Saturday, August 29, 2015

EGYPT: A CARRIAGE RIDE THROUGH LUXOR

Earlier in our Egyptian travels we had been given a carriage ride from our boat to Edfu Temple as part of our tour package. We got a second opportunity for a carriage ride in Luxor on our own dime. The plan was to drive around for an hour and a half to give us a closer look at the city, with a short stop to stretch our legs in the market. 

We left our cruise boat, not always docked in the most pristine of places:
And met the men, horses, and vehicles to whom we would entrust our lives for the next two hours:
From a respectable distance, the carriage above looks like Cinderella's coach, but our jalopy wasn't quite that nice. The wooden wheels were padded with strips of uninflated rubber, which cushioned the ride only so much.
Julia waves from another carriage (We liked taking pictures of each other):
Our driver told us his name was Mustafa and the horse's name was Cinderella. (Hmmm, a possible Disney fixation?) That was about the extent of his English, but he was friendly and tried hard to please, stopping once to chat with a friend and buy a street snack of some kind of bean that he insisted we share with him, pulling over later to pick a bouquet for me, and letting me sit in front and "drive" the carriage on the way back (when the horse was on auto pilot).

We started out in the less populated area near the dock and headed for the city center.

Anciently known as Thebes, modern-day Luxor and its suburbs have a population of almost half a   million. It sits on the eastern bank of the Nile, just across the river from the Valley of the Kings. The west, where the sun sets, is symbolic of death, so this division of city and tombs makes sense.

Thebes was the capital of Egypt from the 16th to 11th centuries BC. Some of Egypt's most famous pharaohs ruled during these years, including Hatshepsut, Thutmose III, Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, Tutankhamen, Ramses II ("the Great), and Ramses III.

In the 14th century, Thebes had a population of 80,000, making it possibly the largest city in the entire world at that time. The great temples of Luxor  and Karnack were built here, enveloped today by the modern city of Luxor, somewhat like an art museum in the downtown area of a large city. It is the standard Egyptian potpourri of ancient and modern.
A mosque's minaret shoots up like a rocket from a base of flat, square buildings:
We were part of a line of about a dozen carriages:
This Egyptian boy trotted alongside on his donkey for quite a while. He is holding a stick he used as a switch in his right hand, along with what appeared to be a bag of groceries:
The Egyptian donkeys are all this small. They must have very strong backs.

Mustafa stopped long enough to pick an Egyptian bouquet for me: a bundle of fragrant mint:
The scenery got more interesting as we got closer to the business district . . .


Egyptians can load more people on one motorcycle than seems humanly possible. Look carefully and you'll see FOUR sets of legs on this one:
BUT WAIT. As my sister Chris notes in the comments at the end of the post, she got a picture of that motorcycle from the front, and their were not FOUR but FIVE riders!  I missed that little patch of blue you can see in the driver's armpit. Here is Chris's much more impressive photo:
Motorcycles are a very popular form of transportation:

I'm not sure why this laundry picture is here, expect that I love laundry, and I like the juxtaposition of the satellite dish and the laundry line:
The traffic started to get heavier, and we began to wonder whose crazy idea it was to drive carriages through the middle of it all:
Egyptians like to use their horns: 
Did you notice the vans passing us with their side doors open? As far as we can tell, those are their buses, and the open door allows passengers to hop on and off quite efficiently. They can squeeze a lot of people into one van:
I've never seen a Toyota Hiace before.
We passed all kinds of shops:






My favorite was the butcher shop:
. . . although the tchotchke stop was also appealing:
We passed the train station:
As usual, we saw an interesting mixture of traditional and modern. This traditionally dressed man is looking at his cell phone:

We noticed at least two Christian churches.

Oh wait. Maybe that's one very large church:
Here's the other Christian church, probably Orthodox, judging by the pictures on the wall that hides the bulk of the church from view:
Later on we saw a THIRD Christian church, this one a Franciscan Catholic church. Is it possibly the same church as the one above? Who knows. Too bad we couldn't stop:
This graffiti didn't give me any warm fuzzies, especially since it seems to be a message directed at English speakers:

Okay, now the real fun begins. This is where our drivers took a turn into a narrow street that turned out to be the pedestrian market. Talk about up-close-and-personal viewing. There was not enough width for our carriage AND a shopper, so people had to keep moving out of our way.



When we got to the very heart of this market, Mustafa stopped the carriage and let us out. Seriously? Shouldn't we be worried about shopkeepers who want to kill us for scaring away their customers? We spent about thirty minutes, but we didn't venture far from the drop-off/collection point. In that warren of claustrophobic streets, we might never have found our way back.
 
There was also plenty of pressure to buy. If we even slowed down to look at a display, the shopkeepers were upon us, shaking out scarves and holding out trinkets. It made exploring a little difficult. 

It was a relief to get back out into the open air again:
We navigated through the city streets once again, enjoying the scenes of everyday life as the daylight began to wane:
We passed by the Luxor Temple complex, a site we would visit the following morning:
It really is right in the heart of the city:
As we got closer to the river, the traffic began to thin out. I felt so sorry for this little donkey pulling a cart loaded with at least two dozen bags of cement:
It was hard to reconcile scenes like the one above with this billboard and other modern sights:
Back at the carriage parking area, we saw several horses hauling their own dinner:
Our journey ended just in time to enjoy the haunting call to prayer reverberate from the city walls:

It was time to go back to our berth and get some sleep.
We had to get up early the next morning for a hot air balloon ride.

8 comments:

  1. I really enjoy the video shots, particularly the first one with the clop of the horse hooves and the continual honking. Immersion into a very different world.

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  2. What a great experience this was! I love your videos, with the sounds of Luxor. That motorcycle actually had FIVE riders. It's the same one we took a picture of when Stan gave the little girl in front a dollar. Her legs are being hidden by her dad.

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    1. You are right! I've added your photo.

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    2. Mama looks like she's hanging on by only half a cheek. Quite impressive.

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  3. Looks fun but it seems kind of awkward to be the only carriage in the market, but if that is the only way you get there so be it.

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    1. It wasn't just our carriage, but the whole string of the dozen carriages of our group, and yes, it was VERY awkward. We felt they should have just let us off at the edge so we could have walked through. Clearly it wasn't a road for horse-and-buggy riders.

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  4. I didn't see anyone responding to the call for prayer. Are the Egyptians getting lax in their devotion to Allah?

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  5. You didn't mention buying anything, so I'm guessing it was all a bit overwhelming after the embarrassing entrance? Loved the videos.

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