The time has come to pack our bags for the last time and ready ourselves for the 19hr stopover flight back to the UK. Last night we got out the map to see what we had done. It breaks down something like this:
Most of the food we have eaten on this trip has been either cheap tasty Egyptian or five star westernised hotel food. Today we had a recommendation from some French tourists and we tried our first five star Egyptian food. We knew we had found something special when we walked into Abou El Sid in Cairo as the place was packed. We did not have a reservation so we were offered a chance to eat at the bar. We readily accepted and were rewarded with what can only be described as divine Egyptian cuisine.
Last night we returned to Cairo. The first class sleeper train was full so we got the second class day train. We had prepared ourselves for the worst, as it only cost £5 for a 600 mile journey. Over all we were pleasantly surprised. The seats had lots of legroom and were comfortable enough, although the numb bum set in after the 12th hour of the 14 hour journey. I could not say the train was clean, but it was not far off something you would encounter in the UK. The toilet was a bit worse, somewhere between British Rail and The Glastontonbury Festival. Not a problem for the men but a little more of a challenge for the ladies on a moving train. Two of the windows in our carriage were shattered but holding together, I imagine they wait for them to fall out before they are replaced. Everyone had a seat number on their ticket but a few seats were broken, this caused a few arguments. At one point an Army Captain was called in to resolve the dispute. It was all highly entertaining and helped pass the time.
This blog would not be complete without mentioning the wildlife. We have seen lots of cats. At one point Karen had seven watching her eat a seafood dinner. Despite this we have seen many species of birds: Kingfishers, Vultures, Eagles, Herons, Wagtails, Swallows, Hoopoes, and Woodpeckers
Since travelling south of Luxor we have met many Nubians. The Nubians lost their homeland in the sixties, when Lake Nasser was formed, during the construction of The High Dam. About one third of them went south to Sudan and the rest seem to be spread over southern Egypt. The Nubians themselves are tall, thin and much darker than most Egyptians. They are a very relaxed, friendly and mellow people. Nubians have a spoken language which cannot be written. Today we visited two temples carved out of a cliff. Ramses II temple Abu Simbel and the Temple of Hathor, the only temple dedicated to a pharaonic queen. The Nubian Nefertari was most loved by Ramses II from his 95 wives.
We set sail on Christmas Eve bound for Abu Simbel on Lake Nasser. The food onboard has been the best we have tasted for a while so after gorging ourselves on a huge buffet lunch we were both ready to doze off when we heard the gong for dinner. We decided to get a small bite to eat and retire. Unfortunately as the majority of the 24 passengers on this ship are German, the 9 course Christmas Meal arrived a day early. Since then we have seen many temples, drunk much Egyptian beer and consumed more than our own body weight in food.
We went to bed early as we had a 5am pickup for a sunrise balloon ride over Deir-el-Medina and the Luxor tombs and temples. Take off and landing were a gentle affair as was the flight. The basket was split into five sections, the captain at the centre. The flight took about 45mins, and was professionally organized. We have finally booked our planned cruise over Christmas so we may be out of reach, but we will try to phone home. Rest assured we will be thinking of you all as we sip our cocktails aboard M.S. Tania, drifting on Lake Nasser.
We arrived back in Luxor this morning. On advice from some Aussie backpackers we decided to stay on the West Bank of the Nile this time. Although the two big temples are on the East so are all the tourist traps. The West Bank feels like a world away from the Luxor we were introduced to on the tour. Each side is helped in keeping its individuality by there being no bridge between them in the centre. However if you are a traveller on foot it makes little difference as there is a fleet of small boats to take you across at any time or you can catch the ferry for only 9p.