It’s our last day in Luxor, and we’re on our own until an afternoon tour of the Luxor Museum. We’d been told repeatedly not to talk to any of the “entrepreneurs” who would offer to take us around.
It was a beautiful morning, so we decided to take a leisurely walk on our own along the Nile to see what we could see. We’ve learned by now how to ward off the many, many “salespeople” constantly accosting you. I use a finger-wag at my waist with no eye contact and say the word, “Imshi” (go away) after a salesman pushes once too many times. It actually works (except once when I said it too soon, and the reply in English was, “this is my city…you should be more polite. I did feel a wee bit guilty). After we walked further, however, the sidewalks just disappeared. We were forced to walk in the street, both with and against traffic – like the locals were doing. Except the locals were perfectly relaxed.
As soon as we found pavement again, a good looking young man, walking in our direction, made eye contact and said, “Hi. I remember you from the boat. I work in the kitchen.” Suspicious, I was about to ask which boat, when so-trusting Marsha says, “Oh, the Royal Lily, right”? “Of course”, he says, “Of course”.
“I have to go to the spice store in the market to get saffron for the boat. Why don’t you come with me if you’d like to really see the local market. You certainly don’t have to pay me and it will give me a chance to practice my english”, he said.
I surreptitiously shake my head at Marsha…and off we go.
I relaxed a little as I realized we probably never would have navigated the convoluted, traffic-congested streets to find the market. He got us there comfortably.
Our first stop was his buddy’s shop with every imaginable piece of tourist cra…stuff. We refused to buy, saying we were only interested in spices. We left leaving an obviously disappointed merchant and a frown-faced guide with no commission.
We walked on through colorful clothing stalls, fishmongers, falafel makers, people selling mountain of steel wool, and goods of all kinds.
Then he, and
Marsha, of course, asked if he knew anyone in the market selling pots (she thought she had seen a stall just before the spice shop, but he was taking us the other way). It didn’t take long to realize he thought Marsha said, “pot”, not pots. We were on the way to his hashish dealer when we realized he had misunderstood.
We convinced him to walk back to find the potter who had to be 90 years old with piles of his hand-thrown, very crude, utilitarian bowls and cookware. He was thrilled to sell a bowl, and to shake hands with a fellow potter from America. It was getting late, so we started walking back toward the Nile and to our hotel.
On the way, after dancing with and around cars, horse carriages, and pedestrians, we passed this view of the “Avenue of Sphinxes” being unearth and reconstructed as a walkway all the way between Luxor Temple and Karnak. A distance of over one and a half miles. The original causeway was built around 1400 BC and used once a year during the Opet festival when the Egyptians paraded along it carrying the statues of Amun and Mut in a symbolic re-enactment of their marriage. The current reconstruction by the government may take another 1400 years because of modern hurdles to be jumped, e.g. two churches were constructed directly over the “Avenue” many years ago. Think there might be a bit of a clamor over moving or razing the churches??? Also, lots of roads and bridges in the way, plus funding has pretty much run out…lots more tourists needed.
Then Marsha spots what our “guide” tells us is the oldest mosque in Luxor. Actually a pretty impressive place. He tells us he can take us in, so we follow up the entrance steps, remove our shoes, Marsha ties her sweater over he head, voila.
It is a marvelous, welcoming place, described in detail by a local congregant as he escorts us through. He introduces us to the Imam, who tells us more and asks for a donation “for the kids” that of course we gladly provide.
The balcony of the Mosque also provides amazing views of the adjacent Temple of Luxor as a bonus.
It’s been a terrific morning, full of special treats, but we have to get back to the hotel to get ready for our Luxor Museum tour, so our “guide” escorts us back to the walkway by the Nile.
I pulled Marsha aside, handed her some cash, and asked her to say to the “kitchen worker”, “I know you didn’t want any money, but take this anyway, for your kids”. As we made ready to part ways, Marsha handed him the money. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a jaw drop so far in disappointment (part of their negotiating skill set)! So I said, “I know you said you didn’t want anything, but since we had such a good morning, here’s some more. Thank you so much.” As we walked away, his mouth closed a bit, not into a smile though, and he kept his had stretched out, but I think we all really had a good morning.
On our way back to the hotel, we had passed the “Winter Palace” Hotel. A regular guest from 1907 was Lord Carnarvon, the patron of Egyptologist Howard Carter, who in 1922 discovered the intact tomb of Tutankhamun. After the discovery was announced the Winter Palace played host to the international press corps and foreign visitors there to follow the story. We decided to walk into the still luxurious hotel and take a peek at the marvelous collection of Victorian furnishings and Chinese art.
Take a break now, and we’ll meet you later at the Luxor Museum.