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