Sunday, June 15, 2008

Egypt Trip: Luxor to Cairo's Coptic Museum and Khan el Khalili Bazaar (Day 7)

07:00 hrs 7am wakeup call - luxury. Breakfast, downstairs, Mostafa waiting, baksheesh to luggage boys and away.

Luxor Airport

Luxor airport is out of town. We came to a railway crossing that was shut awaiting a train. Cars, lorries and carts just piled up into a mass, rather than queues in lanes. Everyone periodically tooted horns - in case the crossing controller had forgotten that the gates were closed, possibly? Car in front opened their front passenger door to let a little boy out to pee on the road. Eventually the train went through and the gates opened. Both sides charged - including the donkey cart where the 'driver' was asleep in the back - the donkey trotting slowly along! Through that lot without incident (how?) and on to the airport.

Baksheesh for mini-bus driver and porter who loaded or gear onto the trolley to take to and load onto the conveyor through the metal detector. Mostafa then went and sorted our luggage and tickets while we sat and waited. Bought 2 bottles of water labelled LE2 each - Total LE6 - "service taxes" was the reply to our query - everyone's at it. Guess who was also waiting? Some clues, he was rushing about looking cross, getting his own tickets, looking exasperated with people in the way of his trolley - don't they know he is a Diplomat? Mostafa said his goodbyes after he had got us our boarding cards. Just shook his hand and thanked him - no baksheesh for 'mobile phone man'!

Saw several people waiting for planes, including Mitch (the 'funny' American) and his family. Told him about the German's complaint (the letter not his unfortunate demeanour). Mitch was disgusted. Several others of our group were also at the airport, some waiting for same plane as us, some to Sinai etc for additional holidays.


Uneventful 60 minute plane ride to Cairo. On arrival no-one about from Travel Plus for 10 minutes or so. By the time our luggage appeared on the carousel he turned up. Original fellow from last Sunday evening - all those air miles ago! He loaded luggage and took us to the mini-bus. He told us our guide was not Amal this time, but another lady called Nadia. He asked us if we wanted to go to the hotel or start the tour. I also got my LE144 refund from the 'solo' Abu Simbel trip.

Coptic Museum

Start the tour was best choice, so off we went into downtown Cairo heading for the Coptic Quarter. Usual 3 lanes, weaving in and out, through red lights, hooters etc. great fun - as long as a I am a passenger that is! Eventually arrived at the Coptic Museum and had to wait 15 minutes or so for Nadia to turn up. Courier man - who is the Area Manager for Sinai but is staying in Cairo to teach new couriers at present - gave Nadia lots of pieces of paper re us - and a wad of dosh.

The visit to the Coptic Museum was a little slow and stilted. Don't think Nadia was totally geared up for that bit. All the exhibits have come from donations from Coptic families, old Coptic churches that have been pulled down, examples of architecture from rich Coptics' houses etc. I spotted some early stained glass windows in really vivid colours, Mary wanted lots of pictures of ancient implements and toys. The cases were quite well lit, so this time I have great confidence in the outcome (so those are obviously the only pictures that wont turn out!) However, Nadia warmed up when we visited an old Church built on the site of where (reputedly) Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived for 2 or 3 years when the lad was little. This we compared to a Synagogue built close by.

Apparently Coptics are pure bred, lighter skinned, large eyed, same eye-browed people. Only ever marry other Coptics, never divorce except for either madness or caught committing adultery. Very rich, very clever - the aptitude for learning and problem solving that singled out the early Egyptians.

Khan el Khalili Bazaar

From there we went to Khan el Khalili Bazaar. Nadia asked if we wanted to look round by ourselves - girls decided we would like her to stay with us. So we had our own Personal Shopper - just like Harrods!

This place is amazing, narrow streets with all sorts of shops crammed with virtually everything imaginable. Priority one was food. Nadia found us a snack bar that did a cross between Naan bread and pancakes that were sweet or savoury. Very filling even if, like us, you order the smallest. LE48 with drinks until Nadia questioned him closely. Turns out LE44 - gosh how did that mistake happen? Gave LE5 tip as per protocol, so we all won.

Then on to the shopping.


* Galabaya(s);
* Tablecloth;
* Spices;
* Jewellery;
* Deana's leather purse;
* T shirt for Lucy;
* Tea towels.
* Did I mention jewellery?

Nadia did us proud with the haggling. We also joined in and got some 'bargains'. Narrow streets, very busy - deep joy for Father - who as we know hates shopping and crowds!


* Mary taking a sniff of their version of 'All Spice' at the Spice Shop and coughing profusely to everyone's amusement;
* Man at tablecloth/galabaya shop's face when we insisted on opening the tablecloth package even though it was "brand new, unopened lady" - it was round!!;
* Man at tea towel shop who looked at Mary and the girls, leaned conspiratorially towards Mary, inclined his head my way and told her "You have a kind father" - he then laughed uproariously when I said "OY hang on a minute !!" (shook his hand with a cheery goodbye all round).

During the course of this haggle-fest, we had decided not to do the Citadel of Salah el-Din, but to continue the shopping. This meant of course that we had about 2 1/2 hours wandering the streets of this Bazaar. Lovely.

The Marriott again

FINALLY - back to the mini-bus in the square. As the bazaar is a big tourist trap and it is Sunday, the streets were chaotic with buses, taxis and mini-buses. Eventually forced our way out and travelled at fairly high speeds across downtown Cairo (posh shops and cars) to the Marriott Hotel. Baksheesh to driver, luggage trolleyed up by flunkies. Into the hotel to check in with voucher the courier had passed to Nadia this morning. She came to make sure everything was OK - even though she is only a freelance guide. That's nice.

Two rooms, both doubles, one on the 4th floor, one on the 14th - but in the same tower! (Gezira this time). Thanked Nadia - she wouldn't take any baksheesh. Now she was either very nice or she was keeping whatever money might have been required to get us into the Citadel. Your choice.

Settled into our rooms and informed the girls telephonically that nothing to do until 8pm. As it was only 5pm we just had long showers (BEAUTIFUL) and a well earned sleep. 8ish we met the girls and went down to Omar's restaurant, stopping only to take our photos on the sumptuous staircase in the lobby. Evening meal was spicy and I had 2 beers. This was the momentary lack of judgement that changes my 'lower abdomen unstable but in control' status to 'alimentary canal unstable but in control (only just!)'.

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