My boyfriend and I returned from our ten day holiday in Luxor in Cairo a couple of weeks ago – apologies for not writing a report sooner but work has been hectic!
We had a fantastic time – I had been before, but my boyfriend hadn’t – and it was great to have a mix of culture and relaxing.
We started off in Cairo and stayed in the Concorde in Dokki for two nights – warning: take note from the cheap prices – you get what you pay for!! As we were only sleeping there though (in single beds pushed together..) it didn’t really bother us for those two nights. Stick to coffee at breakfast – enough said. We had arranged a driver from the taxi company who took us from the airport to take us About in Cairo as we only had one full day there, but I’ve got to say it was quite an irritating experience! Firstly he wouldn’t take us anywhere to get our money changed even though I knew the places that were open (he knew best apparently) and then insisted on the papyrus ‘museum’ – grr! Following our polite refusal to buy anything he was in a bad mood for the rest of the day, especially as I put my foot down on the visit to the perfume ‘museum’. He then took us ‘directly’ to the pyramids – which actually meant to his mate’s stable – ah! After refusing to get on a horse/donkey/calesh we just walked away to the ticket office and walked up to the pyramids ourselves! Although it was fab to see the pyramids and sphinx I was amazed at how much worse the hassle had become since my visit 6 years ago – it got so ridiculous that we just left rather than waiting around to be able to go inside one of them, it seemed that being a young couple we were attracting ALL if the attention and I really couldn’t face it! So, we went back and found our charming driver and asked to be taken to change money – no, apparently all still closed! So on arrival at the Khan I was amazed when within 5 minutes I had found a bank myself and sorted it all out. We had a great time in the market – I bought some beautiful metal lamps and found the ‘hassle’ quite funny – I got called movie star quite a lot which was hilarious! We had lunch in El Husein Square and headed back to the hotel to have a rest. We ate in Felfela in the evening which was delicious and went for a drink in the Windsor hotel which was lovely.
We got the train to Luxor the next day which unfortunately took 12 hours instead of 9, but the views of Egypt on the way were worth it. We stayed at the Jolie Ville and I absolutely loved it! The infinitly pool – amazing; gardens – amazing; people - lovely. What a place – and it really is an oasis away from the noise and constant interaction which was nice at times. We’re not really resort people, so definitely couldn’t have stayed there for the whole time and not ventured out – although the food seemed ok from the buffet I wouldn’t want to eat it more than a couple of times as it was all quite average. We ate out in Luxor at different Egyptian places and had drinks in the evening at bars on the Nile – hotel drinks too expensive for us!!
Whilst in Luxor we did a tour to VoK, VoQ, Hatshepsut (and obligatory alabaster factory!) all arranged through Jolleys who were great. Something I will say though is that although our guide was really enthusiastic and very knowledgeable you do hear some complete nonsense from some of them (I have an Egyptology degree), so don’t believe everything you hear! We also went on a balloon trip which was absolutely fantastic – even though I was pretty ill that day and it meant a 3.30am wake up call, it was definitely worth it. The fact we landed in someone’s vegetable patch was quite disconcerting (for them) and I was a bit upset that the balloon pilot didn’t even apologise, but there’s not much you can do if you don’t speak the language.. the other tourists in the balloon were pretty awful though in shoving their cameras in children’s’ faces like they were in a zoo or something – shocking. We also did our own trip to Luxor temple and went to the fair trade shop for all our presents – this place is a must.
My main point about Luxor is that this holiday really changed my view on humanity – the way I think about things and how lucky I am to be British. Yes, the hassle gets really annoying and sometimes quite intimidating, but we had the opportunity to talk to some really honest, sincere Egyptians who felt able to talk about their situations and why things are as they are. We generally felt there was an underlying resentment towards tourists in a lot of the hassle / remarks and I believe from talking to people that this is down to the way tourists are valued to much more than the ‘common man’ by the Egyptian government. I’d resent tourists too if I lived under a regime that didn’t allow me to speak out and experience proper human rights. The people we met and connected with really changed out perception on the ‘hassle’ and really made us realise just how lucky we are to have been born in Britain. There’s a lot of injustice in Egypt and I felt that by being there as a tourist I was adding to the problem. Not that people shouldn’t travel - obviously, but it’s changed the way I think and live my life, so I’m grateful for that – and am going to work towards providing positive help where I can.
On a lighter note, we realised that by being funny to anyone hassling you relentlessly cools the situation and they go away – very humorous people!
We returned to Cairo by day train again and this time it was not so great. I was ‘manhandled’ by a young guy whilst getting to my seat which was pretty horrible and the response of the guards to my boyfriend who asked them to do something was derision – great. They did go off and look for the guy, but obviously didn’t find him, but we were both really grateful to the Egyptians who tried to help. By the way, the whole holiday I covered my shoulders, wore leggings and tried to be as respectful as I could, and in general I felt this paid off – even women in Cairo approached me and said hello which I thought was really nice. Some tourists were ridiculous though – there were some women at the pyramids wearing swimwear!! Added to this incident a mouse came out of my arm rest! Excellent!
Apologies for how long this has turned out – but I felt there were some things that were really important to say. I have learnt so much about other people and myself and am so glad we went on this holiday – don’t just go around the world and take what you want, have a bit of a deeper look and you’ll get more from it that you would imagine.