Our trip: Dec. 26, 2017–Jan. 20, 2018. Day 5 Dec 31

Not a cloud in the sky. We walk to the Luxor Museum. About 20 cruise ships moored along the Nile (what kind of view do they have when they are five abreast? We hate being cooped up on a boat for days but this is even worse. You would have to keep the curtains drawn all day unless you like watching people and being watched. Not for us.) The day is incredibly clear and we have a superb view of the West bank. We spend about 5 hours in the Museum (a must-see if you are in Luxor). Some statues originally in Cairo have been moved to Luxor. The quality of the pieces is certainly NOT provincial, it is absolutely outstanding–and you can compare the forbidding monumentality of the Middle Kingdom (Amenemhat III of the awe-inspiring leonine sphinxes in Cairo) with the almost amiable grace and balance of the New Kingdom (Thutmosis III, Sobek and Amenhotep III, Seti I). Some pieces though they are not royal are just outstanding e.g. the statue of Nebre (19th dynasty), the head of Nakhtmin, or the head of Sekhmet, the lion goddess. They have a few things from king Tut’s tomb (chariot, bows & arrows, shawabtis, funeral boats, one of the beds, and above all the magnificent cow’s head). The underground room has some of the most beautiful statues from the cachette; they deserve close scrutiny when most groups don’t even bother to enter the room. A gem: we heard a French lady declare peremptorily that she wouldn’t mind having some of those statues in her garden (no wonder we never travel in a group–we can’t imagine sitting down to dinner with this kind of person and listening to this kind of remark–for Heaven’s sake do have some respect for mankind’s greatest achievements). Happy and exhausted we crawl back to the Pavilion only to meet a very large and very noisy group of Chinese tourists. I must have looked somewhat bothered by the noise and agitation because one of the hotel staff tells me in confidence: “Don’t worry, they’ll be on the ground floor.” As will come out now and then, the management should be very wary of large groups, be they Chinese, French, or Martian–large groups can destroy a hotel. After a short rest, we walk to the Victorian lounge for champagne and canapés. Obviously the guests have not been told about a dress code: some like us are in evening dress, others in jeans, no jacket, no tie–what a deplorable mistake. Dinner is served under the marquise which has been tastefully decorated. We discover that the man in charge has put us far from our friends, at a table that is half empty, with our backs to the stage, with French people who did not say hello, never spoke to us, and were dressed as if they had just returned from a hot and arduous trek in the desert–which calls for an immediate and very tense conversation with the General Manager who rises to the occasion in the most gentlemanly manner and pacifies me somewhat. Dinner at 9:30 (salmon bavarois & shrimp tempura, scallops seared with lobster sauce, ravioli of duck foie gras with mushrooms and truffle oil, champagne sorbet, veal rack with ceps, délice with caramel & praline truffled with crème brûlée, cherries and mascarpone ice cream.) Everything was very good and we were amazed by the delicious scallops seared to perfection–quite an achievement considering the number of dishes and diners, the distance from the kitchen, and the availability of fresh produce in Luxor. In the intervals, we had 2 belly dancers (which we thoroughly dislike on principle) but the whirling dervishes were very nice and reminded us of those in Konya, though on a less mystical plane obviously. There was some dancing at the end but we left early because my wife’s blood pressure was doing the yoyo. All in all, the WP should be warmly commended for the evening even though there were some problems that needed to be ironed out. I can only encourage people to join us next year for an even more marvellous evening. See you there!

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