23-24 July 2014
I think I’ve started most of my posts about Egypt by saying that I’d wanted to go since the age of about 10, after watching The Mummy and deciding I wanted to dig up pyramids for a living. I could barely believe it when I finally booked my trip, for a week in Luxor with Thompson, along with my best friend. You can imagine my frustration, therefore, when my flight was delayed in Gatwick and we had to sit for about an hour on the runway whilst some petrol was cleaned up. I just wanted to get to Egypt.
Finally we arrived after about a 5.5 hour flight. It was quite late by the time we touched down and we all climbed on a shuttle bus that took us across the airport. As we drove along, one of the sets of doors slid open. We all edged away to avoid falling out. No one did- so far so good. Our next step was to change our money into Egyptian pounds, which was easily done at the airport. There was a bit of a queue however as everyone had the same plan. Once we were all sorted, the group was all divided into our coaches so we could be taken to our hotels. As we left the airport, people started trying to take our luggage for us, we managed to avoid until we got to the coach and a man lifted our bags into the hold before demanding a tip. We hadn’t really got any change and felt a little indignant that we were already being asked to hand over money, so we apologised and got on the coach. We then spent the journey worried our bags had been swiftly removed when we weren’t looking. Of course, they hadn’t.
As we drove through the city, I craned out the windows, catching site of the temple and the avenue of the sphinxes. The town was busy, even at this time. The days are long and hot and we were there during Ramadan, so the locals tended to come out at night, when it was cool and they could eat and drink. We eventually arrived at our last stop: the Sheraton Resort. We were handed over some hibiscus tea at check-in, before a porter took our luggage to our room. My holiday buddy and I were delighted when we stepped into our room. There were two double beds, a sofa, and a nice, clean bathroom. We were also right next to the pool. That would be very convenient. It was too late to go to a restaurant but, thankfully, there was still room service at night, so we ordered some bbq chicken wings and spring rolls for a midnight snack before bed.
In the morning, we were finally able to see our surroundings. We had been told that we could upgrade to a Nile-view room but once it was light, we realised we could see the river from our room already- if we stood on the sofa and peered over the top of the building in front. Of course, we could have moved into a room with a full view of the Nile but, still, a view is a view and we had one.
There were several options at our buffet breakfast but it was the pastries that really caught our attention. Along with some olives and melon. We also learned some new Arabic words: ‘ṣabāḥul kẖayr’ (sabaah el-khee) meant ‘good morning’ and ‘shukran’ meant ‘thank you’.
Our first day was always going to be a pool-day. We were on holiday after all and we had the choice of two- a round one overlooking the Nile and a lagoon-esque one with a hot tub, which was conveniently right next to our room. We surprised ourselves by choosing the later, where we spent the majority of the next week. I lathered up in my sun-cream and found my spot on a sun-lounger. We stayed there until it was time to meet our holiday representative in the lobby. After we’d met up, he told us about various options for our stay- including trips we could take- and recommended some places. As I sat, I noticed my legs had started to get a bit pink. Hopefully that would start to tan soon!
Before returning to the poolside, my holiday buddy and I decided to get some lunch in the main hotel restaurant, where we’d had breakfast that morning. We ordered a couple of pizzas, which were sadly slightly disappointing. I realised my pink legs were getting worse. My stomach was red as well. In the end, I turned a colour I hadn’t been before. And it wasn’t comfortable. Instead of going back in the sun, I decided to take a nap under the air-conditioning instead, as I was lulled to sleep by the call-to-prayer, which I was to become very familiar with over the next week.
We planned to go to the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and Temple of Hatshepsut the next day, since we hadn’t been particularly cultured so far. It seems the norm to do these three at the same time, as they sit together on the west bank of the river. Within the hotel driveway, two taxi drivers waited for visitors. They both offered to take us to all three the next day at various, relatively low prices. After we’d expressed interest, they followed and tried to persuade us every time we saw them. They even argued with each other. It was rather off-putting and did make walking down the drive a bit of a hassle. We thought that we’d go with the one that hassled us a bit less.
In the evening, we caught the free bus that went from the hotel to the town centre, by Luxor Temple. We asked to be dropped off by the souk so that we could find some food and souvenirs. As we wandered down the avenue, people tried to get us into their stalls on either side. Eventually, we met a guy who started to walk with us as we wandered around, talking about the city. He helped us bargain with the marketers and found us places to buy the things we were looking for. We told him that we wanted to find somewhere to eat and he ended up leaving us at a restaurant that had been recommended to us earlier that day. I have absolutely no idea what it was called. We were sat at a table next to a mother and daughter from Germany and ended up eating with them. They knew a taxi driver and tried to get us to confirm our trip to Valley of the Kings etc with him. We didn’t really want to be tied to anything though so we declined but took his card if we ever needed it. Still, it was nice to chat away as we ate our mixed grill.
Once we’d finished, we found our new local friend waiting for us downstairs and he took us somewhere else for some Egyptian tea, it was bitter and needed quite a lot of sugar but I liked it. He invited us for lunch with his family but once we learned that they wouldn’t be eating due to Ramadan, we changed it to dinner instead. He also had a friend with a taxi and promised that they’d both take us on tomorrow’s trip. This was our fourth offer now and, this time, we agreed. We had a plan.
Read about the rest of my trip:
- Luxor Part Two: tombs, mummies and a family dinner
- Luxor Part Three: a pool, cocktails and some minor detours
- Luxor Part Four: temples, museums and another family dinner
- Luxor Part Five: feluccas on the Nile, Banana Island and results day
- Luxor Part Six: farewells and a day in Cairo