Cairo to Luxor
Checking out of the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis we were asked if we required transportation to the airport. We nodded and thanked and were told a hotel driver would be summoned immediately. Within moments, the concierge sheepishly returned to us explaining that there were no more hotel drivers left this morning, and would we be content with a ‘classic Mercedes’? Why, yes, we would. The phrase ‘classic Mercedes’ clearly has different connotations in Cairo as it would in Sydney. What appeared was a real old piece of junk, but it still worked…and the breaks worked…and the driver was not a tearaway, so it was all good. The car had no seat belts in the back, dints from the Cairo traffic and a driver hacking his lungs up from a lifetime of smoking! It was an interesting ride.
Tuning out the cacophony of cough and car horns, the geography of the city and its high-rise apartments drew my gaze. A clump of several buildings was topped with a flock of satellite dishes on the roof. Lit from behind in the morning light, they looked like gigantic prehistoric birds perched on a ledge.
Mara House Luxor
Our accommodation in Luxor, Mara House, was lovely. It was basic 3 star, but it was clean, comfortable and decorated in classic Egyptian furnishings. From the moment of our arrival we basked in the feeling of being taken care of in this cute and traditional little B&B. Ahmed, the manager, was a charming man who loves his work and clearly is fantastic at it! His happy presence and thoughtfulness made our stay in Luxor a delight. The extremely talented chef, Amr, made every breakfast a culinary treat, and the traditional dinner he created for us one evening was superb. The owner, Mara, was away so we did not get a chance to meet her, but she had been fantastic with her communications via email and all assistance with our travel preparations.
Sofra Egyptian Restaurant
Luxor is a small city for Egypt, with only half a million people. We began with a calesh ride to lunch at Sofra Egyptian restaurant. A calesh is a horse and carriage, and this transportation is not just for tourists in this city, but for any who can afford it. The old world charm and sedate pace of the ride provided a more leisurely perusal of the city.
The food at Sofra was fresh, tasty and reasonably priced, although they really need to update their online menu prices – they listed dishes at E£9 that were now E£20, which was a bit of a surprise (but still a bargain at $1.50 AUD!). Our delicious range of hot and cold mezze included: HOT MEZZE: Ta’Miya – Patties of fava beans, dill, cumin, pepper, spring onion, garlic & coriander fried in oil. Kodar Makly – mixed seasonal vegetables (cauliflower, baby aubergine, sweet peppers & zucchini) fried in oil, served with vinegar and olive oil dressing. COLD MEZZE: Gebna Bil Tamatem – white cheese with tomato, green peppers, spring onion & fresh herbs. Betingan Bil Tom – baby aubergines stuffed with parsley, dill & garlic, spiced with lemon.
Nile River boat ride
Sated, we handed ourselves over to the organisation of Mara House, where an afternoon felucca ride on the Nile River had been arranged. But is it really a felucca ride when the vessel is a powerboat? Does it matter? There was no wind, so it was the only way of sailing upstream.
A couple of young boys, who looked to be less than 10 years old, were on a small boat the size of a canoe in the middle of the river fishing with a net. This was not for larks, this was for dinner, but they had big smiling faces and desperately wanted to pose for a photo!
In preparing for this trip, I had thoroughly checked out the website for Mara House for suggestions on travelling through the country. As visitors, we are always interested in the appropriate tipping and payment for services, especially in a place where the locals are doing it as tough as they are in Egypt. When Ahmed arranged a taxi for us to go to dinner, we were quoted E£70 for the transport and for driver to wait and return us to the B&B. This is a bit over $5 AUD. When Ahmed was unable to get a taxi, and instead found us a calesh, we didn’t think to ask if this was the same price. So when our calesh driver, Ramadan (like the Islamic holiday) returned us at the end of the evening and we passed him the fee plus a small tip (E£80 in total), he kissed the money and raised it to god. So easy to make a big difference to someone’s week with a little bit of generosity.
Our Luxor adventure continues…
Accommodation: Mara House
Read our full Luxor story here:
Part 1 (current): Arrival
Part 3: Abydos & Dendera
Part 4: Karnak & Luxor Temples