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Published: January 24th 2013
This morning we had a very early flight south to Luxor which is situated in Upper Egypt. For some reason the idea that Upper Egypt is south from Cairo seems illogical. Unlike most, if not all, rivers in Europe, the Nile flows from South to North rather than North to South. Therefore the part of Egypt that is upstream is Upper Egypt. We had to meet Amal at 6.30am in the foyer of the hotel. Le Meridien's breakfast buffet is open from 3.00am each morning so we were able to have a quick breakfast before our departure for the airport.
After a very short flight with Egypt Air we landed in Luxor. Once again we had a Bunnik's representative to meet us and assist us with our luggage. He escorted us out to the minibus where we met Hussein, the Egyptologist who will be our guide while we are in Upper Egypt.
Well, we certainly hit the ground running because we were taken straight from the airport to the Temple of Luxor. The Temple of Luxor was built by Amenophis III in 390 BC. Hussein briefed us on the key points of the temple as he guided us from
the facade to the inner sanctuary after which he allowed us some free time to explore and take photographs as we worked our way back out to the entrance. At the entrance of the temple we saw the 25 metre pink granite obelisk which is the pair to the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Apparently Mohammed Ali offered both of the obelisks to Louis Philippe of France, but Louis Philippe decided he only wanted the straight one and the Ottoman Empire could keep the one that leaned slightly!! In return Louis Philippe gave Mohammed Ali a clock that is installed in the courtyard of the mosque in Cairo. The Egyptians are not impressed that the clock doesn't work and apparently never has.
Our next stop was Karnak Temple which is connected to the Temple of Luxor by an avenue of sphinxes. It is only in relatively recent times that they have discovered that the avenue of sphinxes runs all the way from one temple to the other, some three kilometres in all. Karnak Temple also features an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes that lead to the first entrance and it is even bigger and more impressive
than the Temple of Luxor.
After viewing the temples we were taken to the dock to board the Mövenpick M/S Royal Lotus which will be 'home' for the next four nights as we cruise the Nile. Hussein told us that there are around 180 cruise boats, but at the moment only 45 of them are in use. Those figures reflect that tourism is about 75% down on what it should be during the peak winter months. Given that our boat is far from full, tourist rates are probably even worse than 25%. Good for us, but a huge blow for Egypt's economy. Of course we had to board our boat via two other boats. Even with only 45 boats cruising they are docked side by side. I guess if it was busier we would have had to board our boat by walking through half a dozen others?!
Lunch was our first meal aboard the Royal Lotus. There were lots of delicious looking salads, but we opted for the hot buffet. Bernie asked the Maitre d'hotel about how the salads are prepared. He told us that the salad vegetables are washed in filtered water that has also been sanitised
for our safety. He assured us that we could eat the salads prepared on board with complete confidence.
After lunch we spent a very relaxing hour up on the sun deck. We almost had the sun deck to ourselves as very few of our fellow passengers ventured up to enjoy the sunshine and the view of the West Bank of the Nile. What a waste! We are certainly enjoying the warmth after it being so cold in Turkey.
At 4.30 pm Hussein accompanied us on a horse and carriage tour of the city. Although somewhat hectic by our standards, the pace was positively laid back compared with Cairo! We had two stops along the way, one on a bridge that intersects the avenue of sphinxes between the Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple and another at a café/restaurant where we drank mint teas (except for Bernie, of course, who drank Coke). Egyptian mint tea is made be adding a sprig of fresh mint to black tea. It was served boiling hot so hopefully it was safe to drink! There were lots of brightly lit street stalls selling a wide range of colourful candies which included some alarmingly pink
figurines. Hussein told us that the candies are traditionally purchased to celebrate the prophet Mohammed's birthday in a couple of days.
After our two hour tour of Luxor we returned to the boat just in time for the welcome cocktails in the lounge before dinner. We were welcomed aboard and introduced to all of the key staff members - the Captain (to the accompaniment of 'My Heart Will Go On' which was a bit weird considering the Titanic sank!), the Chief Engineer, the Executive Chef, the Maitre d'Hotel and the Head Housekeeper.
After these introductions we headed down to the dining room where we had a set menu for dinner. The table had bread rolls on it when we arrived in the dining room and the Maitre d' was quickly over to assure us (with a twinkle in his eye) that the bread is safe to eat. In fact, I think he returned as every course was served to assure us that the food is safe to eat. We have been making jokes that the staff are probably referring to Bernie as the Salad Nazi.
Steps for the day: (kms)
Tot: 3.661s; Tpl: 0.047s; cc: 31; qc: 122; dbt: 0.0765s; 3; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb