I’d studied Egyptology for a quite a few years. I knew the difference between my Ra and my Bestat. I’d been looking forward to this holiday for a long time.
Our first mistake was the cheap three star hotels. These were the days before TripAdvisor (I know – I’m that old) and we had a habit of going for the bargain-basement hotels in those days (we’re not much better now to be honest, but at least we have ready access to reviews by trusted members of the public in these tech- savvy times…)
The windowless room in Luxor was made more miserable by the sound of a scuttering cockroach in the bathroom. And at least the lack of light meant it was less easy to see the throbbing red sores on my legs (I believe there were around 40 of them in total), caused by those rampaging insects who found me so delectable on the night I sat outside my slightly posher hotel room in a hotel on the outskirts of Cairo. And there was even less light to see the welts by when the electricity packed in (this happened more than once.) Although out in the bright light of a Karnak morning, a lady behind me in the queue was able to see them very well, commenting on “that poor girl’s legs!” I was mortified.
Don’t get me wrong, the sight of the pyramids had very nearly reduced me to tears, and some of the not so well known temples that we were taken to by a lady and her taxi driver friend that we ran across completely by accident (she called herself Madame Rosa) were tremendous. Madame Rosa was in Luxor as a scientist, working on the greening of the Egyptian desert while living in the village of Kuna on the banks directly opposite Luxor. She took tourists around who were interested in seeing sights away from the madding tourist crowd as a side-line to her main job. (In fact, I’d love to hear from anyone else who has come across her.)
And Cairo museum was great – the number and quality of exhibits there was mind-blowing to this amateur Egyptologist. Even the Arthur Daley character who accosted us in the street outside and made us go and see his Papyrus showroom didn’t take the shine off too much. And our trip into the desert by convoy to see Hathor’s temple at Dendera as an experience and a half (this wasn’t long after the bombing at Luxor in 1997). But we never did take to the bargaining for goods (we ended up finding the one shop in Luxor that had set prices) and the baksheesh issue ended up giving us nervous tics (even though we know it’s a poor country – we know, we know.)
But for all that, and especially for those more travel-savvy than we were at the time, I couldn’t recommend Egypt enough. And thinking about it, it’s probably one of the holidays that I remember in most detail – which must mean something.