Hot-air calamity, pirates, sharks, deadly sea snakes,coral groping insults arrests, bribe scandal destitution & lamp mystery.


"Egypt - Do your best for her".

After swimming, lying on a comfy sun-lounger under the blue sky with a light breeze blowing over me,  I fell into a deep sleep.I found myself in a beautiful garden, next to a babbling pool with hibiscus blossom and oleander waving from the flower beds.  Fragrant scents drifted from roses and jasmine flowers.

after swimming
Does it look red to you?

I was tripping down the elegant steps to join a crowd of admirers who hushed at my approach.  As I passed, they clapped and nodded to me and exclaimed “well done”.  I glanced at my reflection in the pool and I was so young-looking – not more than 25yrs old and slim and fit and tanned.  The reception committee handed me the Nobel-Oscar-Wimbledon -winning statuette and hung medals around my neck.

I was dreaming

The sunset was glorious and the sky went dark, then lit up with countless points of bright shining sparks.  They called out “encore, encore” so I gave them another perfect rendition of ‘La dona e mobile’ as the younger ladies threw flowers at my feet.  Barack stepped out of the crowd and pleaded with me “Now, please will you be my running mate?”.   I quickly signed a new treaty giving the Palestinians their own state and the right to return and recognising a legitimate state of Israel within the 1967 borders.  The question of Jerusalem took a few more minutes to sort out, and then I rang Bashr Al Assad and set terms for his departure.  The condition of women and LGBT people and disabled and other usually excluded groups and the state of the planet were resolved without a fuss.  World poverty, hunger, malnutrition, disease, inequality and loneliness are a thing of the past under my latest proclamation.  This is a decidedly good place for a snooze.

Nubian style

Al  Quseir is a very nice little bay town with a long promenade along the beach and lots of tea/coffee/shisha places to pause and enjoy the view of the sea.  The houses stretch all along the coast.   We wandered around the souk looking for a wedding gift and, on a bric-a-brac stall, we came upon a little silvered and hammered lamp, with quite a sweet design, which Christiane liked.

It was on the hot air balloon trip that things started to go wrong.  They said “don’t leave any valuables in the rooms”, so Chris put all the passports and tickets in her rucksack to be on the safe side.  She was leaning over the edge of the basket when all the contents of the small pocket on the back of the rucksack fell out and spiralled down into the desert sands.  This was a bit of a worry and once we were back on the ground, we quickly enlisted for the quad biking ride to go hunt for our documents, but to no avail and we returned to the hotel somewhat dejected and anxious.

Meanwhile, Rose has chosen to go on the scuba/snorkelling session and she saw some small pink things  on the bottom, which she collected as souvenirs.  There were no sharks at all to worry about  but 15 varieties of deadly sea snakes, fatal tigerfiand venomous stingrays & stone fish. She said there was a man who was just as much nuisance as any sea creature.  I am sure she should not have done it, but she said something unspeakably rude about his manhood and his mother and he accused her of taking coral from a protected area.  The police took all the remaining money to release her.

So now we were stranded in the middle of the desert with pirates off shore and without any papers or tickets or money and not even a quad bike to get us to the airport.  I blamed Christiane for wasting it all on a silly old lamp.  We quarrelled, Chris was crying and wiping her eyes and rubbing the lamp… and guess what?

There suddenly appeared on the scene an Egyptian belly dancer from Croydon, who is a holiday rep in the low season.  She admonished us for fighting when we really love each other and she said it was all Rose’s fault anyway.  Then she waved her ID card at the checkpoints and whisked us all through to live happily ever after.


Onwards beyond the Nile

"Egypt - Do your best for her".

With all our baggages & attendants, we crossed the mighty Nile, its deep & powerful waters flowing North,

Tent near road

leaving the Western bank behind us , and struck out towards the East.

The nameless Eastern Desert lowlands

It was a long and arduous journey,

Arduous, I take a break in the shade

firstly through well populated lush pastures of sugar cane and wheat, with a multiplicity of other produce proudly displayed along the roadside – stacked-up crates of tomatoes and piles of squashes & gourds and baskets of garlic, bananas & hibiscus palms and so many more besides. The whole land is irrigated by wide canals penetrating far beyond the great river which cause many busy towns and villages to be dotted along their courses.  And then we found ourselves traversing many miles of desolate desert, flat lands of barren scrub with the horizon blurred by a dense fog of dust which creates a pervasive mist in all directions.  We learned that this affliction is often blown in by a persistent wind from the South – from the vastness of the Saudi empty quarter.    Very few living things were thriving here but we contended with scorpions and snakes great & small, with wild wolves that will attack a man and destroy him as a pack; we searched tirelessly  for the Singer Gazelle of this region but this was in vain; and we overcame flies in large numbers.  Indeed, I was happy to have insisted that the ladies had taken the full range of prophylactic immunisation vaccinations & innoculations before travelling to these parts.We rested a while in a bedou area and took local beverages in the shade, before tackling the main challenge: the great nameless mountain range of the Eastern desert.  These folk live as nomads with camels and sheep and donkeys and we conversed briefly with their children.

Mountains in the Eastern desert

From the lowlands, which rise gradually through gentle bluffs & hills, the desert increasingly erupts into greater and greater peaks of eroded sandstone rock, standing as vertical cliffs which would be altogether impassable were it not for the paths around and passes between the summits. The scree is loose and runs down the mountainside in well-trodden tracks; great slabs of rock have been split into shards and slices and worn down by the elements over millennia.Then, at last, in the far distance, we spied the water and the surf.

First sight of the sea

It is not red as some travellers falsely report;  it is a fine azure blue, much like waters at Swanage, but nonetheless, what a welcome sight!  With the lively breeze raising a lively swell with waves that break right against the roadway, our pulses were quickened by the relief from barren and overwhelming landscapes and by the familiarity of the coastal elements.

Several small towns and harbours break the monotony of the sand and dunes; phosphate extraction plants and trading ports excite interest; fishing vessels and larger craft ply their ways across the waters.

Our new abode is in the Nubian style (see pics)

Our hallway

with plentiful opportunities for bathing.   Two sea beaches and a jetty and four swimming pools in various sizes are all available.

Pic of me mopping the passage floor

However the wind blows ceaselessly and, in common with most other residents we seek shelter from its ravages.

Here Iam hoovering the bench & cleaning the window

El Quseir is also known as Al Qusayr, meaning small palace or fortress, we just say Al.  It was previously called Portus Albus by the Romans and Thagho by the pharaohs.  People used to come from Somalia to buy leather, ivory and incense and it was a stopping point on the haj from North Africa to Mecca; during the French occupation, it was the arrival point for foreign Jihadi fighters from all over and it was the only place you could buy Yemeni coffee.  Potable water used to be imported from Aden.  In the old roman port they found hundreds of amphorae.  Nowadays there are angels hovering around.


Lux & Flux in Luxor

Luxor bride all made-over waiting for her engagement party
Drinking in the sunshine, braving the risks ...

Vendors besiege the cruise ship.

After all my comments about crocodiles,

I really did not expect to find one in my bed!

Crocodile in my bed!
Grazing without a care for crocs
Towing the crop down the river
Action in the paddy fields
Loading the sugar cane crop

From the Luxor  quay to the site of Edfu Temple in town, you ride in a traditional horse & carriage with shiny silvery decorations & tassles hanging  down; the return journey after your visit is with the same carriage.  There’s room for 2 people facing forwards and two facing back and the driver sits on a bench slightly higher, holding the reins and guiding the vehicle through the traffic; it’s open air, a chance to see the town & street life of Luxor with a hint of kitschi romantic nostalgia.

Yesterday some Brits complained vociferously about the way the horses are treated – it’s cruelty to animals, too much whip and not enough attention to animal welfare.  So, fearing for a further loss of tourists caused by the protests, the travel agencies decided to use motor taxis instead, for the short cross-town journey & return.  The horse & carriage drivers were informed that their services would no longer be required and the police were alerted in case of trouble.

When the next Nile Cruise ship arrived, the motor taxis were lined up ready for passengers, so the Brits should be happy that a more animal-friendly policy would be in operation henceforth.   But the Horse & Carriage drivers surrounded the taxis and would not let them move away from the dock.  An altercation ensued and the army were called to avoid trouble in front of tourists.  After protracted negotiations, the carriage drivers promised to treat their animals more humanely, to give them more rest, better rations and less whip.  So the tourist agencies reversed their edict and transporting the cruise passengers to & from the site of the ancient temple will once again be done in 19th Century style and the Brits can claim another great victory in the ongoing struggle for animal welfare.

The Valleys

Those ancient Egyptians were fantastic engineers.  There was a transport engineer who was doodling one day and accidentally invented the underground station.  So he built a few of them out in the hills, but they hadn’t yet invented the underground train and he just didn’t know what to do with them.  In the end they just painted the walls with station names and colourful scenes & decorations and graphic images and rented them out as burial chambers.  It was extraordinary popular and all sorts of people had them built with their own interior design for their afterlife.  Christiane was poking around in one of these old holes when she stumbled across the mummmies of a whole branch of her family ancestors who used to live by the river before they moved to Switzerland for tax reasons.  They had really good taste in sarcophagi, strangely with images like cuckoo clocks & lederhosen on the front.

The valleys were an obvious visitor attraction but, as the underground marvels were hidden by rocks & sand, fewer and fewer tourists came down the years.   Nowadays they’ve made the valleys into a theme park called “Find the Buried Treasure” and gold-diggers from all over came to hunt in the sand.  There is a little road-train that carries you from the car park to the hillside and fast-food stops and souvenir vendors all along the route .

The bargain menu at Hash & Soup - cow pie

There are big bed & breakfast houses for the hunters from each country – Polish, French etc.  To support their big basket-ball teams they have renamed the places as Valley Kings and Valley Queens.

Boat yard on the Nile
Hash & Soup nowadays

Hash & Soup was a fast food joint which one of the Queen tried to convert into a ten pin bowling alley  and outdoor cinema, but they didn’t  think of popcorn, so the venture only lasted about 5000 years.

Chris & Rose in front of Hash & Soup

KomOmbo means “there’s a pile of gold there.”  Edfu means “kill your enemy with a spear”.

Obelisk is a single piece of rock hewn from granite and means “mine is longer and harder than yours”.

Obelisk in Carnac or Luxor or ....

Memnon was a Greek restaurant where they broke statues instead of plates and it didn’t work out.

Rose broke these statues and we done a runner!
This is the lux in Luxor,

The ancient Egyptians were always trying to invent Nylon but they kep tcoming up with things like Skylons.  Anyway they called the towers in front of their main HQ “Bylons” (like Ba-Bylon) and they used them for teleconferencing over long distances.  Skype put them out of business, but still love to twitter.

In the Nile
Swimming in the Nile















































Bargaining with the spice man in the souk









Tea in Luxor souk after shopping


Barber shop harmony


KomOmbo Communications Crisis Crocodile Catastrophe

Nobles Burial site
King in Kom Ombo
They need to fix the roof
This will do for the garden

After long journeying, we have joined our cruise ship, the Passionately Swiss ‘Royal Lily’, Movenpic’s latest pride of the fleet.  Her decks are decorated with awnings to shade us, armchairs to hold us, sun-loungers to lounge us and bars to rehydrate us.

Gin & Gin deck
Rose studying Egyptology

On the top “G & T” deck, Bougainvillea blossom waves gently in the breeze from ancient pottery tubs on every side, Oleander bows

Brothers quarrel

gracefully,  the  glasses tinkle with coloured cocktails, the share tips are shared, and the degrees of separation are measured from Australia to Nebraska to Wiltshire.

Only a small cast:2 Aussies, 4 Americans, 2 Belgians, 4 Brits and us 3.

Chris studying ancient Nubian ritual & mythology

Then the others : in bright pink, there’s Mrs Lotta-Loudy Pillapop with her elderly husband – the Quiet Honourable; there’s Colonel  Patella-Nobbler who is in safari shorts most of the time and keeps a spiral bound notebook with closely written code;  there’s Abbe Di’q’et-deux – a highly strung Belgian retired antiquities dealer from Bruxelles; there’s Don Queeradis – a Spanish banker from the IMF; all are over 75yrs except Mohammed Saiid – a rather suspicious-looking Egyptian spiv who has joined the package trip.

Finally we met Chief Inspector Sonje Tiroop – a senior policewoman from Copenhagen, who wears a bulky black & white pullover even though it’s 25 C in the afternoon.

We should have gone to see the Unfinished Obelisk this afternoon, but we had Unfinished Lunch to deal with; anyway it’s about a mile longer than Cleopatra’s Needle and still not complete – go see.

sunset drinks with captain

This evening the captain is treating us to drinks in the bar at 7.00, but unfortunately things go slightly wrong.   As we step out of our cabin to go for drinks, we stumble over the corpse of Monsieur Di’q’et-deux lying in a pool of blood in the corridor with his leaking intestines hanging from the art-deco chandelier, dripping bodily fluids on to the Swiss corridor runner carpet and a finger missing on the right hand.  DCI Tiroop quickly assumed control of the situation and we assembled in the bar with stiff drinks all round.  Mohammed Saiid had been seen leaving the library just before 7.00.  But it didn’t get much better when he was taken for questioning because Mrs Pillapop went for a tinkle in the little girls room and was then found garrotted in the Chicken Nubian style, with a sticker on her mouth which read “Just shut up for good, with your endless piercing, home-counties, boss-class, air-brain remarks.”

Don Queeradis said he was repairing the cistern ball-cock just before and DCI Piroot asked him for his passport & slapped a detention on him.  Then we settle down for dinner, but imagine the shock when a bloody finger turned up in Rosemary’s beef tagine.  We complained to the cook.

Not what you want in your chicken tagine

It turned out that the Quiet Honourable was the Spirit of the Mummy doing all the gory stuff and DCI Piroot was sent off on traffic duty to overcome her post traumatic stress disorder.  Colonel Nobbler was snatched from the prow of the cruiser by a Nile crocodile, but this had nothing to do with this story.

In the end, so many characters had been stabbed, throttled, poisoned and generally slaughtered, that the coffin maker could not keep up.  It was agreed to feed the bodies to the crocodiles.  They are venerated as gods here – day gods when they are out of water and night gods when they are deep in the river.  So they are mummified and preserved, presented as deities in temples and fed the best parts of any really annoying tourists.

After a nice dinner!

The Aswan High Dam makes so much electricity that they have surplus which is sold through pylons to Sudan and Palestine and Lebanon.

Next stop should be the Nubian Museum and some no-nonsense prehistorical culture, but, by accident,  the taxi took us instead to the Nubian Village Kitchen, where we were served stuffed  crocodile with papyrus balls and hibiscus juice.  Pudding was delicious strawberry mousse, but unfortunately we stayed too long over coffee and when we got back to the mooring, our cruise ship had left.  Is it the Curse of the Mummy? Or the Hex of the Tombs? Anyway here we are – stranded in the middle of Upper Egypt, all transports have gone and the internet signal is rubbish.  Only a god could save us now …

Now it’s Nubians on the port side shore bank – houses painted blue with domes on each corner  for ventilation and Egyptians on starboard bank with dense copses of lush tall Palm trees, camels grazing, oxen, children fishing and splashing in the water.  All kinds of terracing and cultivation with rich green fields on either side growing oranges, dates, bananas, guavas, mangoes, cactus fruit.  It’s a very big river – not just the longest on earth, but the broadest, deepest, bluest and most lovable.


Nebraska is reading the biography of Billy Graham and I am reading when God was a rabbit.  Relations are cordial as we agree to differ over gun control and on the influence of Israel lobby in US congress.

Escape from Abu Simbel, Felucca to Nubia

Indiana Neuman charters a feluca

The area is famous for pink granite, still mined hereabouts.  It rained once in Aswan – about 6 years ago.  The Nubians were here first. The Nubians are Black people who come probably from Sudan and further South in Africa.  They have another language.  Nubia means land of gold, this is nowadays mainly Sudan.  Nubian tombs of the nobles are 17000 years old.   They made statues of silver & gold.  Kush was the capital of Nubia before the Egyptians took over.  There is a great deal of treasure to be found underground, our guide once saw a gold crocodile unearthed.  Other kinds of items typically include jars & tables in gold and animals not often seen in Egypt, such as lions and ant-eaters.One of the Egyptian pharaoh kings was a genuinely decent guy and the people really loved him.  He took over this area straddling Southern Egypt and Sudan.  So they asked him “What would you like for your birthday?”, and he said “Oh I don’t know.  I am happy just gazing out peacefully over the river.  Just give me a surprise.”So the people carved him a temple directly out of the mountain with 4 giant figures of him, each over 18m high, on the front.   Inside they carved statues and painted murals of him and his wife & children and gods and they all used it for worshipping him as a god. It took  them 20years to carve it all out, but he was thrilled with the result when it was finished in 1249 BC and there was a second temple alongside the biggest one for his wife – Nefertari.  He died aged 90yrs with 150 sons fathered with over 40 wives.

It all got entirely covered in sand and lost until it was rediscovered in 1813.  Quite often these kinds of buildings have gotten all blackened, burned & sooty ceilings where Copts fleeing the romans have hidden and cooked inside on open fires.  The British built the old dam and the railway to carry fruit and soldiers back to Port Said.  When King Farouk was kicked out of Egypt, the Soviets saw an opening and they helped to nationalise the Suez canal and to build the Aswan High dam.  Our guide was the first ever woman driver in Aswan.

Chris before her getaway

But when the dam was nearly done, they all realised the great monument of thousands of years would be swamped below the waters which were backing up quite quickly in the new lake.  Then the Europeans agreed to help move the whole carved mountain out of the flooding area, so it was all cut up into blocks and transported to a new site and reassembled for tourists to visit.

Joanna Lumley passing through

In the desert live the Bedouin, they know secrets about the desert and things like crossing frontiers.  They aren’t registered with ID papers, and they don’t send their children to school.  With no ID papers, they have to go for private medicine.  There are quite wealthy Bedouin and they often own & drive 4×4’s.  They have satellite phones, but they don’t read or write.  They speak Arabic but with a different accent from local Egyptians.

Can get choppy this time of year

Every year some fishermen are lost to crocodiles in Lake Nasser.  Some tourists go on fishing safaris on the lake and take such risks.

We’ve been following Christiane’s traces all the while because she left a trail of Fellafel crumbs and tahini drops all along her route.

So we snuck into the temple and round the back of an ancient figure we could see her struggling to free herself.  We spotted the chief villain who was firing questions at her: “What is the curse of the Mummy?  How do you make Gratin Dauphinois?  How do you know the secret of eternal youth?”  Then we realised: they thought she was Joanna Lumley, returning to make another Nile travel documentary film!”  When they had asked for “some tips”, they had wanted an advice session from a Domestic Goddess!

Suddenly Christiane uttered an extraordinary and hypnotic wailing  ululation and, with one bound, she was free from her captors and ran for the nearest exit. 

She made her escape by a secret back door to the temple which you can see behind her in the pic.

Then it was an easy Feluca ride back to civilisation.

More feluca

Our guide was the first ever woman with a driver’s license in Aswan.   She is a Coptic christian but she is living hard times at present.  She has two children- the boy 8yrs old and the girl is just 9 months and needs looking after, if any freelance work calls.  Her mum did a lot of child care, but the poor woman has just been treated for breast cancer.  She went to Cairo for medical care because there isn’t a good doctor in Aswan or Luxor.   The treatment in Cairo was expensive but as good as a seven star hotel.  Our guide hired a couple of sisters to mind the children while she worked, but they robbed her blind over a period of months, taking all her jewellery, a piece at a time.  They were muslims, and she wouldn’t normally trust a muslim, but there was no one else available at the time.  Something very fishy is going on at her son’s private school which is run by the monks.  They are being accused by Salafists of starting a church within the school, without official authority.  These people are organising protests outside the school, surrounding it and chanting slogans and they are throwing stones as the pupils enter school.  Luckily our guide got a tip-off beforehand about these protests, from a good muslim friend and so she has kept her son out of school for going-on two weeks.

Oaaaaaghhh what a world.  We hope the new government will be able to bring them all security and equality and peaceful co-existence  with mutual respect for everyone’s human rights.

Aswan strike horror & kidnap shock

Now, at last, we are heading South and deep into the desert and the mysterious Nubian lands of yore.  The first edifice we encounter has tall perfect columns of marble & sandstone, a ceiling high enough for the tallest camel to pass easily.  The floor is limestone & black & brown granite paving slabs which positively sparkle from polishing and reflect the rays of the sun; the slate flagstones are geometrically laid in linear pattern and the grouting alignment is awesome.  The walls are equally decorated with elegant facing panels, and there are stairs with smooth handrails to go from one level to another – this place is called Cairo Terminal 1.

With smoothly functioning travelators and helpful escalators, announcements in English and immaculate cleanliness, it puts the lie to some people’s preconceptions and stereotypes about Cairo.   The trio of men in front of us, have some oxtail soup which they heat up and consume with bread & beans while waiting for the Aswan flight.  The aroma percolates throughout the whole boarding gate area and makes us all a bit peckish.  In the Ladies, Rose encounters one of the cleaners sitting on the wash-handbasin counter-top with her feet in one of the basins while she ran hot water over her toes and yelps to complain “Oooh – too hot!”.

There are so many candidates who are presenting themselves to be elected as President in the upcoming elections that the government Press department are promising to publish by Friday the names of the 6 eligible adult males who are not viying for the position.  We are assured that Aswan is a very quiet place and the local guide explains that there is no revolution here to resemble Cairo & Alexandria & Tahrir Square.




This time we are staying in an exotic hotel located on a collection of rocky outcrops in the middle of the Nile’s currents called Elephantine Island.  It has this name because from certain angles it looks exactly like an island.  In Nubian, Aswan means the market.  The sunsets are amazing especialloy from the penthouse viewing bar.

No sooner have finished the just warm buffet than the Mummy strikes!! It’s STRIKE HORROR !!! due to unpaid wage increases and harsh working conditions that have NOT been improved despite repeated promises,  ALL the staff are walking out on strike tomorrow and we have to change hotel at very short notice.   Instead of Swiss Movenpick, we are moving to the Army Hotel (incontestably 5*).

There are no elephants round here, but you hear the camels burping, grunting and belching and there are numerous dangerous crocodiles, some living with the locals in their houses.  When Nasser built the High Dam, many of the crocodiles fled this region and settled in Sudan.  They had heard that Joanna Lumley was coming on a safari and might broadcast images of them on British TV.

There are long queues for diesel outside the fuel stations because of a shortage of hard currency to pay the Saudis and the Iraquis who supply the diesel.  We can only get on or off the island by ferry and this adds a delay and some excitement to all our comings & goings for day-trips & excursions.

We were patiently queuing for diesel for the outboard motor when a shifty  gang of thugs approached us.  The worst one was an ugly dark, thickset brute with a horrible hairy mole hanging from his cheek and a lazy eye that gave him a decidedly unscrupulous look.  He had bad breath and he kept picking his nose and flicking the snot towards us; he even licked it from his finger and spat in our general direction.   These ruffians asked for ‘some tips’ and we advised them not to bother the tourists.  Just when we thought we were winning the argument, the ugly one, grabbed Christiane by the throat, dragged her into a Felucca and pushed off from the river bank.  The others all shouted “ransom, ransom, and ransom”, jumped on scooters & mopeds and dispersed at speed in all directions, and uttering curses about a mummy’s tomb which we couldn’t make out..

So Christiane has been kidnapped and we will let you know how this works out.  She looked just as lovely as Joanna Lumley, in a white linen top and well cut baggy cotton salwar camise trousers, with lightweight leather sandals.  We will undeniably miss her sense of gamine couture styling.  We desperately hope thet the kidnappers have a decent washing machine and an iron & ironboard, otherwise, Christiane will be really sad.    The weather here is lovely and warm in the afternoon and the sunset is a miracle of nature which can be enjoyed from the hotel’s top floor viewing bar while sipping a dry martini or a G & T.

Skyline of Aswan

It’s marvellous; the whole sky turns orange when the orb slips behind the sand dunes.

Secret Policeman’s Reunion

Mosque – Islam lesson – see the pics on “go Egypt – Cairo” page

Gosh, we’ve been busy today.  We started with a visit to an old mosque.  I got chatting with muezzin about how he learned to incant the morning prayer and he gave us a live demo in the huge burial chamber behind the mosque with a ceiling about 100m above ground and resonances to warm the cockles.  He incanted for about 4-5minutes and his voice was like honeyed velvet and the call to prayer chanted, just for us three, had us in tears.

Our guide gave us a lecture about Islam but there was too big of a chasm between us as usual (about women and gays and accountability etc).   You can’t argue about values, but you can get mightily exasperated!

The Yacoubian building (see pic on “go Egypt-Cairo page)

It’s not quite as down-at-heel and shabby as I remembered it.  There is a lively hustle & bustle of chain stores around about.  The elegant French facade is still comforting and the wonderful  security entrance gates still stand guard, in fine condition, considering their years.  The old place got a bit of sparkle from the revolution in the air and looks fit to serve another 100 years at least.

Coffee / Tea place

Afterwards we went for a tea at the exact same place outside the bazaar where I was tailed during previous visit on Amnesty business.  And – blow-me-down, I saw the exact same secret policeman who followed me last time.  He was seated at the same neighbouring table from where he monitored me last time and he had the same brand of notebook for observations and reporting as in 2004.   He has been promoted and he’s bit greyer & chubbier than 8-9 years ago, but he hasn’t changed that much, we recognised each other instantly and embraced with kisses on both cheeks.  He was briefly transferred to the internet tracing branch, but missed the outdoor life and all his street mates.  I promised that if he comes to London I’ll give him a tour round Peckham and try to get him into the East Dulwich Police Station for town twinning session.

The mobile cellphone has become much more ubiquitous in the intervening period and our ghuide spends more than his time with us on the telephone speaking rather loudly to travel agency base.  They are having problems with us because we are not buying enough extra optional day-trips and side tours, so there is a constant tug-of-war between them and us to sell us more side trips.  We have not taken the Son et Lumiere of Ancient Egypt and we have not gone for “Coptic Cairo”, but we insisted on checking out the reproduction  antiquities depot  and on looking for CDs of revolutionary music in hard-to-find music stores.   I wanted a copy of the little seated figure of cheops and some animals, but very difficult to track down among all the Tut tat from China.  Mind you, if you want a figure with a massive disproportionate willy, they come in every size.

The market and tourist spots and restaurants and hotels do look very very quiet, but this could be explained by the off-season and by recession/ austerity in Europe rather than the local political situation.


T-shirts stall reps, shoe shine guys, vendors of  silver and plastic, bread deliveries on gigantic trays balanced on the head, necklace touts and policemen of every stripe seated on the sidewalk, eating, drinking , issuing on-the-spot parking & traffic fines and playing cards.   The old plpace has not changed all that much.

Repro antiquities

A subterranean treasure store of  eclectic Tutankhamunia – papyruses, brassware, figurines in plastic or alabaster or granite or quartz or soapstone or blue stone or green stone or olive wood or black wood and glass jars and phials and jugs and vases and thrones of Tut and beds of Tut and holy book stands and jewels and beads and silver and gold and gold leaf and gilding and finally a cup of tea and a bargaining session over price with all the family watching the entertainment of the funny eccentric fat man.

Downtown CD shop

Downtown everyone is so helpful and friendly and his grandfather was a scout for the British army and look at his grandad’s photo.  Unfortunately Shareen, the activist singing  star of the revolution, has not issued a CD yet cos there are just 2-3 tracks available via download.

Fel Fela Restaurant

We tried every dish on the menu and it still didn’y break the bank.  We are beginning to feel we could beat Cairo.  But we still wouldn’t go out all that often and would live within a radius of 500m.  Any other view of the world or lifestyle would be simply too much jeopardy; justy crossing the road is like pulling off a major high wire stunt.

Blazing Paddles

Today we were taken by our guide around the absolutely unique Egyptian Museum.  It is stuffed from basement to rafters with fabulous invaluable and exquisitely beautiful antiquities from the great periods of the ancient Egyptians.  Breakfast had to be executive style because we were excited to see the artefacts in this renowned collection and to study all their finest details and their creative styling and symbolic meanings, close up.  I just took some slices of oranges and Christiane nibbled a bit timidly on a croissant after her regular yoghurt,  and Rose took the full monty with toast and scrambled eggs.  The museum is just over the bridge from the hotel so the traffic is not worth a mention, but we got there by 9.15am.

The tickets were purchased and security check-points negotiated in a trice.  The headquarters of the old National Democratic Party of Mubarak & co, lying next door to the museum, were burned out during the revolution as an expression of popular revulsion with that party.

At the same time, activists gave vent to their anger over corruption in state institutions by targeting the privatised gift shop of the museum in prime position to catch the country’s premier source of foreign earnings, with subsidised rent premises, which had been making a very tidy profit for its entrepreneur owner, with nothing going to the museum.  So, out of fear of possible activist action and to sweep away the allegations of corruption, the gift shop has been closed down and lies empty at present.

I took advantage of the institution’s fine and hygienic facilities on the 1st floor and found all mod cons operational, with soap in the dispenser and paper where required.  This was most satisfactory;  even the hand-dryer was working effectively.  We started our tour of the exhibits where they were mopping a floor and I was gratified to see that they displayed a full size warning notice “Caution Slippery Floor, cleaners at work” and an appropriate stripy yellow & black zoning tape surrounding the affected area.

I found a place to perch sitting down, while the guide was describing some important things about the objects from antiquity, and I was able to take notes with my Parker biro and my A6 spiral-bound notebook on my knee.

The Germans had earphones in their right earlobe and their guide spoke into a Madonna style bendy microphone in front of her mouth.  She must have had a gizmo in her rucksack which looked quite heavy.  There were quite a few high school students on the floor drawing things in the glass cabinets.

The pharaohs ruled for years – 300 rulers, one after the other.  Each dynasty came from a single village and passed the crown to someone else in their village.  Their mummification table has a drain hole for the blood.  The organs are kept in canopic jars.  The kidneys are preserved for the journey because reawakening requires fluid and the heart is kept for the final judgement when it is weighed against a feather to see if it is light & good or heavy and bad.   Tut was discovered in 1922 underneath another pharaoh.   Pictures of all the procedures on the Day of Judgement all look very gory and scary.

I understand there is a curse of the pharaoh in The Mummy, but we don’t know it – could any kind reader supply a succinct synopsis? Please.  It would help us to avoid any unfortunate repeats of history.

I thought Chris looked a bit peeky and Rosemary took the water bottle early on.  The guide was describing something absolutely seminal and fundamental about the Egyptian culture, then I heard the gurgling and I looked at Chris.  It wasn’t my stomach giving trouble, but one of them was seriously disturbing the peace.  A party of Italians who were passing gave me funny looks and nodded to each other as though they knew a dodgy Penne Arabiata when they heard one.

The guide was reaching to point out one of the finer features of the object when Chris let out a very ugly burp which echoed around the hallway and drew more attention than we wanted.  To her credit, Chris instantly apologised to everyone and assured us she was fine.  Now we moved on to the historical meaning of the colours and an almighty fart exploded from our little group.   There was no denying it – it started with a dry cracking sound and finished with a roll of bubbly gurgles.

By this time, Rosemary was holding her hand over her mouth and, eyes bulging dramatically, she projected a fountain of lime green puke about 3m in every direction and all over Tutankamun’s  golden orb.   All the onlookers were instantly fumbling for Kleenex and the custodians rang the security alarms; guards rushed in from every point of the compass and the curator called an ambulance.   The fire brigade was first on the scene with water cannon from Tahrir Square.  We really enjoyed the wonderful artistic items which are the highlight of any Egypt tour and the museum visit leaves us with unforgettable memories of wonderful objects that express the sophistication and refinement of a culture quite alien to our own.

Akhenaton said he didn’t want to worship Amun Ra anymore because another singular god was hidden behind the disc of the sun.  His name therefore means that he was the living image of the invisible. And he promoted himself as god. For this job he had to be half male and half female.  Sadly, when he died, the religion to worship him died out and they returned to the older ways.

After more than 40 years of repression, people are beginning to talk to each other and to express their opinions, but this is a difficult process and discussions can lead to volatile situation.  Due to the way they have been treated for years and years, there is an enduring lack of trust in politicians and political entities.   It is feared that the country could be on a path to become an Islamo fascist state?  But all parties seem to feel that the transformation is going to be a long process and that it is still in its early stages.

The liberal secular reformers are concerned about the lack of ideology in the Islamic Brotherhood and their relentless opportunism.  It is felt that they are very expert at manipulating the media and at saying what any given audience wants to hear.  So they say different things to different audiences without scruple or any sense of obligation to be consistent in their political statements.  They are also very practised in the arts of going with the flow of popular opinion, so they opposed the revolution until they could see it would inevitably succeed and then they effortlessly switched sides in a trice.  These could be dangerous people to run a country.

In June a new constitution will be adopted and a president will be elected.  It is expected that the Syrian regime will be driven to change before these developments can take place.  Saudi & Qatar are supplying large shipments of weapons to the Free Syrian Army.  It is considered almost inevitable  that some kind of separate “safe zone” or buffer zone, will emerge, likely protected by US drones.  It could be near Turkish border or Lebanese.  Hezbollah is not the distinct power that it was until quite recently.

Cairo chicken in a basket, Memphis figs in a basket, baby in a basket shock horror

Cairo, Giza, Memphis, Saccara – I think we’ve got most of it clear, but we got frightfully tired in the sun and some minor details may be missing.   There’s a book if you need more.

20 million people and 40 million cars & lorries & buses and you can tell they are in revolution because they are all dented and scratched and rusty as the people have no time to wash and polish them and repair all the bumps & dents and rusty metal bits; instead they honk  their horn.

There is a scandal about illegal, unlicensed blocks of flats built alongside the flyover because they don’t include windows and the buyers or tenants have to “finish” the flats after buying t hem.  The question whether to mash them down or what to do? They line perfectly with Orion on the Summer solstice the vendors are said to look like half human & half animal capitalist zombie scarabs; they have made a huge lot of profit from corruption and something needs to be done about it.

Many people in the tourism industry were let go due to the crisis and many had a cut in wages; the first tourists to come back were the British who were not scared at all and the French who are very interested in the history and know all the answers. At  Tahrir Square, we saw the exact same tent where the holy family stayed when they were joining the protests against the Farod killing his own people.

There is a metro to get from one pyramid to the next one and there is a road bridge of 25000 km of concrete which is the oldest bridge in the world and a crypt where the Faro is buried.

Muhammed Ali knocked out Saladdin in 1182 and then he copied the Madison Square Gardens mosque with one of his own.  Alexander the Great wanted to be Pharaoh but he got yellow fever and died in 385 B; luckily he gave the Suez Canal to Nefertiti as a leaving gift and his best friend, Ptolemy, buried him under the Marriott hotel in Alexandria (what a coincidence!).

Christiane took the ticket to crawl along a narrow passageway, but she turned left instead of right at the Grand Chamber and by accident she slid down an old rubbish chute.  At the bottom there was a room with red and blue paintings on all the walls and stone boxes and tools around.  The hieroglyphs said “We demand a Fair day’s wages for a Fair day’s work”, and “One out, all out”.

We visited the original funerary boat made of cedar wood from Lebanon which was to transport the spirit of the Farod to paradise with his 10 boatmen.  He wanted to win the X Factor and to be a star.  As he had a curvy beard, he dead.  Kahorakhty vindicated in the time of Joseph about 1400 BC.  Abraham passed through around 2100 BC.

One day Ramses II was watering his reeds and he found a baby in a basket. He took the baby to the Social Services department, but they said it didn’t have a mummy.  So he called it Moses and his name shall be glorious and he shall rule for ever and ever.

In the beginning they buried people in a hole in the ground, but the jackals used to steal the bodies.  Then the crocodiles and the hippopotami used to get them, so they hung smelly papyrus in front of the boats.  Then they pull the big blocks of limestone up the mud ramp on sleds lubricated with donkey’s milk.  At the pyramid building sites, the women could not be artisans or labourers or architects or designers, but they could serve milk and honey to the workers and dance as mysterious hypnotists to keep them entranced on their days off.  In the English-language paper for International Women’s Day, last week,  there is a front page feature about Cairo’s first ever woman taxi driver, and she is doing great.

The sphinx is half lion, half human meaning wisdom & power.  Khufu started building his pyramid on Day 1 of reign so it would be ready in time, but due to union rules, they only worked during the Nile’s flooding season.  The artisans went on strike in 15000 BC against the wage cuts and austerity measures introduced by the Hittites who had lent money to High Priest.  So Ramses signed a treaty with them and married his daughter to a leading Hittite, which ensured peace and stable broadband internet for years.

You can go on a short Nile cruise experience to see all the sights and to learn dervishing and belly-dancing with a traditional Faro’s dinner.  King Herodotus was chased from the land in 1954 by Lawrence and Omar Sharif and then they organised some excellent Son et Lumiere shows and set up chains of hotels where the visitors can buy the best quality Egyptian cotton sheets & duvets & pillows.   You can press the papyrus and extract an essence which will give you a transcendental third eye and you can buy small bottles of it from health food shops in the foyers.

Tomorrow – the Yacobian building and the British Museum – watch out for some real culture.


Fighting again

Can we make a dinner from items pocketed and preserved from the breakfast buffet?  Or could three of us share a single “eat-as-much-as–you-like”  buffet.  This place is Swiss and excellently clean and ordered, but the prices are a bit too Swiss for our budget.  Suggestions from readers welcome – (and preferably from real tried & tested experience) – how could we fund more luxury holidays beyond our budgetary means?

We are in a hotel at the exact spot where Moses baptised Lot on the Dead Sea.  It is extraordinarily posh and refined and beautiful.  Pathways of polished limestone run between the different buildings, fountains sparkle and tinkle and refresh the air, bougainvillea blossom adorns the hedges along the paths and golf buggies whisk the clients silently around the resort.

Outdoor pools and spa treatment centres offer alternatives to the real deal of bobbing in the act5ual Dead Sea.  The large infinity pool gives a view over the Dead Sea and directly to the cliffs of Israel.  Verdant palms are dotted around the poolside with plentiful sun-loungers to enjoy the special UV-free sunlight of this zone.

Around the water, recline the beautiful people, with large blue & pink & orange drinks in tall tulip glasses, talking into mobile phones in matching bright neon colours and toting designer branded bags and watches big enough to sink a battleship and glitzy enough to run a solar generator.   The bling is blinding and they drink and talk and smoke elegantly all round the pool.  There are babies and toddlers and small children and bigger children, but only those over 14 smoke.  There are mums & daughters in one-piece neoprene head-to-toe modesty swim suits with green go-faster stripes and nose-clips and gigantic dark glasses; they look like extra-terrestrial zombie frogs.

I am sorry to avow that Christiane & Rose have been fighting again.  They were politely queuing at the spa treatment centre to book themselves a massage and manicures when two big fat blondes from a Moscow gang jumped in front of them to try and get shiatsu treatments.  Christiane & Rose wrestled them directly down to the marble floor to demand respect for Peckham, but the older Russian pulled out and handgun and my girls just had to back off.  And then, would you believe it, the same problem arose poolside.  We had peacefully taken sun-loungers near the pool-entry first-aid point when a small Byelorussian crime family just nabbed all the sun loungers directly in front of us, and blocked the view.  Chris took them on: there was kicking and punching and scratching and hair pulling but in the end I had to declare them the winners.  Some young guns in dark glasses from Kuwait, with unbuttoned T-shirts tried to help us, but it was “smoke in the eyes” all over again.

Any heroes of the Libyan revolution with injuries or medical needs can get unlimited treatment and care and recuperation & convalescence in Jordan, paid by the Libyan government afterwards.  There are 48000 heroes of the revolution here, many of them on convalescence with their families.  I was thinking this represents several regiments of heroes all away from their mother country.  It may make it easier for them to bear the homesickness.

Tomorrow Chris & Mark & Rose go Egypt!  I really must apologise for the mistaken, misleading and downright wrong information conveyed in parts of this journal, as well as for the confusion and lack of clarity & purposeful narrative in the blog from this country.  We are going to make a big effort to focus and prioritise in the next country and to write prose with purpose and meaning, so I earnestly hope you will see some improvements soon.  Many thanks to the people who have commented, corrected and offered suggestions to raise the lamentable standard here.