Don’t forget the hand sanitizer
Luxor. I knew that it was the name of a pyramid-themed hotel in Vegas, but that was the extent of my knowledge. After two days of the Temple of Karnak, Valley of the Kings, and Hapshetsut’s Temple, I can see that Vegas does a poor imitation. We caught a taxi to the Luxor airport on Monday morning, because that’s where the bus station is located. Our driver told us that there had been a bomb the previous day in Cairo, but we knew nothing about it, as CNN’s ‘World News’ coverage had focused exclusively on the success of ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’
He dropped us at the bus station, where we waited for forty-five minutes to catch our bus to Hurghada. It was an air-conditioned coach, and there wasn’t a tourist to be found. We drove along the Nile valley, stopping in tiny villages for toilet stops, or slowing down to a crawl, allowing passengers to jump off the bus as necessary.
The highlight of the ride was probably Muslim prayer time, when the wisdom of our seat choice became clear. Jared and I made an inspired selection, unwittingly sitting directly under the only speaker on the bus. The driver turned up the volume of the prayer to top volume so everyone could enjoy it. Yes. Enjoy is certainly the word I would use.
A close second was my toilet experience. I used a hole-in-the-ground toilet before, five years ago in Greece, when I caused a ruckus by monopolizing a stall in the Patras bus station. This was due to my inability to squat, thus requiring me to remove my pants to prevent embarrassing stains. The consequence of this were numerous dirty looks from elderly Greek women who no doubt could squat over a hole one inch in diameter on a moving train while wearing leather pants blindfolded and still not miss.
The point is, I’ve come a long way, because this time I peed like a pro and didn’t bat an eye at the unidentifiable bugs, lack of toilet paper or suspicious bucket of water in the corner. And I am not ashamed of my liberal and immediate use of hand sanitizer afterwards.
Hurghada is a work in progress, in an apparent rush to join the club of tourist resort towns. We stopped there so I could dive in the Red Sea, which was what we did most of the next day. We used Funny Divers, who were right across from our hotel, the Empire Three Corners. The captain put together a big traditional buffet lunch between dives. There was falafel, taboula, pasta, potatoes, and I couldn’t even tell you what else. Easily one of the best meals we had in Egypt.
The next day, it was back on another bus – this time, no prayers piping over the speaker; instead we were seated opposite the staircase to the toilet. Egyptian food is good going in, but I can assure you it does not smell nice going out.
One final installment still to come on the Egypt trip, but next week I am off to Rome & the Amalfi Coast. London may be grey and dreary, but it is definitely doing its job as a jumping-off point.