La Shukran Luxor !

The plane touched down in Luxor , Egypt on a baking hot June evening . I prized my knees out of the seat in front of me , got my bags and walked outside . A man ran over shouting , Taxi sir , I take you to hotel , you come in my taxi , very nice , cheap , you come , another man grabbed my bag I carry your bag to taxi , is no problem , I take it . We wrestled for control of my wheelie suitcase all the way to the taxi , Money , you give me money , I carry bag for you , money for me They were both bellowing in my ears now , over and over . I had no change to give the man who had helped wheel my suitcase the arduous six metres to the taxi , which seemed to have really upset him and he was now angrily shouting with another man . I leapt in the taxi and breathed a sigh of relief as we drove away . The relief was brief , You want tour , I take you , very good price , Dendera , West Bank , I take you , very nice car for you , air conditioning , very cool , very cheap , you come tomorrow yes , I pick you up at seven yes ? began the taxi driver and repeated his pitch relentlessly for the twenty five minute drive to the hotel .

I stepped out of the taxi mentally exhausted and the hotel seemed like heaven as the door shut behind me . Over dinner I came to the sad realisation that casually ambling around the sights of Luxor , stopping for a quiet drink or bite to eat occasionally and taking in the culture as I loved to do in other countries , might be impossible .

The next day confirmed my concerns . Within seconds of stepping off the shuttle boat I was surrounded by three Egyptians . You want taxi , I have nice taxi , I am best driver in Luxor , Fellucca , I have best Fellucca , I take you to Banana Island , You like Hashish , I get for you ? ( repeat for ten minutes ) . La shukran ( no thank-you in Egyptian ) I repeated in every tone possible but may as well have saved my breath , there was nothing I could say or do to get rid of them . It was 11am , 40 something degrees and sweat was cascading into my eyes . Then , through a sweaty , eye-stinging haze I spotted the Thomson travel agents . It reminded me of the moment in a film where a person dying of thirst in a desert sees a distant oasis and I ran through the chaotic traffic into the beautifully cool and quiet Thomson oasis . Obviously used to sweaty , purple faced tourists flying through their door they offered me a seat . I booked a guide to take me round all the major sites in one day followed by a hot air balloon ride . After that I would hide in my hotel .

The excursions went as expected , in an hour I had been harassed so much , and was so hot , that I was mostly beyond caring about whatever the guide was telling me . I pointed my camera in every direction and snapped away in the hope that I could enjoy the sights of Egypt when I got home . The balloon ride was a high point with breathtaking views of the Theban hills and its countless Temples and Tombs glowing majestically in the dawn sunlight . We were also far out of reach of any salesmen . Bliss .

As I got back on the plane and reinserted my kneecaps into the seat in front I reflected . It had been an interesting trip and I had learnt many things , such as to visit Egypt in a group , with a guide and in winter . I stopped reflecting , closed my eyes and smiled , I was glad to be going home .

B Muffett

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