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