On the path of pharaohs
“FiI mish-mish!” I cry, using a nice way of saying in Egyptian, you’ve got to be kidding. “Fifty, not 100 Egyptian pounds!” And so I successfully reduce the cost of the desired object to the equivalent of a cup of coffee in Perth.
Winning the game of haggling is mixed with the guilt of knowing I could easily have paid any amount asked and I would still be rich relative to the sellers.
A trip to Egypt is confronting because of the juxtaposition of our wealth as western tourists and the comparative poverty of many locals, a scene played out in other developing countries.
We want to see tombs, temples and pyramids and are whisked around remote parts of Egypt with armed police escorts often larger than our small tour group of nine, plus archaeologist and tour guide Michael, Egyptian guide Aziz and driver Yasser. Flashing through towns with sirens blaring, we are treated like royalty.
Fabulous images of the trip come to me — Gertie resplendent in bright jalabiya and head swathed in scarves, majestically trotting on a donkey toward the huge mud- brick walls at El Kab; the glorious and unexpected Greekstyle motifs in the tomb of Petosiris at Tuna el-Gebel; the magnificent tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings; lazing on the covered deck of our Dahabiya (nine cabins, two sails and no engine), sailing slowly up the Nile; intrepid Chris, David and Emma unexpectedly galloping off on camels into the desert as the rest of us trudge through the sand on the way to the ruins of the Monastery of St Simeon in Aswan; and the dazzling colours of the newly restored Temple at Esna.
At almost all sites we are the only western tourists and are quite miffed if others turn up. After all, we are serious students of Egyptology, not mere travellers as they are!
Everywhere we are welcomed by the locals with endless requests for selfies with us, and lots of laughing and smiles. Niqab-wearing ladies ask husbands to photograph them with tour-group women; a quick flick of their garment reveals smiling beauties.
As we wander around ancient remains, the local schoolchildren suddenly start singing and shouting to us. “Are they making fun of us?” I ask Aziz. “No,” he replies. “Every child in Egypt learns the song, Egypt is a country of tourists, Welcome to Egypt.” Send your 400-word contribution to Follow the Reader: [email protected]tralian.com.au. Columnists will receive a beautifully boxed set of a dozen 2ml vials of woody, floral and spicy scents from international fragrance house Amouage; $110. More: libertineparfumerie.com.au.