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Saturday, February 13, 2010

On the Train to Luxor

After returning to Cairo from our desert camping trip, we only had one free day before we began our next adventure, the train ride to Luxor.

Luxor is a city of about a half million population located somewhat over 400 miles south of Cairo.  I photographed this map at the Delta Tours office by the Egyptian Museum.  Delta usually arranges our trips here in Egypt.
(Luxor is at the south end of the big bend in the Nile.)

Luxor is the gateway to some of Egypt's most significant historical sites. In June, July and August, the average daytime temperature is 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That is why we are visiting in February.  Hard as it may be to believe, the peak tourist season is summer.

There are several ways to reach Luxor, Airplane is fast, rail is interesting.  We chose rail.  There are a couple of overnight "tourist trains" to Luxor.  The coaches are double-berth compartments and only tourists are allowed on the trains.  This gives you a measure of privacy and luxury that won't be found on the local trains.  The running time is scheduled for about nine hours.  As with everything in Egypt, your schedule may vary.

We were picked up at the apartment by a Delta Tours van who skillfully guided the vehicle over to the Giza train station.  We were about an hour early and the Delta representative stayed with us until we were successfully on the train and in our compartment.

The Giza train station is fascinating in its own right.  There were plenty of tourist lined up and plenty of locals.  Most of the locals were listening to the final match of the Africa Cup of Nations or at least staying in touch via cellphone.

I went browsing for a diet coke at about ten different kiosks in the station.  All had Coke, none had diet.  Coke went for five pounds($0.91) in the station, an outrageous upcharge over the two or three pounds ($0.36 - $0.54) I usually pay.  On the other hand, the service on the train would charge ten ($1.82).

Our train departed at the scheduled time of 8:00 p.m.  Dinner was served by the porter shortly afterward.  There were a variety of opinions about the quality of the beef and gravy.

For instance, the vegetarians from India in the next compartment didn't eat any of it while I thought it was tender and tasty.  Linda would use neither of those two words to describe it.  She ate about the same amount as the vegetarians.

I didn't sleep very well in my top berth.  The wake-up call came at the scheduled 4:00 a.m. time followed shortly by a breakfast of bread, bread and bread.

We were now wide-awake and awaiting our 5:00 a.m. arrival.  Unfortunately, we were about two hours behind schedule having spent some time stopped on sidings.  I got one picture of a switch control room but it doesn't do justice to the 1930s-era switch levers seen in the lower right corner of the windows, much less the fellow dressed in the galabeya who was pulling them.  Fortunately, all the correct handles were pulled and we arrived at the correct destination.

The two-hour delay gave us time to watch the sunrise from our window.

And we were met by our Luxor-based guide, nick-named Biro, on the platform.

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