Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vanish and immerse

Hurghada - Luxor

I am going to Aswan. The place that I fell in love with and that had the reputation of being the cleanest in all Egypt.
Four hours by bus to Luxor. Sandstorm in the mountains and in the desert, a view of 200 m.
Relief in Luxor.
Just a moment only.
Jostling and pushing of taxi drivers in the bus entrance „Taxi Madam?“ One step later, heat and storm are overwhelming me.

I am battling my way through the taxi drivers towards the boot, pick up my luggage and shove myself through the “Taxi Madam?”-men towards the train station.
Just 150 m. They stick on me like flies, dart on me as attracted by a magnet, jump up from chairs and stairs like an elastic spring, and emerge between cars and coaches. “Taxi Madam?”

It’s cool inside the station concourse. I am ignoring the “Where do you go?”-calls and walk firmly towards the left luggage room. The platform is overflowing with waiting passengers; I squeeze through them as well. My luggage is left in a seventy years old wooden box for two pounds fifty. On my way out, I hear many times what time the train to Aswan is supposed to leave; they are expecting some tips for this oh dearly helpful yet unasked information. Outside the train station and while crossing the street, I feel again like a magnet for all landlords, taxi and limousine drivers, tour guides and coachmen. Unwilling to hire any of them, I must hear: “f* you!”

Sipping at a cup of coffee some meters in front of Luxor temple that can hardly be discerned in the sandstorm. What a sad aspect. The sandstorm reflects somehow the desperate condition of this country. What next?
How to go to Aswan? The train does not leave because there is a demonstration in Sohag. Once more, the only railway line Cairo – Aswan falls prey to the people’s resentment. They have my sympathy – but their action does neither improve tourism nor the country.

I have lunch in a simple restaurant and chat with the only guest and the owner. Prices for a trip to Aswan by car are soaring because of the fuel shortage – I hoped to find a reasonable driver. However, the owner of the restaurant explains to me how to find the “mauqif” – the place where microbuses gather before leaving to Aswan.

Luxor – Aswan
Waiting for the bus to be filled up. I buy two seats; the bus is new, enough space for my legs. I attract attention among the waiting drivers as if I was the only burning sparkler on a Christmas tree. They sit in front of their buses, smoking shisha, drinking tea, chatting, flirting and singing out their destinations: Kom Ombo becomes “Mombo”.

Mauqif in Luxor
We are heading towards Aswan.
Going on and on.
It’s hot. It’s stormy.
Five minutes‘ break, going on.
Buy nuts. Going on.
It’s stormy and we are heading on.
Villages and the landscape look the same as one thousand years before. With the only difference that donkeys’ carriages have to compete with tok-toks, cars, buses and lorries, that there are satellite dishes on the roofs of buildings and everybody holds a mobile phone to his ear. Men at the roadside, men in cafés, men on horses and men on donkeys. There are no women, only black galabyas, head scarfs and a face in the middle.

After three hours, I think we are arriving in Aswan.
After four hours, I think again we are arriving in Aswan, but every time it’s just a five minutes’ break. The driver wants the fare of 17 pounds. Someone asks annoyed why not 15 or 20 pounds? It’s about the fuel shortage, the driver says. What? Why 17? A discussion starts, the driver stops the car and the brawlers get off the car. Other buses are stopped and all drivers say: 17 pounds. I’m fed up. I’m tired and wonder if I should get involved.
Patience. Orient. Men’s world.
The older men also shut up. I tell them that I as a foreigner always have to pay more, in this case 20 pounds. They can hardly believe it and suggest I should only pay what everybody pays. Honest souls!

Finally, we go on and at last arrive at Aswan late in the night after a five hours’ ride.
A taxi trip in a 32 years old sparkling clean white Peugeot. A detour and a traffic jam because right now there’s a demonstration. One of hundreds every day in Egypt.
Ten minutes’ ride with a motor boat and I finally reach my island on the Nile.

Black water is pouring down the bathtub and cleans my body from the external strains of a long tiring journey.

Here are some short impressions on Video about the trip from Luxor to Aswan:

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