Having been on a guided cruise on the Nile for 7 days our holidays ended with a two day hotel stay on our own in Luxor. On foot down the Cornichen from Pavillion Winter Palace Hotel to Chicago House and back with a visit to the Luxor Museum we were approached with polite offers for Felucca and carriage rides with the first no accepted and one felucca captain ask if we could please recommend them for not hassling . Lunch was taken at Snack Time, the Egyptian stile fast food next to MacDonalds. We rested and had coffee in the beautiful hotel garden and decided for one last thing to do in Luxor before going home early next morning – to have a meal at the Egyptian restaurant Sofra which is walking distance from the hotel.
With the end of the last prayer of the day we were let out the backdoor of the hotel by the concierge to avoid the hassles at the front door and map-in-hand we headed for the restaurant. At a crossing we stopped to check the map and this handsome young man dressed in a clean galabia going the same direction us asked if we needed help in perfect English. When he heard where we were going he pointed 5 houses down the road. “And when you have had your dinner, I can take you for a ride in my Lamborghini” he added with a smile.
We told him no, but he asked us to think about it, it would be 20 LE and take only 30 minutes, he would take us through the fruit market and the Christian market where the locals go and he would drop us off at the front gate of the hotel; and no hassle he promised.
We had a traditional Lamb w/rice & bread dish and the most wonderful plate of cakes and mint tea for dessert (recommended by the waiter) – Sofra is definitely worth a visit.
When we came out from the restaurant the young man was still there – with his one-horse powered Lamborghini and a co-driver. He repeated his offer, and one of these very special moment occurred where you just know that you can trust the other person with your life and we decided to go.
They took us through little bazaar street where we would never have ventured on our own, not even in broad daylight, through narrow streets with shops for local people where I thought it impossible for a horse and carriage to pass. Along the tour he told us that his name was Mustafa, that he had worked the carriages for 10 years only interrupted by military service. Life had become hard after the revolution he said. Muslims and Christians have always lived peacefully together in Luxor, and still do and we all suffer when tourists cease to come, this is our only means of income, he continued. There used to be four horses for his carriage, now there was only Celina. Before the revolution she would be on the street every second or third day only and he was sad that she was no longer round.
Half way through the trip he stopped the carriage and we were let into a shop – Christian owner – where they had all kinds of things from papyrus to alabaster, pashmina scarfs to necklaces and rings. We were the only customers there and it was a bit scary at first. I see from other postings that this may have been kind of a scam that would have given Mustafa percentages had we bought anything – and we might have had we come here early on our trip. However, all things were nicely displayed, we could take all the time we needed to go through the stock and was offered 30-50% discount already when entering. Comparing the prices with what we already bought, the prices displayed seemed ok, and with the percentage offered it confirms the hardship of the local community in Luxor. We left without buying, but this shop may be worth a visit. It is in the Christian quarters next to a Papyrus museum.
Coming out of the shop Mustafa was feeding the horse, he told the kids that had gathered to leave and collect each and every little bit of food not yet eaten and we continued the trip. Two blocks from the hotel there was a road block and we decided to get off and walk the remaining 100 meters. We gave Mustafa the agreed 20 LE and 10 LE as a tip for the horse. He tried briefly to negotiate for another 20 for his co-driver saying that we had been the only customers that day, accepted the no but asked if we would please recommend his Lamborghini to our friends.
Seeing the pictures of Mustafa and his horse on a big screen when I came home, I regretted not having given more. Then and there the horse was nicely groomed and the carriage clean and speckles, but the pictures reveals a skinny horse and a hungry young man.
So if you get the chance, please catch a ride with Mustafa and his one-horse powered Lamborghini
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