Luckless in Luxor
Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
342Trip End Ongoing
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After seeing the situation we were faced with, we decided we would increase the amount we were willing to pay to 100-150LE for the two of us
During the drive, we realized it was actually illegal for him to drive us to Luxor (as mentioned in the previous entry, tourists are only allowed to travel on certain types of transport), so we stuck to our "We live in Turkey" story, which seemed to get us through most of the police checkpoints. It didn't work at a few of them, so we had to pay 2-3LE baksheesh in a couple of places, letting Guma sweet talk the police officers and get us through to the next gate.
The road between Aswan and Luxor was beautiful, winding along the Nile and through sugarcane fields, which made up some of the greenest bits of the country we would see on our holiday. We drove through towns where children played and adults relaxed while celebrating the first day of the holiday. The sun was shining and the traffic was light -- perhaps the day was improving.
We made good time and got to Luxor in about three hours, pulling into the city around 12:30pm
We got to reception and waited to check in while absorbing the luxury of a five star hotel. The receptionist said he couldn't find our booking, so I gave him the printout from the internet reservation. After a few minutes, he realized that the reservation was not for the lovely Sofitel, but for another hotel down the road that had masqueraded online as the Sofitel. Embarrassed, extremely agitated, and uber-disappointed, we began the walk of shame down the long hotel driveway and in the direction of the Karnak Hotel.
Neither of us was optimistic about the Karnak Hotel, but we were still unprepared for what we saw when we arrived at the poser place: it was a complete run-down shithole
Now we were even more frustrated and feeling completely dejected, but we still needed to work out what to do -- we needed a place to stay for the evening! While stopping for some hummus and 7-Ups, we called a few hotels in our guidebook. After finding one that had rooms, we got a taxi to take us into town and gave the hotel a look-see. Despite being the same price, it was nowhere as nice as the Philae had been in Aswan, but we decided to give it a go anyhow so that we could try and salvage something of the day.
We tried to put on happy faces as we wandered through the souk behind the hotel, and finally started to feel a little better when we found Snack Time: a little fast food place with wonderful and cheap falafel -- one of our favorite foods
After lunch we weren't sure what to do, but we knew we were interested in finding a cheaper hotel, so decided to take the ferry to the West Bank and see what we could find there. Luxor is a city that has grown to nearly 500,000 people, most of them populating the Nile's East Bank. There are a few of the Ancient Egyptian structures on the East Bank, like the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple Complex, but most of the tourist sites are on the West Bank. We thought if we moved across the Nile to the West Bank, we'd be closer to more places to visit and it might be a bit more convenient.
The ferry, which was much, much, much larger than the one in Aswan, was insane and incredibly unpleasant. Our white faces attracted attention immediately, mainly from a large group of 7-12 year old boys. They surrounded us, lobbing questions at us nonstop, touching us, and just overwhelming us in general -- we couldn't wait to get to the other side. Fortunately, the trip was very short and we disembarked as quickly as possible, happy to have room to roam
Once on the other side, we quickly walked away from the touts and found a nice, quiet side street full of guest houses to explore. We looked at several, searching all the while for the dream hotel I'd found online weeks earlier but couldn't remember the name of. We had planned to book it, but after finding the amazing Sofitel deal, we booked that instead (or so we thought). When we finally found the dream guest house (our very last stop, of course), it was full. We decided to think about our options and took the ferry (ahhh!) back to the East Bank.
We looked at one more hotel on the West Bank, then decided to do something productive and walked to the wonderful Luxor Museum. While it was full of more amazing sculptures, statues, and other artifacts, we thought it was too small -- we wanted more! By the time we'd made our way through the entire thing, it was nearing 8pm and dinner was on our minds. We walked to the other end of town and plopped ourselves down in an (English) Indian restaurant: yum, yum, yum. The curries were tasty, the beers were cold, and the waiter was friendly... and Christian, something that stood out a bit more in a country like Egypt, where Islam is very present and prevalent. We talked to him for a quite awhile, learning that his definition of fasting was simply not eating meat -- so by his reasoning, we fasted every single day!
The sore throat I'd woken up with had since intensified and I started to feel increasingly worse, so we headed back to the hotel where I immediately passed out and slept for the next 9-10 hours. I hoped that sleep would do me some good and I'd wake up feeling ready to take on the West Bank and all its amazing treasures the next day.