the east bank of the Nile. By now we are in need of refreshments so decide go to Ramla on the Beach again. Shortly after we arrive, Osman meets us again and comes to join us for a drink. When we arrive we see Hamada with a couple of tourists from our hotel - they use Hamada to drive them every time they come to Luxor. It's good to see that after introducing Hamada to Osman and Ramla on the Beach he is already bringing tourists back – that's how it works here!

We drink tea and Cola. Louis notices some of the birds that are flying across the Nile and names some of them – he used to be a Park Ranger so is familiar with wild life. Osman tells him he is very knowledgeable about birds. Earlier Louis had broken his sunglasses and the sun is very bright and asks if there is anywhere near to buy some new ones. Osman offers him his sunglasses and Louis declines the offer, but Osman insists. Louis puts on the glasses – these aren't cheap ones either. I must say that many Egyptians, or more specifically those that work in tourism come in for a lot of criticism about only thinking about money. We have been to Osman's cafe twice in the last two days and on neither occasion would he take money for our drinks. I think it's true to say that in general most tourists will experience the negative side of Egyptians working in tourism and have a real battle on their hands trying not to get ripped off. I'm sure that it's because of Peter that I have mainly experienced the kindness and generosity of Egyptians. There may be a business motive behind this on some occasions but Peter is well liked and trusted by people and this counts for a lot. 

A motorboat draws up on the edge of the Nile. As we walk closer we see that the driver of the boat is Abu Halawa. Osman takes the wooden plank from him and helps us onto the boat one by one. We wave our goodbyes to Hamada and shake hands with Osman and thank him for his hospitality. As we leave the west bank, Abu Halawa hands the rudder of the boat to Peter who steers us (under the direction of Abu Halawa back to the east bank. I remind Abu Halawa of the photograph that I took of Peter and him all those years ago and take one more for posterity. 



We arrive at the jetty and disembark the motor boat shaking hands with Abu Halawa. We climb the steps to the Corniche where Radwan is waiting for us in his carriage. I can't believe this excursion is going so well and to plan and still on time – especially after yesterdays fiasco. Peter introduces Lou and Bev to Radwan. Lou decides to take the seat up front with Radwan so I hand him the camera to capture the ride around the town. Radwan tells us that his wife had a baby girl – during our last trip he told us that he had recently got married and was expecting a baby so it was great to hear his news. We begin our drive around Luxor. We take a quick drive through the souk and then pass by Luxor Temple. Radwan drives us down the wide open roads around the back of Karnak Temple. This is a bit of a relief after the tight squeeze going through the souk.

Radwan is a qualified guide and furnishes us with interesting information about the temple. We stop at the recently excavated avenue of sphinxes where we take a couple of photographs of Lou and Bev. We then continue our journey to the entrance of Karnak Temple where we say goodbye to Radwan and his horse Sabrina.

We spend about an hour in Karnak Temple, we are lucky there are only one or two groups of tourists in there – lucky for us I mean as I know it is difficult for the people that are trying to make their living from tourism. Lou and Bev walk around the scarab three times – this is supposed to be good luck. This is only a whistlestop tour – you really need at least a full day in Karnak Temple to take in it's wonders .  

It's now about 4.00pm. We decide that we are now all more than ready for something to eat so make our way over to the terrace of the Aladdin Restaurant next to Karnak Temple. We are approached by a couple of souvenir sellers who have armfuls of pharaonic statues but after the experiences throughout the day nobody has the energy to put up resistance but we just continue walking. As we approach the restaurant Peter seems to have lagged behind. When we turn around we see that he has stopped to talk to the souvenir sellers. We stop and wait for him thinking that he will soon catch us up but he is clearly in deep conversation with them. We decide to leave him to it and go and find a table on the restaurant terrace – this provides us with some great views over the Nile.  

Mahmoud has now joined us again and is shortly followed by Peter who is carrying a number of objects – 4 pharaonic statues. He lays them out on the table and asks Lou and Bev to choose which one they want. They select one and Peter then asks them to choose another. I detest fake pharaonic statues so before Peter gets any ideas of bringing them home I push the remaining two statues towards Lou and Bev – we will already have problems juggling our luggage allowance on our return journeys but Lou and Bev are delighted with their gifts. 

We all enjoy and lovely meal of mixed grill, a range of salads and pizza's. I also enjoy my first beer since arriving in Egypt which went down better than I could have imagined!

I know Lou and Bev are a bit nervous about missing the checkpoint for their return journey after their experience the day before but Mahmoud assures us that they are OK for time. I say that we can make our way back to our hotel ourselves but it appears that Mahmoud came with a large package from Ehab in Safaga which we need to take back to Garagos – no problem after the efforts he went to to arrange Mahmoud for us.

Mahmoud drives us to the Sofitel where we say goodbye to Lou and Bev. After a quick freshening up in the room we make our way out into the hotel grounds to watch the sunset. We walk down to the edge of the Nile where we watch kingfishers hovering and swooping on their prey in the river. Sitting on a mooring rope of a dahbeya sits a cattle egret. Its white feathers flutter in the breeze as it sits vigilant and patient, waiting for a far more generous prey than what the kingfishers are willing to accept. 


The sun begins to set behind the Theban Mountains and its orange glow spreads itself across the Nile - West to East. It begins to get chilly and midges are now coming out in full force.  

We go back to the room, and have a bath and a cup of tea. What an exhausting day. Before we call it a night Peter makes a final call to check that Louis and Bev are safely back at their hotel – which they are. They've had a fantastic day and we're thrilled that we've been able to show them a bit more of Egypt than it's beautiful beaches. Hopefully we've given them an appetite for Egypt and they will come back again.

1st October 2011 - Farewell to Garagos

We sleep in late again today. My body clock is just beginning to adapt to the late nights and late starts – usually I’m an early person. We plan to return to Luxor later. Peter has arranged for Hamada to come and pick us up. It’s always difficult saying goodbye. We had hoped to visit Hagaza a nearby village that is famous for its beautiful wooden hand-crafts. We will leave this until our next trip.

Tahani has prepared breakfast for us. As we break into our freshly boiled eggs Tahani begins to talk to Peter about her concerns for Michael. I don’t want to talk about this family issue but Michael and their hopes for him getting married is always a topic of discussion for his mother or his father with Peter.

Ehab, Margreet and the twins arrive. I know Margreet loves having Ehab at home but I guess she feels that as soon as Ehab has arrived back in the village it very quickly time for him to return to work in Safaga.

Peter’s father comes back from the farm with a bunch of freshly pick Molokhia (Jews Mallow). Again this is something that I also find an acquired taste but here’s recipe in case you’re interested:


Peter’s father now continues the conversation about Michael – poor Michael – his ears must be burning! It’s an age old situation – parents with concerns over their children – whatever their age.

Sara and Susanna entertain us with some belly dancing. I video them and then download the video’s onto the netbook for them to watch – a game that could go on forever!

Sometime after midday day we get a call from Hamada that he is in Garagos but has got lost somewhere. Several phone calls later, Peter goes out to find where he is. The village is like a maze and it is easy to get disoriented. Mr Riad comes to say goodbye to us and sits and waits with us until Peter returns with Hamada.

As is the custom, Hamada is invited into the home to drink tea. As he enters Peter’s father greets him with “Alf Salam”. Hamada declines tea but accepts a glass of water.

Shortly after our bags are carried to the car and we say goodbye to Tahani and Alfons, Mr Riad, Ehab, Margreet and the twins. Other family members are in the street waiting to wave us off. We have to reverse back down the narrow street - just before Hamada arrived, a local man with a donkey and cart selling vegetables stops near the house to sell his wares. This street is only wide enough for one car so it requires some navigation and co-ordination to reverse without scraping against the wall of a building.

We wave goodbye and I can understand how difficult this is for Peter’s mother and father. They miss him terribly and I know they want him to stay in the village instead of returning to Luxor.

We drive out of the village and back along the canal that feeds water to the land. We see boys jumping from a bridge into the canal and I begin to think of the swimming pool that waits for us back at the hotel. As we draw nearer to Luxor Peter tells me that Hamada is going to take us straight to an alabaster factory on the Westbank – oh well – when in Egypt – just go with the flow!

We drive into Luxor and then back out on the Movenpick Road towards Awamia. Eventually we get to the bridge that takes us over the Nile onto the Westbank – much quieter and more agricultural than the East bank – but also full of amazing wonders.


We drive until we come across the amazing sight of the Colossi of Memnon. Unfortunately the photo I take is from a speeding car so not my best phot of the Colossi - well actually I only manage to get one of them from the back!


I remember being so in awe of this amazing the sight the first time I came to Egypt. The Colossi were built to guard the mortuary site of Amenhotep. Since I came past here last, more archaeological finds have been discovered by the Colossi. Bit by bit Egypt reveals more of its hidden secrets.

We drive past small pottery workshops. We arrive at the alabaster factory. Unfortunately we also arrive at the same time as a coach load of Russian tourists! Fortunately we aren’t herded in with the Russians – a man from the factory greets us and takes us over to three men who are sitting on the floor demonstrating various different stages of the process. This is all very well-rehearsed – like a sketch from a show – but more of this was in stores once inside!

We walk into a large showroom displaying a massive selection of pots, jars, tea sets, chess sets and of course pharaonic statues of all sizes. We had managed to get ahead of the Russians but now they stream into the room escorted by a number of the factory’s staff. They are welcomed to the showroom. I wasn’t paying much attention but a minute into the welcome speech the lights go off. I think my first instinct must have been that a power cut had happened as is quite usual, but then a chorus of Happy Birthday rises from the depths of darkness. As I turn around I notice that a section of the display is glowing a flourescent green – jars, vases and pharaonic figures all glowing in the dark. The Russians cheer and the lights are switched on again. The work 'Pantomime' springs to mind!

Peter, Hamada and I browse the shelves, I'm constantly shadowed by the man that welcomed us at the entrance. Alabaster is a beautiful stone and is shown at it's most beautiful when lit from within. The jars, pots and candle holders are stunning – pharaonic statuettes less so. Peter and Hamada speak to the gentleman that met us at the entrance. They talk about prices and shipping – I leave them to it.


The alabaster products are a reasonable priced but Hamada tells us later that guides will get 50% of any sales. During this brief visit I am given two alabaster ankh's and an alabaster scarab beetle - little tempters to encourage me to buy - but I think of the pottery we already have to carry home.  We leave the factory and the Russian tourists behind to return back to the East Bank. It's late afternoon and the light casts a warm glow over the Theban Mountains. We drive past Qurna, the deserted village resting on top of the ancient necropolis.

Quote from Wikipedia:

"Kurna (also Gourna, Gurna, Qurna, Qurnah or Qurneh) are various spelling for a group of three closely related villages (New Qurna, Qurna and Sheikh ‘Adb el-Qurna) located on the West Bank of the River Nile opposite the modern city of Luxor in Egypt near the Theban Hills.

New Qurna was designed and built in the late 1940s and early 1950s by Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy to house people living in Qurna which is now uninhabited. New Qurna was added to the 2010 World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites to bring attention to the site's importance to modern town planning and vernacular architecture due to the loss of much of the original form of the village since it was built.

The Villages

New Qurna (or New Gourna)

New Qurna was built between 1946 and 1952 by Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy midway between the Colossi of Memnon and el-Gezira on the Nile on the main road to the Theban Necropolis to house the residents of the Qurna. The design, which combined traditional materials and techniques with modern principles was never completed and much of the fabric of the village has since been lost; all what remains today of the original New Qurna is the mosque, market and a few houses. UNESCO World Heritage conservation wishes to safeguard this important architectural site. The World Monuments Fund included New Qurna in the 2010 World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites.

Qurna (or Old Gourna)

Qurna is an abandoned village about 100m to the east of the Temple of Seti I. Until the early 19th century the community included at least parts of the Temple of Seti I. Several travellers, including Richard Pococke or Sonnini de Manoncourt even name a Sheikh of Qurna. Edward William Lane relates in 1825 that the village was abandoned and not a single inhabitant lived there. Comments by Isabella Frances Romer suggests that the resettling started in the late 1840s. New Qurna was built in the 1940s and early 1950 to house the then residents who strongly resisted the move.

Sheikh ‘Adb el-Qurna

A series of housing built in and around the mountain grottoes located about 200m north of the Ramesseum at Sheikh ‘Adb el-Qurna. The stretch of land has been the bitter battlefield between the original owners and the Egyptian government for the last 60 years, because it lay on top of an archeologically area, part of the Tombs of the Nobles. Edward William Lane relates that the residents moved into these grottoes from the village of Qurna, which they abandoned, when the Mamluks retreated thought the area, following their defeat by Muhammad Alī's forces in the early 19th century.”







You will see the mention of the architect Hassan Fathy. You will read more about the links to Hassan Fathy and the Garagos Pottery on the 1001 Nights page in Posterous as our research and compilation of the story develops.

We drive past the sugar can fields and several banana plantations. We see the green footed lesser egrets paddle in the irrigation channels running through the green land. Again that familiar smell of smoke seeps in through the car window. I don't know why the burning of sugar cane stubble is so wonderful – well yes I do ­ it's one of the most evocative smells of Luxor.

We cross the sugar can train track and are now close to the edge of the West Bank of the Nile. We pass what were once brighty coloured houses and shops, now scarred with the patina of age and the desert dust. They line both sides of the street like a guard of honour, escorting us visitors away from this very special place.

Before long we are back at the hotel and now wash the Garagos dust from our hair (literally and figuratively). We are in time to watch the sunset over the Theban Hills from the balcony – I will never tire of this beautiful site.

We decide to eat in the hotel in Aladdins Restaurant outside in the hotel grounds. It's a nice warm evening we don't have to walk too far considering our near exhausted state. Unusually, we see that a sound system has been set up. We haven't seen any evening entertainment here in the hotel on this trip due to the lack of tourists. However, there appears to be a group of 'day' tourists and they are dining at the hotel before returning to the Hurghada this evening. We are told by the waiter that they had planned to put on a belly dancing show for the tourists but the belly dancers haven't arrived and are late. This is such a shame – the tourists finish their meal and head out to their coach without seeing the 'entertainment'.

We get a phone call. Tony is waiting outside the hotel for us. He is going to take us to the tourism company office where he still works and where Peter used to work. We are also going to pick up our bits and pieces that 'went missing' in the Sheraton in Cairo. We drink tea in the office with Tony and Mr Mourad the manager of the travel company – the three of them talk about old times and also about how hard tourism has been hit since the uprising.

Peter and I have decided to do a caleche trip around the city. Peter's friend Radwan is waiting for us on the Corniche. We say goodbye to Tony and Mr Mourad and walk out to meet Radwan. It's a delight to see him again – Peter has know him for a long time – the travel company always uses good, reputable caleche drivers who speak English. Radwan is a very polite young man, university educated and now tells us that since he saw us last he is now married and expecting their first baby. Congratulations are shouted in English and Arabic. Radwan is also a qualified guide. He tells us (as we've heard from everyone so far) how bad business is in Luxor and even though his wife is about to have a baby, he will be taking work in Hurghada so that he can support his family. Radwan says that it's difficult to get a handle on the real situation in Egypt. Information differs significantly depending on it's source – state tv, the internet, the grapevine. He says it's the information that people don't know that is most dangerous. Peter and Radwan continue to talk about the state of the country – I take in the familiar sights of Luxor by night.

I spot a couple of significant sights – we go past one of our favourite coffee shops Alfa Leyla we Leyla (One Thousand Nights and One Night) and then as we pass the Franciscan Church, the sign on the front of the church seems to say 1001. I like to think they are lucky signs for our little project!

Radwan drops us back at the Sonesta. We say goodbye and wish him all the best for the birth of his new baby. Before we go to bed we sit on the balcony and drink a glass of wine. Birds swoop across the Nile and over on the West Bank we hear a donkey bray and the soft chugging sound of a motor boat.

Peter and I talk about our visit to Garagos. It's only when away from the village that we appreciate how different the way of life is - not to the UK but to Luxor. The difference is also apparent between Luxor and Cairo – Egypt is indeed a country of many faces (and differing mentalities). Our visit is nearly at an end and there is a sense of sadness about leaving – for Peter his family and birth place and for me a country I have grown to love. Exhaustion takes over us.  I hope tomorrow is a lazy day.

21st September 2011 - Garagos

Today more people come to say hello. Conversations drift towards the uprising.  Many feel despondent and feel the country has no leadership and is becoming more and more lawless.  “Egyptians don’t know what freedom is – they see it as an excuse for bad behaviour and taking the law into their own hands”.

Peter’s mother and sister Margreet are preparing a special meal for us – one of their chickens and a variety of vegetables from the land. Sara and Susanna are a delight and entertain us with the usual antics of two and a half year olds.  

Throughout the day several members of the family come to us to express their concern about us going to Cairo at the weekend.  We had planned our trip to avoid being there on Friday when most protests take place. The week before we left for Luxor protestors had tried to tear down the security wall of the Israeli Embassy, resulting in the Israeli Ambassador leaving the country. We also heard this morning on one of the Egyptian news channels that there had been an attack on the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Cairo. However, we have a carefully planned trip and will travel by taxi instead of the metro.  We have made arrangements for Abdul to pick us up from the airport and be our driver throughout our visit.  Abdul was born and bred in Cairo, is an ex policeman and someone who knows the City like the back of his hand (or as much as anyone can).  We had spoken to Abdul and his son Mohamed before leaving the UK and they told us everything is OK in Cairo - the odd protest but these can be avoided if you have your bearings right. Despite our reassurances, little can be said to put Peter's family's minds at rest - I just hope they don't catch today's news.

We return to the hotel later that evening.  I had intentions to write some more on the blog but was too exhausted.  It will have to wait until tomorrow.

19th September 2011 - Arrival in Luxor

Peter and I travelled to Egypt on Monday 19th September. We flew from Manchester Airport where we arrive at 6.00am with 2 suitcases crammed with presents for the immediate family members and the children – including 12 colouring book packs. These have probably ended up being the most expensive colouring books ever thanks to Monarch’s very strict luggage weight rules. Between us we were 6 kilos overweight and the very ‘surly’ check in assistant charged us £120 – no negotiation! Not a great start to the holiday but I can safely say this is the first and the last time I fly with Monarch!

A very busy itinerary is planned with 4 days in Cairo and of course time with the family in Luxor, Garagos and Cairo. If possible we will also try and squeeze in a day or two by the pool!

As we arrive in the airport terminal in Luxor we are greeted by various airport staff and tour reps in the hall – colleagues that Peter knows from his previous job as a tour rep. Peter’s good friend Bob has arranged for one of his cars to pick us up from the airport. Before we exit the airport we pay a visit to the duty free shop - whisky is always a welcome gift! We make our way out of the airport terminal to the car park, trying to resist the offers from porters to carry our bags - eventually one takes our trolley and pushes it for the remaining ten yards to the car.

The first thing we noticed upon arriving in Luxor is how quiet the place is. Michael who is an accountant at the hotel where we stay tells us that the hotel is currently at 15% occupancy rate – eighty guests where full capacity is six hundred. The uprising has affected tourism dramatically. We are told us how difficult things are for all businesses here as Luxor is very reliant on tourism. Many of the hotel staff have been given reduced hours working half a month on and half a month off. Although the high level of customer service at this hotel is what brings us back each time, upon arrival we can already see how standards have definitely been cranked up a notch. We are thinking about how we can allocate tips fairly!

It’s so good to be back. We have a lovely Nile view room with Jacuzzi bath. A basket of fruit awaits us on the coffee table.

The moment I look forward to more than anything is opening the balcony doors to a most magnificent view. A view that really defies adequate description and a view that my description could never do justice to.

The River Nile flows slowly northwards - from where I'm standing that's left to right. The odd boat passes by and green footed egrets paddle along the shallow edge of the river. Opposite, on the West bank of the Nile, water buffalo and the odd camel graze the green land. I can just about make out several galabeyaed workers hoeing the land and tending the animals. The magnificent backdrop to this scene is the Theban mountains, standing proud with a frill of date palms and banana trees at its feet. It's not a particularly huge range of mountains but what is housed within those unassuming hills still makes me shake my head in disbelief.

Most famous is The Valley of the Kings, home to the tomb of Tutankhamun and great pharaohs like Ramses the third. Also within the mountains is the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Nobles. From my balcony I can make out the remains of Old Qurna village and the exposed entrances to a row of tombs located in the Valley of the Nobles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurna


If you ever get the chance to sail down the Nile on a cruiser or a felucca, you won’t have to imagine too hard what it would have been like in pharaonic times – the landscape has hardly changed. You will see clusters of mud brick houses along the banks of the Nile. Some painted in traditional Nubian colours of turquoise blue but over the years have accumulated layers of desert dust.

Also from the balcony I’m hit by a familiar smell – smell of burning fires. On most evenings you will see smoke rising from small fires on the agricultural West Bank. I think farmers could be burning stubble from recently harvested sugar cane – but can’t be sure. There’s also another smell – a smell that resonates from the heat rising from the land. I can’t describe this smell. All I know is if it could be captured in a bottle, it would be that smell and that smell alone that takes me back to Luxor and this view across the Nile.

The sun begins to set behind the mountains. As the red sky turns indigo blue, the only sound remaining is the faint engine of a boat crossing the Nile and the echo of birds ‘whooping’ as they soar across the Valley. The Theban Mountains are now illuminated. I try to imagine what adventures will befall us during this visit and how quickly two weeks will disappear.

Until tomorrow.