November 6 – 17
Before dinner I made my way down to the bar area of the hotel for a beer that put an exclamation point on a full day of sightseeing, having visited Abu Simbel, one of the sites in Egypt that had been at the top of my list. We’d hit the halfway mark of the tour and seen much, but more was to come, and I looked forward to Luxor and all that we would take in there.
Soon enough it was time to eat and we gathered at a table for ten (Sunny and Michael rarely joined us for the extra tours or meals) ready for a nice dining experience. For a change we’d get to enjoy wine or beer which would complement nicely the various dishes that would come our way. First up was an appetizer course of hummus and Baba Ghanoush (mashed cooked eggplant mixed with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and various seasonings) served with Pita, then a thick soup of Lentils and vegetables that started to fill us up a we ignored Mahmoud’s admonition to not to overdo it on these starters.
Next up would be the star of the show, an Egyptian dish that many in the group had knowledge of and had clamored for since we’d all met each other the previous Saturday, that being Kushari. Made of rice, macaroni, and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce and garlic vinegar and garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. As it does not contain any animal products it can be considered vegan, as long as all frying uses vegetable oil.
Around this time my second glass of wine appeared and as we (or at least I) struggled to do justice to the Kushari, our entrée arrived, a good-sized plate of roast chicken, slices of roast beef and rice. By the time our dessert, Roz Bel Laban, arrived, few of us could do it justice as there wasn’t any room left in our stomachs. In Egyptian Ros means rice and Laban means milk and those were the primary ingredients in our dish, which also included sugar, vanilla and rosewater to give it a distinctly pleasant finish. All of this including the wine we drank ran us 400 EGP ($25) apiece.
We staggered back to our rooms and made preparations for what would be a very relaxing next day and evening, our long-anticipated journey on the Felucca. A traditional wooden sailing boat, it is used in the eastern Mediterranean, including around Malta, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq and Sudan (particularly along the Nile and in protected waters of the Red Sea). Its rigging consists of one or two lateen sails and each boat is usually able to contain ten passengers with a crew of two or three people.
We boarded our ship around noon and made ourselves comfortable, picking out our own patch of mattress, the spots we’d occupy for close to the next 24 hours. The boat set sail, slowly as the little wind available was blowing in the wrong direction, which meant a lazy tacking back and forth across the Nile to work our way downstream.
While we had looked forward to this part of the tour, we were worried about passing the time, with little to do and nowhere to go, so to speak. That turned out to not be a problem as conversation, reading, watching some downloaded video, and just daydreaming turned out to be all we needed to do to keep us occupied.
A few hours into the journey we pulled up alongside a bank and set anchor; we’d stay here for some time while most of the group spent time swimming in the Nile, Katie and others having great fun jumping off the top of the boat into the water.
Apparently, this is a regular stopping place as three locals came down with souvenirs to sell, an activity we’d become all too familiar with. Later, before setting sail again we were fed well, mostly hummus, tomatoes and cucumbers and pita. And tea, lots of tea.
And then before we knew it, the sun set, darkness surrounded us, and it was time to turn in for the night. We’d brought sleeping sacks with us for this part of the experience and it was warm enough for most of us to forego using the blankets piled up in the middle of the mattress.
We’d docked in another shallow along a bank and were gently rocked all night except when a large cruise liner sailed past generating a wake that lifted and settled us as it broke on the boat.
We all arose fairly early the next morning, partly because it is hard to block out the sunrise when you are floating on an open boat and primarily due the need to get on the road early for the four hour drive to Luxor given that we hadn’t actually covered much distance on the Felucca. Arriving in Luxor we checked into the Emilio Hotel, a three star establishment located within shouting distance of the Luxor Temple.
After finding our rooms and storing our bags thee, we re-boarded the bus and drove out to Karnak Temple, where we would spend the balance of the afternoon. Luxor would keep us busy for the next day and a half and we’d remember much of it as we eventually completed the tour. We’ll cover this and more in detail in the next post.
Emilio Hotel: http://www.emiliotravel.com/hotel/
Karnak Temple: https://discoveringegypt.com/karnak-temple/