When everything does not go according to plan
The plan is simple: No pyramids, no museums, no tombs, no felucca-rides on the Nile. Instead I head for two weeks of working (writing) holiday in Luxor plus a few days in Cairo coming and going. The family chose not to come on this trip since Charlotte ‘had to get her wedding dress fitted’.
It is cold in Cairo when I arrive. Ten degrees Celsius at night. 15-20 at day with clouds. My hostel is called Cecilia Hostel and is situated on the 6th floor in the perhaps oldest building in the world. Even though the building is perhaps the oldest the elevator possibly even precedes it. After I have seen it once in daylight I stop using it. Before going to sleep I ponder what would happen if this decrepit building should catch fire. Surely not even Bruce Willis would be able to get me out. I try to get some sleep but what seems like the entire population of Cairo are all honking a wide variety of horns violently in the street below me. At last I manage to fall asleep – a little later I wake up and it smells like something is burning somewhere. Sweet. Fortunately, the next day I realize that the smell just came from smoke that for some reason is hanging over the megatropolis.
Twelve hours by train to Luxor costs me only 4 USD. Pretty cheap for a 700 kilometer distance (2nd class with AC). Officially tourists are not allowed on this train – since the authorities would like to sell the 100USD+ VIP night train instead. However, tickets for the local day trains are easily bought on the internet – and I have no trouble using these. Egyptian people like to shout loudly into each other’s faces no matter that they are standing right next to each other. Great.
I am bringing a very nice flu with me from Denmark. A subzero transit stopover in Kiev Ukraine wearing my summer clothes has not further improved my well-being. After a few rather cold Cairo-days I am rather looking forward to some Luxor sun. I know that one says that it can get cold in a dessert – but I have no idea that it can get as cold as it is when I exit the train at the Luxor train station. I can easily see my own breath in the air, and I think the temperature could be less than 5 degrees Celsius. At least it doesn’t rain much. When I arrive to my hotel both the reception and the printer are located outside in the yard . “It hasn’t rained here for the past 6 years” the friendly reception manager Yahya tells me with a grin.
I wake up in the middle of the cold night. It feels like sub-zero inside my non-heated room. From the bathroom I hear loud noises. It sounds like water that splashes uncontrollably. I rush out there and realize it is just my toilet running. Sprinting is perhaps a more accurate description because the water pressure is insane. In the semi darkness I reach for the valve that I think will turn the water supply to the toilet off. A bit of a mistake because shortly afterwards a massive jet of very cold water is cannoned directly into my genitalia. It turns out that the toilet has a build in bidet-function that I have just activated. Trying to get away from the squirting water I drop my (thick) glasses – of course resulting in them landing right in the toilet bowl.. Nice arrival – welcome to Luxor, Egypt.
The following nights fortunately are nowhere near as cold – and days are sunny and warm. The swimming pool – the main reason (except for the food) for coming here – is freezing cold and after only two test laps I give up using it altogether.
The next nights there is lots of great ‘entertainment’. Big Egyptian tour groups arrive and for reasons forever unknown to man also these Egyptians like to shout straight into each other’s heads preferably for a very long time. If they are far apart, they will of course just shout louder. One night one of the groups decide to throw a birthday party in the hotel yard, singing songs and beating the drum from 12am to 2 am. Next to my room is a six-persons room and my guess is that the six young Egyptians next door share just one key because with frequent intervals during the night I can hear a loud knocking on the door.
The hotel also has a nice pair of dogs living directly beneath my room. They like to bark loudly especially at night. The building closest to the hotel obviously is a mosque. Quite possible it’s sound system uses the most powerful amplifier ever constructed. Every morning at 5 am a call for prayer is made. It lasts for about 5 minutes. Then there is a ten minutes silence. If you are lucky you might almost be asleep when the second call comes. I have great respect for Muslims who I think are perhaps the most hospitable people in the world – but who – whatever religion they might hold – wants to be awoken (twice) every day around 5 am to pray?
One morning I wake up at seven after a night with little sleep. When I take my foot out of the bed and set it down on the floor it hits icy cold water. The floor is completely covered in water. “But it hasn’t rained for 6 years” I am thinking as I peep out the window and realize that the sitting area in front of my room also has a flooded floor. I open my door and see my neighbors from the room two doors over evacuating all their clothes and luggage. I am not sure if something has broken or if they have just forgot to turn off their bathroom cleaning hose – but while they were sleeping somehow water – with the massive 3rd floor pressure this hotel has– has converted their – and my – room to swimming pools.
Need I say that during my two weeks stay in Luxor I get the Delhi Belly twice?
(Ok and I better add this: apart from that the many locals at my hotel were great, my room was cool, the food was excellent, and I got a lot of work done. Thank you very much: Islam, Yahya, Banal Om Muones, Kamal, Om Mina, Gabriel, Eli, Abdo. Mustafa, Mahmoud, Tony, Sammi, Baraka, Methat, Romani, Ahmed, Yusef, Suleyman, Gerges and Sammeh – Isla Halna Wu Halek – Amin Ya’rab! – if you are happy – we are happy – and we thank God)
When I return to Cairo – after another 12-hour train trip with forever shouting Egyptians – I am a little bit tired. I have no patience for the gridlocked Cairo traffic, so I drag my luggage through the jampacked area in front of Ramses station and past all the taxi touts. I then take the also jampacked metro to my beautiful Cecilia Hostel.
The next morning several large pieces of brick and ruble have just fallen from the roof and smashed one of the hotel rooftop terrace café tables that I was just about to sit down at. Sweet.
Writing this post in my room in Cairo – accompanied by the forever honking car horns and the odd car alarm that no one bothers to turn off – I get the ‘rumble in the jungle’ for the third time. Great.
Now I am considering if I should perhaps choose another destination than Egypt for my next working holiday!
(all pictures with iPhone8 – sorry for the low-res images)