Egypt, Day 4 – The West Bank

Day 4 – Saturday, November 11, 2006

No rest for the wicked, we were up this morning for 5:30. Never mind our holiday, we were on our way to the west bank of the Nile to check out some tombs and temple. I say some tombs and a temple. I mean, something so spectacular I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Plus, this is the day that I learned about the whole baksheesh theory.

We arranged for a private guide and driver for the day. Neither one of
us was too keen on winging it – sort of like the Vatican, we didn’t
want to miss anything good. And really, we made a very good decision in
the end.

We met Abdul and our driver (his name I cannot remember – I can’t
tell you how many times that caught me out on this holiday!) at 7 am.
As soon as we stepped foot in the van, we started learning about
Egyptian history. The man was a wealth of information, having studied
history and tourism at uni in Cairo.

We first visited the Valley of the Kings,which was magnificent. In
the pictures you can see the natural pyramid shape to the mountain. valley_kings We
then headed to Hatshepsut’s Temple, which had some really nice
hieroglyphics. We got some really neat pictures there, and the
structure was really impressive. Once we’d done that, we got in the van
and they told us we were headed to an alabaster factory. Now, this is
something that all the tour books, websites, etc warn you about: “Your
guide will try to take to an alabaster factory.” And I guess we were no
different. If we ever went back, we would probably draw the line and be
firm and not let them take us. But for the novelty factor, we went
ahead with it. And they had a pretty good spiel, really. They showed us
how it all went together, how they made pots and vases by hand and how
they made plaques, etc. Then they took us upstairs where we could have
the opportunity to buy something, how nice of them! And we did buy a
bowl, and a nice alabaster vase, which, unfortunately broke on the way
home. Bummer.

Next we headed to the Tombs of the Artisans, or workers, and that
was our second to last visit of the day. By that time I’d had about
enough of the whole baksheesh thing. We had one guy take our picture
and then complain when Paul gave him too little as a tip. At the tombs
of the workers a guy followed us down in and insisted on pointing out
the paintings, which was just plain annoying. But no matter, the
experience was something else. I guess living in London has taught me a
bit about ignoring things!

Last stop of the day was at the Colossus of Memnon
where we got a pretty neat picture taken. It’s also where I got a
picture of me and our guide and driver. Both men were pretty cool, but
it was interesting how they were together. The driver was quick to
speak to us when there was no one around, but wouldn’t say a word when
the guide was in the van. Plus the driver had candy for a us – like we
were his kids.

After a full and long morning, we headed back to the hotel. We got our
bathing suits on and headed back out to the pool. We got back from our
tour just after 1, so we had plenty of time to get some sun! Hungry as
we were, we discovered they served lunch at
the pool terrace! How decadent! Ok, yes, it was the epitome of laziness
to have food brought out to us in the blazing sunshine, instead of
getting up off our backsides and wandering 50 yards to sit in proper
chairs at proper tables. But, we were on our holiday, weren’t we? And
how much fun was it not to have to leave the pool? Today is also the
day I spotted the camel. a gardener was leading it
around the pool. How surreal. The camel will make another appearance in
this story…

After watching the sunset with a bunch of Belgian people, we got
cleaned up and headed into Luxor. This was mainly because we hadn’t had
enough of dust and dirt, I guess. The trip in was a bit overwhelming,
and our later trips were much, much better. We wandered down a bazaar
and through a bunch of dirty, dusty streets, and then down the
Corniche. We also got harassed by caleche drivers, and though it was a
bit tiring after the morning in the sun, it was really and interesting
experience. This was the night we ordered my cartouche – a necklace with my name in hieroglyphics.

Once we returned from our outing, we headed to the Crocodile Bar for a
few drinks, and ended up dancing the night away. It was such a full
day, but so good. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it!

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