Friday 9th January 2004
The alarm went off at 8:30am, so we ignored it. I awoke at 9:50am and blearily got dressed. Eddie was still in deepest, darkest Slumberland, so I left him to his snoozing. He finally woke up at 10:25am - the lazy bugger.
We missed breakfast!!!!!!!
We had two continental breakfasts brought to our room. Ah, the good life.
At 2pm, I went outside and saw Ali. He was very concerned about my health, but I told him that I was better and paid him off with LE100 and two fine cigars! I arranged to use his services on Monday to see the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and Hatshepsut's Temple on the West Bank and he went away happy. Unfortunately, we never got round to visiting those places, but we had paid him enough for any inconvenience, I felt.
At 2:30pm we met up with Jules and Emma and we all enjoyed (!) a scary taxi ride to Karnak. Apparently the driver's horn was broken because he kept leaning out of the window and screeching like a banshee. Strange chap.
The temple complex is awesome and, once we had bought our tickets, I took lots and lots and lots of photos. Here's a small selection (click on the thumbnail to get a better view):
At 5pm, we left the temple and indulged in a beer until we could buy tickets for the Karnak Sound and Light Show.
This truly is a 'must-see' event. The lighting at night really evokes the mystery and majesty of what is the world's largest temple complex. The walk through the halls of Karnak was a little tentative, though, as it was quite dark and there were lots of people, shoulder-to-shoulder. I looked up and saw Orion beaming down upon us. I snapped away merrily, but because of the low lighting, many of my images did not come out too well (click the thumbnail for a better view):
The show lasted well over an hour and I wished that I had put on a long-sleeved shirt, as the temperature plummeted when a stiff breeze picked up.
After leaving Karnak, we caught another, more sensibly-driven, taxi back to the hotel. The girls went off to enjoy an evening meal and Eddie and I went back to our room to get ready for the big Cairo trip.
At 10:20pm, we were met in the lobby by a TUI (the travel company) agent and were ushered aboard a minibus to be taken to Luxor railway station.
A couple from our hotel joined us and we picked up two young ladies from the Winter Palace Hotel along the way.
When we arrived at Luxor Station, we discovered that, by sheer incompetence, the travel company had booked us seats on the train that split our group of six between two cabins. This meant that one of the couples would have to spend the nine-hour trip sitting with strangers. Our rep. managed to persuade a none-to-pleased Japanese lady and her two companions to exchange seats with us, but this did not bode well for the rest of the journey.
Once our group were seated together, our voyage north began. Although being the most vocal about not being able to sleep, Eddie was snoring within minutes! I was up at regular intervals, puffing away on cigarettes between the carriages (no smoking was allowed in the cabins).
I finally dozed off sometime after 3am, only to be awoken by a commotion in the corridor. A second ticket collector (who bore a striking resemblance to Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities!) had boarded the train and was demanding to see our tickets. He scratched his head, not knowing why we were in the wrong seats.
Then he hauled me outside and marched me to the seat and cabin displayed on my chit.
"Sit!" he hissed.
I tried to explain the situation and that we had exchanged seats with the blessing of the guard, but he simply repeated his monosyllabic command. I sat.
A minute later, he gestured for me to follow him, and with a smile told me to return to my travelling companions.
The rest of the journey dragged out and the sun rose over the alternately dusty/lush/haphazardly-built slum landscape.
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All text and images copyright 2004 Steven Johnson
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