So we arrived into Luxor at the civilized and decent hour of 5 AM in the bloody morning. I'm convinced that there's some sort of arcane conspiracy in Egypt that any/all methods of civilized transport have to either take off or arrive at some ungodly hour of the morning, ensuring that everyone's sleep patterns are equally disrupted. Our tour agency sent a van to pick us up, and we hurtled, dazed and dozing, through the streets of Luxor, which were relatively safer than the streets of Cairo in that there were only human targets throwing themselves at us as opposed to vehicles. Other than that, it was actually quite an attractive town that reminded me of Napier in New Zealand, with a long broadwalk by the side of the Nile.
We arrived at the Mercure Hotel, a very nice little place which apparently has been there since the 70's, a fact which the decor in the lobby seemed to agree with. We were happily checked in right away and sent up to our room, which was quite nice and cozy in the sense that anything with a flat bed would have been cozy.
Of course, not even flat beds should be taken for granted. The room was a twin bed room, but soon after we arrived, someone came up to put out the little cot bed for me. That was great, except that this cot bed slanted. Not just mildly, I mean at a 30 degree angle. It sort of reminded me of the embalming beds they used during mummification; they were slightly tilted so as to let all the blood and bodily fluids drain out. I'm rather fond of my blood and bodily fluids, so I wasn't entirely enthused by the implications of this bed. To make matters even more surreal, rather than making up the bed so that the pillow (and my head) would be at the high end, they put the pillow at the low end. Apparently in Egypt, having all the blood in your body rush to your head is some sort of luxury. Perhaps I wasn't being adventurous enough, but as soon as he was gone, I switched the covers/pillow around. And yet they put it right back the next morning... ?_?
Anyway, for reasons I can't recall, we decided not to rest, and instead had the brilliant idea to visit the Luxor Museum. I can see the rationale, I suppose, given that museums tend to be decently air conditioned (ha ha!) and have comfortable seating to park your butt on and contemplate the grandiose meaning of the centuries (HA HA). So we girded our loins, revved up our engines, and set off!
... the wrong way.
Dearest, wonderfullest Dad... I love you, but there are these things called maps that can be quite useful in your day to day life. Especially when visiting a place you've only visited once or twice before, and, "think it's in this direction. I'm pretty sure. I think so, anyway."
Luckily, our error was discovered after only covering a block or so. This would seem like no big deal, except when you realize that this was 45 degree heat and we were leaving little puddles of sweat after every step. I was afraid I wouldn't have enough liquid left in my body to make it all the way back to the actual museum. Mom was annoyed, to say the least, though this at least provided a little black raincloud to replenish ourselves on the gruelling, harrowing, one block walk in the other direction.
What made the walk worse was those damned street hasslers I mentioned in a previous post. Every five steps, someone wants to sell you either a taxi ride or a horse carriage ride. The notion that you are not in the market for these methods of transport never occurs to them, even when you say no. Even when you tattoo "no" into your forehead and skywrite it across the heavens. The average conversation went something like this:
THEM: You want taxi?
US: (polite smile) No thank you.
THEM: I give you very good price.
US: No thanks.
THEM: Only 50 Egyptian pounds!
US: (polite smile now more of a rictus grin) No, really, we're not interested.
THEM: It's a good price!
US: No thank you.
THEM: I can make a good deal for you.
THEM: You tell me where you want to go?
etc etc etc
We tried ignoring them, but then we just got this:
THEM: You are very rude! I just want to talk, you ignore me?! You so rude!
We tried being, uh, firmer with them:
US: Look, GO AWAY!
THEM: You tell me to go away?!?! This my country! YOU go away!
Mom grimly commented that nothing would give her more pleasure. >.>
Still, heat and human flies aside, the walk itself was quite nice, with lots of feluccas moored up by the side of the Nile.
The museum was certainly worth the trip, although it lacked both the air conditioning and the seating we'd come to expect from museums. >.> I couldn't take any photographs inside, but there were some very striking pieces, such as the statue of Amenophis and Sobek, the royal mummies, the reliefs from Akhenaten's temple at Karnak, and the head of Hathor from Tutankhamun's tomb. The nice thing about the Luxor museum was that everything was well displayed... set against black backdrops with striking spotlights on it. It made everything, even the little dinky ushtabi, look pretty dramatic. There were also some statues in the garden that were pretty cool. ^^
At this point, we decided that we were very hot and tired, so we headed back to our hotel, with the intent of relaxing until about 4 PM when the sun began to ease off, then head out again to either Luxor Temple or Karnak Temple.
The best laid plans of mice and men...
I really don't remember much after my head hit the pillow. There was an almost audible *thunk* as we all fell deep asleep. The next thing I knew, Dad was shaking me awake and saying, "Wake up, it's after 7!"
That's right. We fail at afternoon snoozing. >.>
After an extremely pleasant Italian dinner out by the poolside, we had to decide what to do next. The two "evening" locales in Luxor are Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple, both of which are lit up but in different ways. Karnak actually has a sound and light show, complete with bombastic narration by Omar Sharif; it's also rather "organized" in that the show begins at a certain time, etc etc. Luxor Temple, on the other hand, is very free form so you can just wander around and see the pretty lights. We doubted we would be able to make it to Karnak for the show on time, so we decided to prance off down the road and see Luxor Temple.
And we did... uh... sort of.
You see, I had consulted the guide book and it said the complex remained open until 10 PM. That was fine, it would give us an hour or so to wander around and see the place. Unfortunately, this was apparently summer schedule, and they were on winter schedule. Or maybe it was the other way around, not sure. At any rate, we arrived at 8:30, cameras in hand, eager to do our basin-full of culture, only to be told, "Oh, so sorry, we're closing in 20 minutes, you can't go in."
At this point, Mom and I said, "sod it," got out our cameras and tripods, and stood right at the entry gate taking pictures. They might not let us in, but by god we would get our Kodak roll's worth.
While we were taking pictures, I noticed several rather tasty looking British boys also doing battle with the ticket agent with the same results. Turned out they were in Luxor on their last day and weren't going to get another chance to see the temple. The ticket agent was unmoved by their plight, and so they grumblingly set up their tripods next to ours. I put on my best cute smile and commiserated, and they seemed pleased that they weren't the only ones silly enough to utterly miss the closing time.
Eventually, the ever popular, "so, where are you from?" got trotted out, at which point I suddenly became popular:
ME: Oh, I'm from Vancouver.
CUTE GUY: What, really? I've been there before, it's awesome! Do you know Charlie's Music Store downtown?
Why yes, yes I did! >.> My parents tactfully disappeared as I strolled along merrily with the young men, chattering on about Vancouver and travelling and wasn't it hot, all while I tried to restrain myself from mentioning exactly what British accents do to me. Rawr. ^_^ In the end, however, the boys bid adieu, deciding to head back to their hostel and see if they could rearrange their bookings so as to have one more day in Luxor to see the temple. As they walked off into the night, Mom reappeared as if by magic.
MOM: They seemed like nice boys.
ME: Yeah. ^_^
MOM: So, did you get their email addresses?
ME: .... *best Anakin Skywalker impression ever* NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo........!!!!
We continued walking around outside the temple, taking photographs from the road. It sounds pretty silly, but the temple is right on the street, and even from a distance is extremely dramatic. In the end, despite our inability to enter the temple, it was a pretty good success, and we had a great time.
I'll give more details about the history/architecture of the temple in a later post. For now, I've put together a little slideshow of some of the better pictures I took; if you want to see them individually, they're in my LJ scrapbook or in my photobucket account (same name as LJ). Sadly, I can't seem to imbed it, so the link is here. Here are a couple random shots from it to get the idea across, though:
Flushed from our unexpected victory, we decided to wander into the markets and tourist bazaar that lies behind the temple. This was not a wise move, as it seems that all the taxi/horse carriage guys' annoying cousins work in tourist stores. In many ways, these guys were even more frustrating than their counterparts, because in many cases, we actually WERE interested in looking and potentially buying... only to be chased off by HALLO LOVELY LADY I GIVE YOU GOOD PRICE VERY GOOD PRICE VERY VERY NICE NOT FAKE LIKE OTHER STORES SEE REAL STONE I GIVE YOU GOOD DEAL LOL LOL. Call me finicky, but I can't really shop like that... hell, I'm still stuck on whether I really want to buy it or not, having someone shrieking in my ear that he will GIVE ME GOOD PRICE just exacerbates the whole issue.
As it was, though, we came away with one victory; we scored an exquisite little Anubis statue for anarchicq. We also found ONE store that actually advertised itself as, "Hassle free", and sure enough, it was a much pleasanter experience. Still, I suppose I should be thankful, as if I'd been allowed to browse the bazaar at my leisure without being bothered, I probably would still be there. >.>