Monday 24th May 2010 – Gatwick to Luxor
Woke at 2.50am then dosed until 4.20am. Got up half an hour later and had a shave before Tina woke at 5am. Somehow I managed to lose my contact lens in my eye which put me in a panic, but after Tina investigated we decided it must have fallen out so I therefore put in other. We soon after left the hotel room and checked out and walked the short distance from the hotel to the terminal.
We quickly found the checking in desk and offloaded our cases straight away. A small queue through security (this seems normal nowadays) before going into the departure lounge. As neither of us had had breakfast we found a Frankie and Bennies and paid an extortionate amount for a full breakfast and two pots of tea. We wandered around the shops, bought a few bits before sitting and waiting for the boarding call. Whilst waiting a couple came and sat opposite us and he was very loud. Tina remarked that she hoped they were not close to us on the plane but luckily they boarded earlier. Phew!
We moved through to the second departure area where we both remembered that it was the same area that Abby got lost when we went to Florida eleven years earlier. The plane was loaded with the passengers very quickly and we took off fifteen minutes later than scheduled. The flight took just under five hours, with breakfast served mid-way. Pleasingly I was given a gluten-free meal, something I specified when I booked.
We arrived at Luxor airport, with a great view of the town as we landed. Clearly this is off the main tourist map as we were the only large plane at the airport, with an Italian aircraft landing shortly after ours.
We boarded the transfer bus from the plane, getting out of the heat which we were told was 35 degrees. We then queued at the African Safari Club desk to get our visas (which cost £15 each). Before joining the customs queue I thought I’d visit the gents. As I walked in I witnessed my first Egyptian hospitality; a man standing directing people to the cubicles. I did what I had to do only to find him waiting with paper towels directing me to the sink. Hmm this lot obviously want to ensure germs don’t spread by insisting you wash your hands. But once done, I realised he was doing it for a tip, but as I had no change I rushed back to Tina, grabbed a £ coin and went back and paid my dues. An expensive wee!
We got through customs after a thirty minute wait then collected our waiting cases.
We grouped outside where we were asked to complete a registration form before being shown to our coach. Once again I witnessed the culture of helpers wanting tips, with a guy grabbing my case, moving it five yards and expecting a tip. I acted as if I didn’t have any change, grabbed my case and put it on the coach. We soon set off towards the MS Da Vinci, with a guide giving us a rundown of Luxor and the agenda for the evening. We arrived at the boat after about 30 minutes drive and were welcomed aboard with a fruit drink made from Hibiscus, which was quite pleasant. We watched a short ‘safety’ video which made us chuckle, “the tourist will do this”, “the tourist will enjoy themselves”, and “old people should take care around the boat”. Somehow the seriousness of the message was lost in translation.
We collected our cabin key (323) and a porter took our bags to the room. Again he looked eagerly at my pocket and I succumbed and gave him a couple of quid. This could be an expensive tipping week. Our twin room was nicely furnished, with a TV, fridge and fully air conditioned. In fact it was so cold I switched it off before we both had showers for fear of freezing. We dressed for dinner and then set off to the restaurant, which we were told was at 7.30pm.
At bang on the stated time a dinner bell rang to indicate that we could move into the dining room. We were allocated a table (number 4) with another three couples and told by our dinner guide that we would stay on that table for the duration of the holiday. We were then offered drinks and told by our waiter Mohammed that we could save half a bottle for tomorrow. So that told us. We all introduced ourselves on the table and then asked for any dietary requests. Obviously my Coeliac condition sparked a topic of conversation and straight away I was singled out as needing different food. Sabya (our dining matre d) turned my soup bowl over suggesting I couldn’t have what everyone else was having. But to my surprise I was then served a vegetarian soup which was ok. Soon after everyone else was served chicken soup. The main course was chicken, rice, salad and peppers followed by fresh fruit. Again this was served before everyone else but it all looked the same to me. I couldn’t have any other deserts which did look nice. Oh well.
After dinner we had a quick look up on deck before the welcome meeting with our tour guide, Mustafa who gave us the itinerary for the week.
He discussed the trips in his best English; some of the phrases such as…”very good value for the money”, when talking about the camel ride, “have bird eye view” when up in a hot air balloon” and his diplomatic way of saying about rogues conning the tourists “another way of deceiving peoples”. Then the great news that the first excursion starts at 6.30am with a 5.30am alarm call. Wonderful.
Click here for Day 3