The Girls Have Gone

2013-01-04 10.07.15At 8:30 last night two taxis stopped in front of the same block of flats two streets back from 26 July St. in Zamalek. One took Liz, Laura and Catherine to the airport for their flight back to Dar, school and work. The other took me to the Cataract Pyramid Resort, the gathering point for the 2013 Tour d’Afrique riders.  All change.

We have had a great holiday in Egypt. After our first three days in Cairo we went up to Luxor, where we did just about everything you could buy a ticket for: Karnak, The Luxor Museum, Luxor Temple, The Colossi of Memnon, Deir El-Bahri (Hatshepsut’s Temple), The Valley of the Kings, Deir El Medina (the Valley of the Workers). We hiked over mountains in the desert, we rode around Luxor in a Caleche, and we sailed down the Nile. It was both exhilarating and sad. The history and archeology are spectacular. In 1976, when I was last in Luxor, you didn’t have to buy a ticket for much. You could just wandered into and around Karnak, the Temple of Luxor and Deir El-Bahri. Now they have cleared away a whole neighborhood in order to pave a broad avenue from the Nile to Karnak, which is guarded by ticket booths, security guards and hawkers. But they have also done a lot to restore and better present these monuments. Unfortunately, however, tourism is moribund. People we spoke with said that tourism is at 10% of pre-revolution levels. The Japanese are still there and a few Europeans, but very few Americans. People are struggling. Many shops are closed and if open, quiet.  This was great for us. No crowds meant that we could spend lots of time wherever we wished and get around with ease. But it’s not so great for those who depend on tourism for their livelihood.

Back in Cairo we spent more time exploring a number of neighborhoods, Coptic, Islamic. The girls visited the Citadel and the markets. We took in the obligatory son et lumiere at the Sphinx (a bit cheesy really) and the girls went horse riding in the desert. On our last night we had dinner in Zamalek with friends from Dar who have just moved to Cairo. It was a lovely relaxed evening capped off with a frenetic last few minutes as we loaded into taxis. I will miss the girls but look forward to seeing them in Arusha in two months time.

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