A Day in Luxor
Six days and 792 kilometres into things, we who are new to bicycle touring were happy to seize a rest day in Luxor. After riding a fast 95 kilometres, crossing from the desert to green irrigated lands, we arrived at Rezieky Camp, the hotel whose grounds we were camping on. A few of us set out for the bank, the grocery store, and some delicious falafel. Then after some lounging at the café and a nap, I set out to circumvent the hotel's posted "No B.Y.O. (Beer)" policy. I'd walked no more than a few blocks before stopping to talk with a man and a boy doing sidewalk repairs. After agreeing to come back tomorrow for tea, I'd started walking towards a restaurant in hope of getting a case discount on some Stella's (not Artois). Then a young carriage driver pulled up beside me and started yelling prices to me. This went on a while, with brief pauses to mention how his horse was strong and the sights were great, until it became clear that I was under no circumstances going for a carriage ride. Undeterred, the young man (probably about twenty years old) hopped off his carriage and left it beside the walk, continuing to chat me up with the hope of getting some sort of business as my guide. We talked for quite a while, he knew Wayne Gretzky played for the Edmonton Oilers, and then I explained that I was looking to buy beer for less than the hotel's sixteen-pound price tag. He lighted at this, and said he'd take me to a store by the fruit market where I would pay "Egyptian price." By this point, we'd established that my name was Andrew and his was Youssef. I followed through gradually narrowing streets, until we were walking down a market street into the mid/late afternoon sun. The glare and Youssef's breakneck walking pace stopped me from seeing many details, leaving me just aware of our movement between walls of goods and through crowds of people, carts, and animals. We then walked onto a relatively open square of fruit stalls, and pausing for a moment I could see that I was the only non-Luxorian present. Then we came to the beer stand a half block or so up a side street, where they sold a few varieties of Egyptian beer as well as several liquors like the rectangular-bottled, red-labeled, "Johnny Waler" whisky. I got six large bottles of Luxor beer, for eight pounds each, with Youssef receiving a seven-pound cut to be paid upon my safe delivery back at Rezieky Camp. We started walking back, talking almost nonstop (he took english classes in the mornings before carriage driving in his afternoons), and after we'd gone a little ways he mentioned that we were close to his house. He invited me to come for tea and meet his family, and after hesitating a moment, I took up the offer. We went through some incredibly narrow streets, packed with children, animals, piles of rubble, and ramshackle mopeds. After a while we got to his house, complete with goats suckling on the doorstep. It was a five-storey walkup, with him, his brothers and sisters, his mother, aunt and uncle, and cousins all living there. We went up two floors and settled into a room with a bed, a cushion-covered trunk, a brightly draped window, and a wall lined floor-to-ceiling with cardboard boxes. We settled in and were joined by his cousin, and briefly visited by his much-younger brother. His mother then entered to greet me and offer chai (tea), and his uncle Ahmed also came in to join us. Youssef's mom came back with the tea, and the four of us sat with our tea talking about geography. All three of them were carriage drivers – it seemed to be a family trade – and so all were used to speaking with British and American tourists and we were able to get on fairly well. After the tea we drank four of my six Luxors (worth the loss to the at-camp supplies), and briefly flirted with idea of having Ahmed's friend mail me a shisha (water pipe for tobacco) from London for about half the Canadian price. Eventually I left to go back for dinner, but I was told that I couldn't walk back. I was to be driven, no charge. Youssef and I then hopped onto the back of his cousin's small motorcycle, and set off into the Luxor night. They didn't know the name of the place I was staying, so I explained that it was next to the Mobil Station near where the carriage was. We then started driving, slowly weaving through all kinds of car, bus, moped and donkey traffic, in what felt to me like the wrong direction. After maybe ten minutes we pulled over someplace I'd never seen, then Youssef hopped off and proclaimed "here!" We were at a Station, yes, but it was the Train Station. After this had been clarified, and a shop owner had been consulted to find out where Rezieky Camp was, Youssef's cousin had to leave since we had been going in the wrong direction and he was expected at dinner, so Youssef and I got onto one of the local taxi buses. Once he knew where we were going it took only ten minutes or so to get back to the camp. I then bid Youssef good night, and heard from Lloyd Strong the next day that he'd been in a carriage driven by a one-eyed man named Ahmed who said to say hi to me.
Andrew Jaycock Edmonton, Alberta