Sunday, June 15, 2008

Egypt Trip: Temple of Horus at Edfu, Temple at Esna, Negotiate the Locks, celebrate Mary's Birthday and moor at Luxor (Day 5)

07:00 hrs Again 7am alarm call. Better at it this time - Mary even had a cooked breakfast. Katie was with us. All down in the Lobby by 8am.

Novel way of getting to the Temple of Horus in Edfu. Taken through the streets in a convoy of horse drawn cabs. Four to a cab, don't take any hassle as the kitty will take care of the Baksheesh.

Dropped off at the entrance to the inevitable bazaar ("Plis no forget my cab 203, big tip OK? 203 OK?"). Whilst waiting for rest of party, was 'accosted' by Ali - "you remember my stall on way out - near International Phone Booth". Smiled and got rid eventually.

Temple of Horus at Edfu

This Temple is absolutely huge and the best preserved monument in existence (Ahmed again), only 36 stones on one turret missing and about 5 inside. Actually it is in very good condition. There were hordes of visitors as all the ships had disgorged their travellers at 30 minute intervals. Ahmed's talk centred on the theme that all temples are based on the construct of both the body and the pyramid - hey it fits when he describes it! Tremendous architecture. Huge columns. Granite centrepiece to the Temple's Holy of Holies (the Heart). Also an Arc of the Covenant in the corridors behind it (the Brain). No climbee tower photo this time!

Poor Katie had broken out all over her neck and chest before we had even entered the Temple. She is allergic to horses - and has been for many years! Guess which one day of the holiday it was that Mary didn't have the Piriton in her bum bag. Yep, you guessed it. Ho Hum - life's like that innit?

A Bargain?

On the way back to the cabs, there was Ali shouting "Steve, Steve - see my shop". Gave him short shrift, but Mary was taken by some coloured shawls that a hawker wanted LE50 each for. Told him it was too much, told him LE10 each, walked off. Got about 30 metres down the road - almost to the cabs - when he rushed up and offered LE25 for the two, which I took. Success. Uneventful journey back to ship in 203, (apart from our driver stopping to shovel certain equine discharge into a bucket slung underneath). Successfully avoided paying him baksheesh, this being dealt with by Lee, our kitty holder.

Back on board, refreshing flannel waiting for us at end of gangplank as usual. Back to our rooms for Mary to open her one present (Lucy's) and all the cards I had brought with us.

50 minute talk from Ahmed in the lounge bar about all sorts of things, including price of goods we are likely to buy in Luxor. Then down to lunch at 12. We set sail around 1pm to Esna.

Temple at Esna

Reached Esna and almost immediately we were onshore walking to the pay booth to get our tickets for the Temple. Ahmed handed out the tickets and we had to walk about 400 yards through a fairly narrow street, covered over in rugs to keep out the sun. FULL of vendors and hawkers. These guys really knew their languages but were the pushiest we had encountered so far. Got some wolf whistles and leers - well, obviously not ME - just the girls. Kept them close to me!

Saw the Temple - which is considerably below current street level. Only the Hypostyle remains, but it does contain colours. Apparently the rest was destroyed when Christianity took over big time - just used for building materials. The Hypostyle hall was saved because a powerful local family used it as a shop and a warehouse. They even hung their wares on the columns - hence the colours were preserved. In the ceiling, all the signs of the Zodiac are clearly visible, as were the locusts that had been carved in to the leaves on the top of the columns.

Outside Ahmed showed us the 'Leaning Minaret'. According to Ahmed, it leans at the same angle as the more famous Leaning Tower - which incidentally, according to Ahmed leans because the builders kept seeing beautiful girls walking past and turned like this....

At the Mercy of the Vendors

Ahmed then told us we had about 20 minutes to get back to the ship (naturally we were already late for the 'official' time). He warned the ladies not to go unaccompanied into the shops - renowned for 'problems'. So off we went to try some bartering. 1st chap enticed us back to his shop for tablecloths - LE5. Turns out he really meant LE1700 - the LE5 being for the napkins (which always come with the tablecloths anyway). Turned him down, smilingly making him let go of my arm as the Tourist Police came and took a mild interest in his 'protestations'. Then we ran the gauntlet of shops, coming unscathed, but also unencumbered by produce, at the other end. Then we went back at the enticement of one chap. We liked 3 outfits, but he wanted LE150 each. Told him LE50 for the three. The hurt look came on - aren't they good at that - we insisted, he declined, we escaped.

So, back on board, refreshed by the flannels. Up to the sun deck (under the shade) for afternoon tea (it being 3pm).

Through the Locks

We left Esna heading north towards Luxor at 3:45. First we had to negotiate what had once been the lock in the old dam (not to be confused with the Old Dam at Aswan which is south upstream). Our ship had to wait for 4 other ships to go through. During that time a swarm of small boats turned up to sell their tablecloths, shawls etc. Throwing the wares up to the top deck and getting money thrown back (sometimes). There was great hilarity all round as these guys are characters - especially the younger ones. Two to a boat, one rowing, the other standing, balancing, throwing, speaking in tongues, shouting and laughing. Great fun.

Eventually they drew back and so did the road, allowing us to pass through. We then had to moor and wait to go through the real lock, which seems to take two ships at a time. We went through this lock during our evening meal, suddenly realising that all we could see through the restaurant window was large blocks seemingly moving upwards - then sliding backwards.

A Birthday Party

As it was Mary's birthday we had a bottle of Egyptian White Wine (I spoil that woman). It was fine - except that Katie also drinks, so we only had one large glass full each! I had arranged a 'treat' with Reception for this evening meal. I had told them we were eating at 7 on the English Speaking sitting - "OK". During and after the meal we waited. I asked Mohamed (the one who now wants to marry Katie) to ask the boss when we were getting it. Back came "Now or during the Belly Dancing?". Images flashed through my mind and an instant decision was made - Definitely NOW! . . . . 30 minutes later - all the English Speakers having left the restaurant except Mitch and wife, Diego (techno geek),

Ahmed,the-young-couple-who-seem-to-have-been-round-the-world plus the nice elderly American couple. Cake arrived and we cut it. Decided to give them all a slice each. As we carried it to their table they sang Happy Birthday and the rest of the non-English speakers joined in. Lovely. Spent the rest of that evening talking and joking with them.

Mooring at Luxor

Boat moored at Luxor at around 10pm. Watched from sun deck as Belly Dancer Troupe came onboard. Also saw what was obviously the Travel Plus rep, so went to lobby to meet him and discuss plans for tomorrow. Asked Mostafa (our rep) about Abu Simbel - remember I had paid as no rep or guide came with us. He said we would probably get a rebate - but in Cairo. He took our itinerary to fax to Cairo for confirmation. He also lent me LE200 to tide me over tomorrow - because of the extra ticket prices for Queen Nefertari's tomb.

The only bank with an ATM was 'a downtown taxi ride' away. As it was already 10:30pm and we have to get up at 5am, decided not to bother!

Tomorrow is a big, early day.

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