The day started with a breakfast that I cooked in the kitchen. A Denver omelet, coffee, juice.
Again, too bad I cannot upload any of the thousands of pics I have taken.
Just after 8 AM I was into the cab with the cracked windshield for a 140 km round trip road trip north from Luxor (Luxor is on the east bank of the Nile). Went through the checkpoint at the bridge then crossed over the Nile to the west bank and then north past the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings north to the Temple of Dendara. We passed about 10 police checkpoints along the way and the only problem was when the cab driver did not have a valid cab operator license for the month of May. I sat alone in the cab for 10 minutes at the checkpoint as the driver resolved the renewal, then we were off again.
We stopped at a mud brick factory (everything was manual and hand labor) to allow me to take a few pics, but made a hasty retreat back into the cab when the owner started yelling that he wanted $10.00 for me to take pictures. I still got a few pics before he could get close enough to start hassling me in earnest. The men squatting in the dirt in the mid morning sun, making the mud bricks swiftly by hand at the rate of 4 a minute, earned $8.00 US a day.
The road north was several hundred feet above the Nile and it was desert – nothing but rock – not a single plant of any size visible anywhere on the roadside. The landscape was dramatically different than the lush, green, productive, irrigated land just a half mile away in what was once the Nile’s flood plain (before the Aswan High Dam). It was a landscape more barren than much of Death Valley. Trash piles lined the entire road.
Most of rural roadside Egypt looks like a landfill, full of trash and rubble, but with no smell, since the flies, bugs, mice, rats, cats, dogs, sheep, goats or donkeys eat everything organic that is in the trash piles. Often the remaining rubbish is set on fire to burn the paper and plastic.
We passed hundreds of donkey carts and several communities where a civilian guard – not the police or Army, stood on the roadside with either a shotgun or a rifle as they provided security protection for the community.
Prior to entry to the Dendura temple parking lot, the police at the checkpoint wanted to know where we were from (Luxor) and my nationality for their logbook. They did not ask for my papers, luckily. I normally leave my passport hidden in my room and only take a xerox copy with me.
The large parking lot was empty – completely. I wandered around the ancient temple for several hours, occasionally with the assistance of a friendly police officer that spoke a little english. “ Where from you?” I sat with him and conversed. We had tea on a bench just inside the temple, with his auto weapon resting between us. He confirmed that I could not take his picture, but somehow, accidentally 😜…….I did.
I had the entire temple to myself. I wandered, marveled and took pictures. It was beautiful – with hieroglyphs on every vertical wall surface and many walls and ceilings still showing some ancient paint. The entire complex was surrounded by a deteriorating wall 30 feet high made from millions of ancient mud bricks. Built over hundreds of years by a series of rulers, it was built rather recently by Egyptian standards. It is only about 2100 years old, and the Roman influence is visible. It covers over 10 acres or 40,000 square meters.
Being an American, the police were concerned about me as we exited the checkpoint and required the cab to take the longer, slower road on the east bank of the Nile back to Luxor. They required us to follow a police truck – a mini pickup with an armed policeman in the back. (A convoy escort not unlike the one I will doubtless have when taking the 8 hour round trip journey to Abu Simbel from Aswan in several days). They ensured we stayed in sight as we progressed south down the east bank of the Nile. After we passed the third or fourth checkpoint, about 20 km on the way back to Luxor, they waved us ahead unescorted. But we continued to pass through numerous police checkpoints and guards with guns at several community entrances. My ID has never been checked. My hair is my ID, maybe.
Back in Luxor, Abdoul took me with him in his car as he ran errands – buying toilet paper and soap for the hotel, picking up his three year old son for a sleepover with his father at the hotel, dropping off the Thai couple at the train station, to the tailor to pickup my tailored shirt ($5.00 to sew, including the obligatory baksheesh).
Then we were off to the market. A bag full of cilantro, dill, something like parsley, mint and other fresh greens for $1.50. Then 3 kilo of potatoes, 2 kilo of tomatoes, onions – all for $2.50. Off again to get some meat – 2 rotisserie chickens, bread, containers of a potato stew and a vegie stew for $12.00. In the kitchen, Abdoul and I made salad and prepared dinner together for his adopted nephew, grandson, and 2 staff members. I sent Jimmy out to buy me some beers (much cheaper to pay him to buy for me). Dinner was delicious and it was was with great company.
After dinner I went out on my own to buy more 100% Egyptian cotton for 4 more tailored shirts. It took a lot of haggling – about 30 minutes, a cup of tea, showing pics on my iPhone and lots of the travelers dance, but I eventually was successful in closing the deal for $5.00 a meter for 8+ meters of really nice shirt material. Will drop it off at the sewing shop tomorrow. It was now 9:30 PM and the seller (really a multilingual interpreter/salesman) and I then went to a bar for a beer.
As we walked I was a little intimidated for the first time today as we went 6 or 8 blocks to the bar. I ensured that the beer bottles never left my sight after they were opened, just in case someone might try to slip something nefarious in the bottle (the bar was a little seedy, even by Egyptian standards). After paying for the two beers each, we walked back to my hotel, but not without “the dance” for more baksheesh for the fabric. I politely but insistently refused, but not before I was safely on the hotel doorstep.
OK, enough of the soft stuff. Time for the current events editorial and commentary.
Back in my room, I watched the news on cable TV. CNN’s coverage feels more like a British TV presentation than an American TV presentation – no Wolf, no Anderson – it is almost exclusively unknown faces with British voices. They run a loop of in depth stories that repeats every hour. Lots of Trump coverage today now that he is the presumptive Republican noninee– the repeating clips of Trump spouting off about the trade imbalance with China, Japan and Mexico, his idea of the need for diminishing support for South Korea and NATO, proposing nukes for Korea and Japan, his wonderful friendship with Putin, the wonderful Mexican food at Trump Towers on Cinco de Mayo. All of these clips make Americans look like fucking idiots on the world stage.
The former Mexican president Vincente Fox was on yesterday and he came across as Presidential, as he appoligized for his language about the wall, but it was not an appology TO Trump, as Trump alledges.
Later, I read online at the National Enquirer website that Trump is so talented and capable at EVERYTHING that he gives HiMSELF Swedish back massages while he sucks his own dick. Some people believe anything they read or hear someone say on tv or read on the inet.
Two days ago I was asked by a Japanese man at the hotel about Trump. Nodding like a bobble head, he said “He hates Japan, yes?”
I have repeatedly watched the Muslims of Luxor do business, smoke shisha (a coarse cut tobacco mixed with honey) play dominoes, sit and drink tea or laughing with the 30% Orthodox Christian population of Luxor (25% of Egypt is Christian).
The Brits in London just elected a Muslim mayor today and there are clips of him talking about religious unity in the UK juxtaposed seconds later with clips of you know who saying he proposes “A total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the US.” Imagine the US prohibiting the Mayor of London from visiting the US!!
Then I saw clips of Ryan and Graham nobly expressing skepticism about their support for Trump. I was appalled by McCain’s support – maybe Trump was right about him – I don’t think he can be all that intelligent, as he picked a complete dimwit for VP. MaCain is up for reelection and is just worried about remaining a senator. The consumate politician following the anti immigration sentiment of Arizona. And then CNN played more clips with more bombastic rhetoric from Trump that was ___________, ____________ and ______________.
I think it is about time for me to start answering the ubiquitios question with “I am from Canada, eh?” “Ah, up in British Columbia – in Vancouver, eh”.
BTW, I find it somewhat disheartening – after spending an hour or two to post an entry – to never receive feedback or comments. If you enjoyed a post, please respond with a comment. Disagree? I don’t give a rat’s ass. Is there ANYTHING that you are curious about or have a position on? If so, leave a comment.
Feedback/comments/email from friends and family are like a brief rainshower in the heat of solo travel in the desert – refreshing and sustaining sustinance for the journey forward.
Tomorrow (The Horror, The Horror) I board the cruise ship (tourists) for a four day/three night upriver cruise south to Aswan. Will travel very light aboard the ship, with less than 15 pounds of belongings and half of that will be tech and electronics crap. Update: Someone just cancelled a room on the boat’s return to Luxor, so will now spend 5 nights on the boat and return by boat to Luxor.
Ma’a as-salaama, ila-liqaa’.
From the web:
Farewells can vary depending on where you’re visiting, but two common ways to say goodbye to someone are ma’a as-salaama (goodbye) and ila-liqaa’ (until we meet again).