Luxor: Getting Money and Making Friends

We woke early and got the ferry over to the west bank where Mamdoh waited. We don’t get hassled by anyone over there now and I think most of them know we’re friends of his.

He and C went for their horse ride (I’ve got band aids on my bum from my last riding experience), while I strolled over to Ali’s restaurant, sat down in the shade with a jug of lemon drink, and began writing in my diary. Ali arrived and was pleased to see me (the Egyptian male handshake: get a run up with your hand and whap hands together in a firm grip), arranged a fan for me, and got me tea. Wonderful relaxing hour writing, looking out over the Nile and shooing away flies.

C and Mamdoh came back (C not as happy about the ride as I expected but hid it from Mamdoh – skittish horse), and we sat for a while. We’re all smoking Cleopatra cigarettes like they’re going out of style. Then said goodbye until the evening and took the ferry back for lunch at the hotel – chatted with an Australian guy and English girl over lunch.

The money situation was pretty bad by this time – I was down to about seven pounds – so we were feeling a bit more in touch with the average poor Egyptian. Down at the riverfront, sitting in the shade, we met the felucca captain we’d talked to the day before yesterday, and we sat together and whinged about the lack of felucca business and the rude tourists. At his urging I gave hawking a go – two couples ignored me, and I ran across the road to two German women and tried to convince them to take a felucca ride but they looked at me like I’d crawled out from under a rock! Now I understand what a difficult way to earn a living it is – and our Egyptian friend had been doing it for 25 years. He bought us lemonades and we sat and talked for a while, then said warm farewells and walked on.

Saw our felucca captain Mahmud and chatted for a bit. It’s great to walk along the water front and stop and chat to friends – it seems once the Egyptains get to know you you’re friends for life! The atmosphere is laid back and relaxed, and its the best way to be in the heat.

Later on we met another guy who dubbed himself ‘Shakespeare’, a smooth-talking, Shakespeare-quoting Egyptian man who wanted to help us out. He bicycled to two banks for us to find out if they did Visa cash advances, while we sat and sipped his tea. After chatting for a while I think her realised we were genuine and had no money. At one point he and I were sitting outside while C was in a shop and he began talking to a fat stupid-looking English tourist who completely ignored him, but then turned to him and said “what’s your problem?”; This really annoyed me so I said “why are you being so rude” and ticked him off, which really shocked him of course! I’m on the Egyptian’s side – the tourists are rude and treat them like less than human beings.

The subject of C came up and when I told him we were just friends he said I was “very noble”!

Anyway, I had to go find a bank, so thanked him very much for his help and said goodby – a nice bloke. He went back to his business – “if music be the food of love, play on” he said to a passing female tourist …

There followed several hours of trying to find the bank that took Visa card; walked for ages, following directions from various official and non-official people until finally, as darkness was falling, we discovered the Bank du Caire. When the teller told us they took Visa we almost fell on him with relief and gratitude, to his surprise.

Rich tourists again, we took a carriage to Karnak, but when we got there discovered that that evening was the sound and light show. It’s hard to explain to the Egyptians that you don’t want to see this tacky stuff. Instead we got a taxi back to Luxor, the young stoned guy in the front passenger seat trying to invite us to a party and hashish.

Back over to the west bank and a big dinner with our friends at Ali’s restaurant. A big party of boring Germans was there but after they left we sat outside, smoked, drank tea and solved jokes and puzzles. About 11pm we said farewell and took the ferry back over the dark waters of the Nile – the boat didn’t dock properly, bashing into a larger boat, and we had to jump to the shore from the deck.

Another friendly guy wanted us to join him for tea – but we explained how tired we were, chatted for a bit then went back to the hotel.

We’re really going to miss Ali’s restaurant, and Luxor. We’ve got a real insight into the hospitality, warmth and simple philosophies of the Egyptians. As one guy said, late at the restaurant, “do you choose the life or do the life choose you?” I think I’m choosing my life pretty well. Back to Cairo and the coldness of the big city tomorrow.

PS At dinner Mamdoh gave C a lovely necklace of red glass beads; he was shyly sitting next to her all night and I noticed him gazing at her at times – poor guy lost his heart!

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