Midnight Wednesday 28th March and we tied up at the Port Control and Customs jetty in Port Ghalib, Egypt. We had sent emails advising the authorities of our ETA and tried to call by sat phone to find out if a night entry into port would be in order. No response, so we navigated in to find a couple of officials waiting for us on the jetty and welcoming us warmly. We gave them our passports, ships rego and crew list and were told they would be back the next morning at nine, with all the paperwork. We had a celebratory drink with Mike and Sarah on Soul who had arrived with us, went to bed and slept like logs after the 43-hour passage.
The winds were kind to us as we had 15 knots of easterlies on the beam for the 280nm route – blogs often report winds of 35 knot northerlies on the nose, blowing for days on end. We woke up on Thursday the 29th March, four weeks to the day since we left Cochin in India, to find that the wind had turned west overnight, bringing in dust from the desert, covering everything under a blanket of dust. The sun could not be seen through the dust cloud and we decided to chill for the day, or until the dust cleared, before cleaning up.
At about 2pm the dust started clearing after a wind change to the north east. Our visas, customs clearance and other formalities were completed after 5 hours. Lots of paperwork, but very friendly officials. We were allocated two stern to tie ups on the long break wall of the bar and restaurant strip – right in front of the “Hakuna Matata” bar where people partied until the wee hours. We had a late lunch and stroll through the commercial centre next to three huge resorts. Sundowners with “Soul” and “Vimy” was followed by dinner on shore at very reasonable prices. We bought data for our modem and reserved a guided tour to Luxor, about 4.5 hours inland on the Nile river.
Saturday at 5:30am, Abdul the driver picked us up at the marina and set off at a cracking pace through the desert. Annie had a similar Kia Rondo in Sydney but never drove it at more than 100km/h. Not Abdul – he put pedal to the metal and cruised at 160km/h, on roads with potholes, negative camber and overtaking on blind corners. I wished I had a handful of Valium to relax or fall asleep.
Miraculously, we arrived in Luxor intact. We picked up our guide Bahy, who took us to the Valley of the Kings – a vast necropolis where many kings from 2000 BC onwards were buried. The story of Howard Carter’s discovery of the boy-king Tutankhamun in 1922 is well known. We visited his tomb, as well as the tombs of Ramesses 5 and 6, and Horemheb.
After lunch we drove to another valley where the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut was located. The adjoining temple of Mentuhotep 2, was not rebuilt after the earthquake of 27BC.
We checked into the Lotus Luxor hotel where our room balconies looked down on the Nile. We had a swim, showers and sundowners before bedtime. Lunch was late and huge, so we skipped dinner.
The following morning after breakfast we set of to the Karnak temple, the largest temple complex in the world, comprising 25 temples, built over thirteen hundred years. I was gobsmacked by the scale of this site. In my first year of architecture, we had to acquire Banister Fletcher’s bible “A history of Architecture” and I used to marvel at this temple complex, hoping one day to clap eyes onto it – well, here I was, overwhelmed!
For an encore, we visited the Luxor museum where a lot of the treasures of these sites are on display – many though were installed in the museum in Cairo, which we hope to visit when we go to see the pyramids.
We also visited an artisan community who still produce artefacts in stone, in the traditional manner.
Finally, we were treated to a cruise on the Nile before heading back at breakneck speed to Port Ghalib, compliments of Abdul – with me now ensconced in the back seat, my eyes glued to a book. Karen and Michelle took a bus from Luxor to Cairo from where they will fly to South Africa, for the “Africa Burn” festival in the Karoo.
The boat felt empty without them on board, but we started cleaning up the dust, bought groceries and wine (surprisingly palatable Egyptian wines) before giving the Port Captain 48 hours’ notice of our departure to Suez on Thursday – he has to keep the Coast Guard happy, hence the timeous notification.
Cheers until we post a final blog on Egypt, after the Suez Canal and before sailing to Cyprus.