Happy Labor Day!
Day 6 (March 14, 2007): Today starts with a visit to Egypt’s best preserved temple dedicated to Horus, the Falcon God. Casting off, we spend the afternoon on board watching Upper Egypt slip by. We arrive in Luxor (the ancient city of Thebes) in time to view the temple of Luxor. (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included)
Inside the temple Sherif showed us how the ceilings were dark and dirty, which we saw in other temples in Egypt. When the Egyptian religion fell the temples were no longer cared for and the poor often lived inside the temples, the smoke from fires is what has damaged the ceilings. The temple had a colonnade room, like every other temple, and an intricate maze of rooms. There is also an area where the priests could go to monitor the rising Nile (so they could predict when the land would be fertilized). The walls were full of hieroglyphics and Sherif read us a story about a town in the North that was fertilized by the Nile.
When we got back to the ship we had breakfast, which was really nice since it was the first real full breakfast we had in a couple days. There was fruit and meats and omelets. After breakfast I took a nap until noon when I woke up and thought we were going through the locks at the damn in Esna. I threw on some clothes and went up on deck, but no one was there and there was no damn in sight. I did however get a text message on my cell phone that my credit card had rejected the charge by my cell phone company which freaked me out and sent me in a bit of a tizzy to get it fixed. I ended up paying 45 LE for 30 minutes on the internet to fix it (in Aswan I paid only 3 LE for 30 minutes) but I thought this would be cheaper then calling the phone company. In the meantime we docked in Esna. Sherif had told us that if the damn wasn’t too busy we would dock in Esna, apparently it wasn’t too busy. While I was on the internet and we were docking Sharon came over to tell me something about us going into town, but I was only half listening since I was having issues getting into my cell phone account, eventually I updated my info and signed off with a few minutes to spare and could finally find out what was going on. I felt bad that I had been a bit rude to Sharon, but I just couldn’t deal with more then what I was doing at the time.
Shortly before we got off the boat we noticed Sherif having a “lively discussion” with one of the managers on the ship. We guessed that he was trying to have lunch extended so we could go into town since we were going into town during the normal lunch time. Esna is a much quieter village then the other places we had visited. It is right before a damn so visits there are dictated a lot by how traffic is at the damn. If there is a lot of traffic there may be no time to stop, fortunately it was a quiet day. Yet there were only 2 boats docked here, compared to 10 or more at the major stops. Needless to say it’s not as touristy here. There was a market we walked through, but it wasn’t as intense as the other places we had been. Naturally there was a temple here, but we didn’t go in, just took some pictures. You could also get a peek as to what village life on the Nile is really like. There were quite a few kids around; we think they were on there way home from school. Tara found a kid that she wanted a picture with, but apparently he was nervous and didn’t want to take one. Then some other kid wanted to be in a picture, but he didn’t have a backpack so she didn’t want his picture. We ended up with some kids following us around through the village. Most of the houses here were mud brick houses, the roads were all dirt and instead of cars people use donkeys. Sherif told us that people here would have donkeys like we would have cars. There were a couple motorcycles around too. Sherif took us to a building where a man showed us how he makes oil like they did 3,000 years ago. It was interesting and Adam got to help him, though I guess it’s a lot of work because Adam didn’t last long. Eventually Tara relented with the kids and ended up taking a whole bunch of pictures with whatever kids wanted and then gave them the much asked for baksheesh. If it wasn’t so obviously important to Tara it would annoy me. I generally believe that by doing that you reinforce the behavior of the children and they will continue to do it to other tourists and eventually they will grow up and become the annoying people in the market, but Tara was just so excited to get these pictures that I really couldn’t let it bother me. Eventually we stopped at a little café for Sheesha and tea. I opted for some cinnamon tea, as I like cinnamon and it’s not as bad on the stomach. The cinnamon tea was actually quite tasty. I tried Sheesha again, and after giving it an honest try, I still wasn’t into, but I was finally “getting it.”
After that we went back to the ship, by then it was about 1:30 and time for lunch, then we went out on deck for the afternoon. It seemed every time we went on deck a small group of people would have a table and then people would come and eventually we would end up with like 3 tables and 10 chairs around it as a big group. Meanwhile everyone else on the ship would be sitting in small groups at little tables. This afternoon was no exception. Around 3:00 we went through the old damn canal, which has the canal, but no locks. It was slow going through so some of the locals would be on the side trying to sell towels. They would throw the towel up and then you were supposed to throw down the money if you liked it. It was quite entertaining watching them throw the towels up, some made it and some didn’t. Only one ended up in the water – I hope they were taking that one home to wash it, but somehow I doubt it. We ended up being stopped for a few minutes in the canal. It seems someone had taken a towel and didn’t want to pay for it and we didn’t move until it was thrown back down. The poor guy was flipping out (and then people were laughing at him – I wont even go into the fact that the money he makes off the towel feeds his family…) until they found the towel, which I heard Alan had, though never confirmed.
We went through the normal Esna Canal between 4:00 and 5:00, it was interesting to watch the water quickly go down and then the locks in front of us opening, which accounts for the extremely large number of photos I took of it. But it also felt like it took forever to go through. On the other side of the locks you could see little boats of people swarming the boats waiting to go through, trying to sell them stuff. It was kinda funny since it wasn’t us getting swarmed.
After that we relaxed up on deck, but that didn’t last too long once the sun was setting, it was starting to get pretty cold and people were running out of extra layers to put on. After a while of being cold we went downstairs to the bar until it was time for dinner. Since I had finally caught up on my journal it was time to do some post cards. I got Sherif to write in Arabic on one of my post cards. He told me what it meant, but now it’s a total blur, I guess I should have written myself a note about that, but I remember it was really sweet. At dinner the staff had a little Happy Birthday celebration for Gary. They had him up dancing, made him a cake and then made him a baby out of napkins at the table. And to think that Gary never planned to tell us it was his Birthday! After dinner I went to the store to pick up my cartouche that I had ordered the day before. I bought one for me and one for each of my nephews, and a t-shirt for my father – all with our names on them.
After dinner a belly dancer came to perform, before she started they talked Tara into dressing up, to make the belly dancer jealous. First a guy came to do a dance; I think it was a whirling dervish. Then the belly dancer came, she was ok, I expected it to be a little better, but she got everyone into it by the end. After they left the staff put on music for us to dance too, but their selection was kinda lacking. Dancing Queen seemed to be one of the staffs favorite songs to play after hearing Dancing Queen for the 10th time in two days Kelley and I decided that Dancing Queen should be our Night Song (every Contiki tour, except this one, has a Day Song that is played at the start of the morning) and it should be played before we went out. I never really worked out, but it sounded good. Eventually I asked if they could hook up an ipod, which they could, which sent me running around to get my ipod so we could have some better music, like Walk Like and Egyptain. At 11:30 they shut the music off so most people, myself included, went up to bed. Tomorrow was another early morning for almost everyone since we were going on a the balloon ride optional.