Michael Divine

The next morning on the rooftop under the wide open blue sky, looking across the the Nile and Luxor, we had breakfast with our friends Brad and Dela who had shown up for a few days in Luxor. It’s so nice to connect with old friends in new places. It brings it all home and broadens the experience considerably.

That day, with Jimmy gone and Luna off diving in the Red Sea, Violet and I took off for a walk down along a park that runs along the Nile, which had many many empty little storefronts and headed to the Luxor Museum. We wanted to see a few of the treasures that had been found there. It’s one thing to go in the Egyptian wing of some museum with little understanding as to where exactly all those things are from. It’s another to know that, for instance, these twelve giant statutes of granite and alabaster were dug up just a few kilometers away. It helps put it into perspective.

I find the carving to be so remarkable – the clean lines, the curve of the faces and torsos and arms – such a clean and refined understanding of shape and form. The way the alabaster glows, as well, is gorgeous. The granite holds forms that look so solid, so perfectly hewn – gods and pharaohs and queens sitting on thrones with their cartouches carved along them, blessing the people who would stand before them.

From there we wandered – the park, the souk. We bought a vase and drank coffee and enjoyed each other’s company. There’s a reason we married you know – it’s fun to traipse around with a best friend (who’s also beautiful).

We met up in the late afternoon with Brad and Dela, and the four of us walked along the banks, passing the great central mosque turned gold in the late afternoon sun, it’s courtyard filled with people: men drinking tea from little tea vendors, eating bits of bread, children laughing running shouting as children do, women in hijabs looking somber and laughing and talking amongst themselves, old men talking and gesticulating, their wrinkled faces and toothy grins a testament to the transformative powers of age and time and dusty winds. We walked along the roads and causeways that run along side the Nile til our path started to turn away from the river towards the bigger hotels. It was a different world over there – that modernized hub. I could see why the general tourists think it’s ‘safer’, though it’s also easy to see why that’s just an illusion. I wouldn’t trade any of that for the warm welcome and sweet authenticity that we’d experienced at the Nefertiti Hotel.

Felucca pilots offered rides in their small sailing boats for sunset trips on the Nile. We’d had offers all day as we walked of course. 10 pounds per person for one hour at sunset! Only a dollar fifty per person! Times are tough! But as the sun sank lower, the amount of time that it seemed we would have was slipping away. We opted instead for a spacious patio café, up a couple stories and directly on the water, where all 60 tables were empty. It’s hard to believe, really. Luxor has been built up with tourism in mind and when tourism plummets, there’s a lot of empty tables. We sat at a river side table, above the small docks and small sail boats, drinking thick Turkish coffee (which we continued to think wasn’t as strong as we hoped – thick though it may be) while the sun sank slowly in the sky, turning the sky, the river, everything it touched, a golden rose.

We returned to the hotel in the evening dusk and ate dinner and packed our things. Violet and I were on the night train to Giza, to arrive the following morning at Mercure Les Sphinx. The ride down had been relaxing and enjoyable so we didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be the same on the return. Mohammed let me use the printer in their office – leaving me in there with their computers and such (you have to understand – there is a level of trust and mutual respect in that which you just don’t find just anywhere) and I printed the tickets I’d purchased online (a phone with wi-fi is a wonderful little tool) and we headed out in a taxi after some sweet good-byes. The Nefertiti is really a lovely little hotel and I would highly recommend it to those looking for more flavor to their journeys outside of the more modernized hotels that abound (and which we were soon to arrive at in Giza).

O the night train. Our car, second from the last, seemed to have more sway and bounce to it, being on the end. The meal was an unintelligible lump of brown meat in a brown sauce and was quickly discarded. Tea was pleasant. Exhaustion kicked in quickly. The beds were pulled down and we settled in to sleep…. but that didn’t last long. I thought my bed had a rattle but the melatonin that I’d taken helped me stay under helped (to a point). Violet, on the other hand, reported in the morning that her bed nearly shook her off it was so bad. So we didn’t get much sleep. And the train once again took several hours longer than it was scheduled to.

It’s interesting to watch the city build up from the outskirts… the empty shells of buildings that rise out of farms, the abundance of donkeys and horses and water buffalo and goats and sheep slowly begin to diminish as the city itself begins. Still Giza is not Cairo. It’s a spur on the west side of Cairo, connecting the city to the Pyramids and the Giza Plateau with smaller neighborhoods of twisting roads, tourist shops, and countless hotels.

We arrived at our hotel via cab sometime around 10 a.m. and were greeted by polished marble floors, a clean pool, bar, the typical amenities of modern hotels. If the Mercure Les Sphinx were in Vegas, it would be on the mid to lower end side. If it were in palm springs, it might be pretty nice. Here in Egypt, it was pretty sweet. Anyways, it’s all open to interpretation and I was grateful for our accommodations so graciously provided. We checked into our room and collapsed on the big soft beds. If there’s one thing that we’ve been spoiled to – it’s comfortable beds – from our own tempurpedic mattress to the countless big soft beds that you can find in most hotels. The rooms were nice – modern decor, clean, tasteful with dark wood walls, and, most importantly – quiet. The most important part – the selling point of this hotel, however – is the view of the pyramids from the pool and patio. Poking over the top of the walls surrounding the outdoor area the Great Pyramid rises up into the sky making for a somewhat surreal backdrop. I mean – there it is.

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