Luxor is one of those place that I grew up wanting to visit. Home to the Valley of the Kings, the very name struck a chord of excitement in me for years. But beyond that Luxor is known for a great number of places, so many in fact that it is known as ‘The worlds largest open air museum’. No doubt about it there are enough sites here to keep you occupied for a very long time, and I’m talking weeks, perhaps longer. For Egyptologists Luxor is their Mecca, and in terms of tourism numbers it is one of the few places in Egypt still managing to bring in foreigners. That said, the Karnak Temple used to sell 10’000 tickets daily, it now is lucky to hit just 1000. It is therefore not surprising that Luxor is also known as the bull shit capital of Egypt, and for those travellers who have never experienced the sort of pressures some experience, it is the worst place in the world for them. But for us, really I don’t know why but we got very little hassle. I’m thinking its a mixture between the confidence that I exude when travelling, my relaxed couldn’t give a shit attitude and the fact I can speak a little Arabic. Or maybe (and more likely) its the fact I have a sruffy beard, tired clothes and look like a scrubber that’s stepped out of years in the desert. Still, for us a simple “laa shukran” (no thank you) was all that was really needed when we got bothered. I did see some people getting real hassle, usually the people who come to a poverty stricken country wearing expensive looking clothes and oozing ‘scam me’ from every pore in their body. Egypt is struggling, people that used to make a good living now have nothing, they are desperate. No, they are desperately desperate. And as a result prices have dropped massively and though the price for a taxi around town might start at LE£40 it very quickly drops to just LE£5. It’s almost instant too, you get a ridiculous price, say “da gha-lee aw ee” (that’s too expensive) and the price falls dramatically.
The day started with breakfast cooked exclusively for Jack, it was bread, beans that looked like someone had taken a shit on his plate and egg. He’s picked up a slight cough and the wife of the hotel owner made Jack some concoction or other. He didn’t like it and so on the sly we watered a plant with it. We then met Maria and went to our new place. It was absolutely gorgeous weather wise, not a cloud in the sky and I sensed a really good day coming on. After welcome drinks Maria drew me and Jack a map of the what’s and where’s and we found ourselves back amongst those we fit in with. It became quickly apparent that Luxor could be done, including accommodation for about £15 per day including visiting a site. Food is around LE£3 (30 pence) for something simple like falafel, and bread is even less. But at the same time you can easily pay LE£100 for a meal, or pay LE£10 for a bottle of water when it should be LE£3, it’s a real backpackers paradise, and given the vacant hotels, empty taxis, and desperation of touts, it’s a real gem of a place.
Luxor straddles the Nile and the East bank is where it’s all happening, the palm trees, greenery, well developed roads etc and for us, the Luxor Temple and The Temple of Karnak. I’ll talk about the West Bank in the next entry as we decided to do the East Bank on one day and the West on the next.
If you imagine, at the centre of Luxor is the Luxor Temple, a huge complex some 4000 years old, surrounded by a main road on one side and a beautiful Islamic aquare on the other, yet idyllically set amongst palm trees and vast monuments that tell the tale of time. It’s an absolutely gorgeous place and skinned me LE£50 for entrance with my “beautiful little white boy, Mr Jack” we really lingered, it reminded me of the Roman forum, but perhaps not quite as grand. But then considering the Egyptians mooched about thousands of years before the Romans, its not really fair to compare. I had been told about a small mosque built into the side of the complex that gave amazing panoramic views over the complex and both Jack and I stood in awe at such a spectacular place.
We grabbed a quick lunch and hopped in a taxi a couple of miles up the Nile to the Temples of Karnak. Entrance was a hefty LE£65 with Jack free as usual.
Covering a vast area of 2km, it was where god lived on earth a few thousand years back. And over the course of 1500 years it became a vast city home to some 81,000 workers, half a million cattle, 65 separate cities, and a shit load of other stuff. The fact is it is massive, with ancient obelisks rising high above the already gigantic columns its an area where I instantly knew Jack would love. He was climbing, running, falling, and absolutely loving life. The whole scale of the place is overwhelming, and yet it is so well preserved. The hieroglyphics look stunning, and you can get a real sense of life there, yet complete incomprehension at how such a magnificent, and huge place was constructed. Much of our time spent in Karnak was off the area. We explored the parts no one could be bothered with, the magical lake, the hidden treasures and we sat, and spoke. Jack opens up so easily to me and I could listen to him for hours. But after some tome, and considering It was around 32 degrees we decided we needed some shade, and it seemed a lot of others had the same plan. Jack became an instant celebrity and was attracting loads of attention. He said afterwards “dad they were fighting over me, it did my head in” I reminded him he was smiling the whole time, looking like he was in his element and he laughed, saying “yeah I actually proper loved it” and he pulled his really shy face.
Time had moved quickly and it was now heading up to 3pm, we had quite simply got lost amongst the history, the beauty and the whole feel of the place.
I decided we would walk the couple of miles back to Luxor along the bank of the Nile. With the West Bank being huge desert rock formations, there being absolutely no one else around and the sun glimmering on the river it was amazing. Easily one of the most beautifully picturesque places I have ever been. We were completely alone for much of it. We skimmed rocks on the water, played army behind palm trees, and kicked tangerines that had fallen from the trees. Eventually the bank turns into an almost promenade, and we continued our little journey back to town. It was so surreal, I felt like I would wake any moment.
Jack was being his usual self and running along, without a care in the world. I loved spending our time there together, but I wished the other kids were with us. I ached badly for a special someone, my kids, ice creams, laughing, joking. I thought of forgetful Lucy – that magical moment when everything is perfect, where nothing else matters and suddenly I felt lonely.
Jack was a bundle of joy and throughout the day he was in such a great mood that has been the vein of things on this trip. We’re almost not father and son, but best buddies just living the dream. I genuinely haven’t told Jack off a single time, he has adapted to whatever has come his way and has been non stop optimism, a really joy to be around.
In my mind this trip was also going to be an indication of how well he would cope on the road and he has absolutely exceeded all expectations. We had planned this summer to laze around in Dahab going on the odd excursion throughout the Middle East. It would have meant having my whole family there but Jacks mum pulled the plug meaning it was back to the drawing board. But now I know just how well Jack copes, we could end up anywhere.
Out first day in Luxor was fabulous, really, it was one of those days that had everything, one that I know I’ll remember for a long time. Though it was three people short of perfect, it was truly an amazing day.
To those at home I just want to say how much I miss and love the three of you so much. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t thought of any one of you. Charlie, I can’t wait to see your new hairstyle, Abi your new belt (which I’m convinced you’ll get) and Toby, I hope you get well soon x
To our new future, a new path in life and to the five of us – here’s to life xxx
To Jacks mum – heres something special, enjoy our amazing little boy.