Some Luxor reality! 2010.

I arrived back from Luxor yesterday having spent three weeks there. It was an interesting time as I spent most of it struggling! As soon as we had arrived at our new flat my guides ‘popped’ in and said “You will make your final decision in three weeks”. Oh god. I thought I had made it already!! So I spent the three weeks to-ing and fro-ing about whether to move there permanently or not! Part of me liked it but another part of me really did not! For the first few days we could not get out of the building because the owner Mahmoud hadn’t finished putting the locks on the main doors and gates. So we had to wait for someone in his family to come and let us out. This raised some very interesting issues! Our apartment is out in the middle of sugar cane fields on the West bank and our road is a dirt road! It is very beautiful with terrific views but also a lot of pollution. The locals throw all their rubbish into the canal beside the road so its not very hygenic! Lots of plastic bags and bottles. Luxor really needs a good refuse collection in outerlying areas and a recyling plant!! Then all that is needed is re-education!!
Anyway, it rained hard one night and we had no electricity. We also couldn’t get out of the apartments! So I rang the owner and woke him up at 8am. He doesn’t get up until mid-day usually but I really didn’t care. There was water everywhere. Egypt isn’t used to rain like this so they close off the electricity rather than have everything blow! We didn’t know that!
Mahmoud sent his brother around to explain and I voiced my anger about being stuck in the flats. If there was an accident and we couldn’t get out it would be dangerous.
Later that evening, after a day out, we arrived home to find Mahmoud standing on the veranda. He had put in the locks and had keys for each of the doors. Fair play! So now we had some freedom!
The flats were not completely finished which is why this incident arose. We had bought the lease the previous October and chose to stay there rather in the other flats. Things were not quite finished but are moving into completion fast now. Hopefully by the time we go back in September the pool will be completed and the restaurant on the roof up and running. They are nice flats and have absolutely beautiful views.
We are learning how to get about without taking very expensive taxis where tourists are constantly ripped off. In fact tourists get ripped off all the time! Its very annoying to feel conned all the time. People say that Egyptians are friendly. They are, but like the Irish they are also gossips! You have to have to wits about you when dealing with them because if they can get more out of you they will, no matter how they do it. I find it challenges your sense of power. So I thought that I would offer some info on what things really cost and how to get around without being cheated. You have to be quite rude really which is very difficult for most foreigners, especially the British who are generally polite to people and expect everyone else to be polite too. Mind you that’s not always the case…….
When buying anything you can be damn sure that they are charging you way over the odds. To give you an example we used to buy our white street bread, a small, but long bread sold on the streets, from a small bakery in El Gezera. We were charged 20LE (£2) for 10. This seemed like a lot for 10 small rolls and I wouldn’t have spent that in England or Ireland but we didn’t know any better. We felt that it was a lot but didn’t know whether it was normal or not. Later we discovered that actually 10 of those rolls actually cost 2LE (20p). That’s a hell of a difference. Now we pay 2LE whether they like it or not. I’m not a rich tourist and I can’t afford to pay through the nose for basic staples.
The same thing applies to Taxis, boats, camel rides, horse rides, etc. You will be charged a fortune and, if you are on your own, you may well be taken all around the houses and charged way too much. To add insult to injury you will also be expected to pay a tip, for being conned and over-charged!!
I’m not purposefully being negative but I need the truth and am not happy unless things are fair and right. Egypt is a wonderful country but it is like many other tourist destinations. Especially when that destination is poor! Money is all important and they don’t care what ethics they have to forego to get it. You just cannot afford to be gullible in Egypt or you will be fleeced. If you are so rich that it does not matter then fine. But if you have saved up all year, scrimped and scraped to get the money to pay for this holiday, the last thing you want to feel is conned and ripped off.
Egyptian men are very good actors and this starts early in life. They all see tourists as money! Many even think tourists are completely stupid for paying the prices they ask!! (I won’t run empty wallets back to the airport” said our lovely landlord!! ) And they are treated accordingly! Its not a nice feeling to be seen as money bags and guit-tripped into paying above the odds. Egyptians are brilliant at it. And, as much as I hate to say it, the Irish are no different!! I am Irish so I know! Because I have an accent which is not quite Irish enough (having lived in England for 16 years) they think I am English so we get ripped off here too.
The boats: to get a motor boat from the West bank to the East bank is actually 5LE. Not the 20LE and above that they try to charge you. Its actually 1LE to go across on the big ferry but many people like to take the boats, us included, because the ferry is government owned and the boats are local so the money stays local.
Of all the Egyptians we met only one was generous and honest and didn’t try to sell us anything! His name is Salah Hussin and he owns the Cafateria R. Ramsses beside Medinet Habu. He is a self-made man who has attained his guide licence and also runs his restaurant with his brother. From the first moment he met us he sold us things at a reasonable price. He also gave us some tagine bowls for making vegetable and meat dishes and never asked for anything. In fact he turned out to be quite a passionate man. We told him that we would be back in September and he gave us ideas on how to make a living. He suggested teaching Egyptian kids English! He said that too many kids grow up with tourist English and tourist ideas but he himself was inspired by an English teacher and as a result he changed his destiny. I had goosebumps listening to him as he was telling me what my guides had already told me. That if you want to change the way men, and women, view women and life then you have to start with the children! Also Salah suggested that if you wanted to live in Egypt you should live the same way as Egyptians, i.e. not spending loads of money but staying balanced. Lovely man. I could really feel his passion as when people are telling the truth with integrity and heart it makes me feel very tearful.
Interestingly I found some other blogs who mention Salah and feel that his cafe is the best in Luxor. I would totally agree! Lovely guy and a good muslim.
I can’t say the same for our land lord however. He spends most of his time sleeping, eating and drinking. He can be ok for a chat but if he has nothing to gain from you he tends to not be quite so chatty. His wife, an English woman, does the majority of the work and is highly respected in Luxor and beyond. She is a good business woman and he would have gained nothing if he had not met her. Like many Egyptians they view foreign women as good wives to have because they know how to make money and do business. At least that is what they think. British women ‘fall in love’ with Egyptian men thinking that those same men are romantic but they really only want the women for business. And many women fall for it. However, there are a lot of poor British women living in luxor but because ‘all british women are rich’ they don’t believe that they are poor and marry them hopefully. They soon learn, on both counts. Many of these men are also married already and probably have children but that is kept secret until after the marriage. That’s fine if you just want to be married, or love Egyptians and are happy to share your husband with possibly three other women. Unfortunately most of these women end up seriously unhappy and disappointed.
Search high and low for a good Egyptian man as they are worth their weight in Gold!

2 responses to “Some Luxor reality! 2010.

  1. Yes I totally agree. I am going back over at the end of this month so I will definitely visit him again. If anyone is looking for a good tour guide who won’t rip you off he’s the man. I will mention you to him. 🙂

  2. I’m french and was in Medinet Abu in february 2008. I know Salah. He’s a great man and all you say is true. Salah is now more than a friend, with him I see the true people of Egypt.

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