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The journey to Luxor, Egypt

Home -> Africa -> Egypt -> Travelogue Egypt -> 08 January 2004

Thursday 08 January, the journey to Luxor, Egypt

We get up at half past 4, after a very short night, but we don't care since we are going on holiday. It is about time, we haven't been on holiday yet, this year... Who cares if the year is only one week old! A bright moon shines when we drive to the airport and we are glad the roads are dry, although the forecast had said it would be icy and slippery. It is still dark when we check in at 7h30 at Schiphol. Almost all seats have been sold and we are almost the last to arrive. So, we don't get a window seat and therefore we don't have any nice aerial pictures.
Elisabeth at Schiphol SchipholAfter checking in we have tinme enough to drink a few cups of coffee to keep ourselves awake, but when we step into the plane we hear that there is another 45 minutes delay.
It doesn't matter; we are on our way to Egypt. It's Elisabeth's first time, for me it is like returning to my second homeland. Between 1986 and 1990 I have lived and worked in Egypt as a tour guide. Since then I have never returned. After searching the internet and visiting some travel agencies we have arranged two return tickets and hotel accommodation for 15 nights for less than 1400 Euro. For both of us and including all taxes. Our hotels are 4-star.
Elisabeth in the planeIt takes 4.5 hours from Amsterdam to Luxor. We are sitting next to the aisle and the time passes by much quicker when we start chatting with our neighbours. The company we fly with is Transavia and we really appreciate the fact that we have more space for our legs than in an Easyjet-plane. But Transavia followed their example of having no meals or drinks included, probably to keep the costs and therefore the ticketprices lower.
Emptiness at Luxor AirportFrom Holland to the middle of Egypt, in the desert, clouds cover the land. But when we get out at Luxor Airport the sun shines brightly. This time, Elisabeth has a lot of pain in her ears when we start descending because of the changes in atmospheric pressure and she is glad when we are outside, on the ground. The landscape around us is totally bare, a real desert with a few mountains and some airstrips.
Yet, 15 years ago, it was even more desolate here, with only 2 buildings in the middle of the desert. The road to Luxor went through a sandy plain. Now the airport is crawling with tourists and Egyptians who try to make some some money. Within 5 minutes we are confronted with small boys who ask for baksheesh (tips) for lifting our suitcase 30 centimeters. We don't mind tipping people for services they do, but here a lot of people are very good at doing unasked services, even when you protest. And then they ask for money. Tipping isn't bad, but our rule is that we have accepted an offer for help and the service is really worthwhile. Especially young boys at the airport and the coachmen in Luxor are terrible in this respect.
Since we have a combination of flight and hotel, transfer to the hotel is included, but it would have spared us almost an hour when we had arranged a taxi (€ 3) for ourselves. In the end we arrive at 5h30 (Egyptian time, 1 hour later than in Holland) in the New Winter Palace hotel.
Palmtree garden Winter Palace hotel View from our balconyTo the left a picture of the gorgeous palmtree garden behind the Old Winter Palace, the oldest hotel of Luxor which we can view from our balcony. Agatha Christie wrote a large part of her novel 'Murder on the Nile' here.
When I was working as a travel guide and tourleader I took groups to camp in these gardens, quite an experience.
Our balconyTired, but very satisfied, we enjoy the short period of dusk, but unfortunately, the sun sets at the other side of the hotel. Time for a cup of coffee in our new home. After having a snack at the hotel restaurant, we start for our first walk on the Corniche, the boulevard along the Nile.
The whole boulevard used to be a big mess in the years that I came here, since lots of Chinese workers were busy to renew it and apparently, the work is finished, at last. Stairs lead to a lower boulevard where shops and restaurants are build. There are more cruise boats than I remember along the quay but less tourists. After the terrorist attacks in 1997 tourism has collapsed and only the last few years it is getting better.
An advantage of all this is that the Egyptian pound has devaluated much and the country is very cheap for us. One pound is only € 0,13 and we now pay less than € 40 for our double room in the New Winter Palace which was about € 250 15 years ago.
Forbidden to honkBut the attitude of the drivers hasn't changed over the years. From all sides taxidrivers and coachmen yell at us while they drive by and they honk whenever and wherever they can. Except here, but only for 50 meters; then they start again.
Elisabeth resting I am back!We walk to the Mercure hotel (it used to be the Etap) where I have spend quite some time, to have a drink. And how longer we sit, the more we feel how exhausted we are. But we are on holiday so we are going to relax and do things easy. At least tomorrow, after that we will see again. There is so much to see here that one week is not enough, so why should we rush?
Luxor templeAnd again we pass by the Luxor temple, an impressive monument along the Nile. We will visit it tomorrow. At night the temple is illuminated and one can imagine how magnificient it must have been 3500 years ago.
Around 9 we are back in the hotel to rest. It feels good to be back in Egypt and Elisabeth is very glad she finally is in Egypt, as she has always wanted. We feel already at home and we look forward for the coming two weeks!


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