Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 2 Birdwatching, tennis & West Bank party (Top 10 free things to do in Luxor)

Two fried eggs, made by the egg chef, sunny side up and eaten in the sun by the Nile (along with muesli, fresh fruit, pancakes, tomatoes and polished off with a chocolate croissant. Then off for some birdwatching, simply a walk around the island. It’s a birder’s dream with resident river birds (purple galungules, ibis, herons, kingfishers, plovers) and plenty of cover for green bee-eaters, doves, hoopoes and wagtails. Then the raptors, black-shouldered kites, two chasing off a much larger buzzard. Huge numbers of V-shaped migrant birds fly up and down the Nile, especially glossy ibis.

The hotel was quiet as lots of the rooms were out of action, due to renovations, so lunch by the pool and later, a game of tennis with Big Alan (chipped from a block of ice), his lovely daughter Rachael and the tennis coach. We were hampered by the mosquito spraying, so much that we could hardly see each other serve but once it cleared and the floodlights came on, we got into the zone i.e. Rachael and I playing second fiddle to the pros.

It was Jed’s 22nd birthday so his dad, John, had arranged a river boat to pick us all up at 7.30 to go downstream to one of our old haunts Tutankhamen’s Restaurant on the West Bank (a fiver a head with soft drink thrown in – no alcohol). We walked the plank on to the Horus II, and set off down the black Nile, with Jed on the rudder. They serve superb spicy vegetable dishes such as spinach, green beans/potatoes, aubergines/courgettes, as well as a chicken/coconut/banana curry and roast chicken on rice. Dessert was the fantastically sweet om-aly. The whole lot was polished off by an ravenous set of travellers. The boat trip back was a hoot– Happy Birthday had to be sung, Phoebe (thesbian through and through) danced on the deck to Usher (to the amazement of our two boatmen) and Egyptian jokes were told. The winner, by Rachael, was, “Why do Egyptians not succumb to psychotherapy? Because they’re in denial!”

Top 10 free things to do in Luxor

Deir el-Medina - superb site

Mummification Museum Lectures - academic and free

Avenue of Sphinxes walk from Luxor Temple to Karnac

Monastery in desert on West Bank - unusual

Birdwatching on King’s Island - twitcher's paradise

Souk - hassle but fun

Television Street walk - real Egypt

Walk through West Bank villages - real rural Egypt

Coptic Church - calm and under siege

Mosques - cool, quiet and often beautiful interiors

It really is very safe to walk in and around Luxor and tehre's lots to see of you go off the beaten track.

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