March 20, 2011

Tombs of the Nobles and Forced Hospitality at Thebes

One of the most beautiful sites we visited in all of Egypt were the Tombs of the Nobles. This was not actually a part of our original tour package, but was offered to us as a "bonus" for $150 by our Luxor guide. Our Luxor guide was not a Min employee, but an independent guide contracted out by Min to take care of us while down there. I'll have more on him below.

The tombs are actually located directly underneath the village of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. This ramshackle town of mud and thatch huts with donkeys in the "yards" was not what I expected at such an amazing archeological site. I am surprised the Egyptian authorities would allow it, as it would seem to threaten the very stability of the site. All around were various folks sitting around wanting to offer their services "for a fee".

But, inside what a treasure. These were the tombs of nobles, including local government officials and skilled tradesmen and artists that actually built and decorated the great temples and tombs of the Pharoahs. They carved out their own burial sites and saved their best artwork for themselves. The "guides" wanted us to pay them for the right to take photos. It wasn't so much to "preserve" the site as it was for them to get a little extra cash in their pockets. So I had to discretely take a couple of images without them noticing. But, suffice it to say, the best preserved and most vibrant paintings of all of Egypt were in these tombs. I wish I had seen more of these tombs.

There are actually quite a number of these kind of brightly decorated tombs all around the entire Luxor area. But, these were the ones we could see on this particular tour. Anyways, our Luxor guide was not very good. He did not explain things very well (unlike Mohammed or our Coptic guide) and was not very interested in answering our questions with any depth. He sort of just dragged us around, uncaring about our interests or health (Kathleen had another bout of Pharoah's revenge and Linda and I weren't 100% either). But, he was mostly just interested in directing us to his friends and brother's various businesses, whether it be for lunch or shopping or whatever, rather than the sites and history of the area.

Getting lunch on Day 1 in Luxor at a "friend's" restaurant

I think he started to get the message by day two that we were getting kind of annoyed with him. That's when he insisted, and I mean insisted, that we get a "free" sugar cane drink at a friend's cafe. We declined, but he drove us there anyways. When we arrived, we watched his friend "wash" our glasses out with just the straight tap water (no soap) in a dirty open aire kiosk and then just grab some stalks of dusty sugar cane from a pile that looked like they were straight from the field and put them into a large juicing machine. The sugar cane juice just went straight into these glasses. It wasn't very sanitary and we were not eager drink it. But, we felt obliged by this forced hospitality. We had already had stomach ailments earlier in the trip, and after 10 days in Egypt we sort of just figured we had nothing to lose at this point. He had worn us down with his "hospitality". Luckily, we survived the ordeal without any further illness.

A sugar cane field in the Nile Valley

But, OK I'll admit it, the sugar cane drink did taste good!

No comments: