We knew that an 11-hour bus ride would be quite a demanding adventure, but given the choice between jumping on a night bus and skipping the planned trip to Luxor, we chose the former. The train would have been a more convenient option, but a strike erupted in one of the railway towns, and workers would not allow trains to pass until the minister himself came to negotiate with them. So be it, we thought, unpredictability is a part of the charm when traveling Egypt three months after the revolution.
The bus was crowded, and my seat refused to lean back. After the evening prayer, two TV screens started showing Egyptian dramas. Our modest wish to get some sleep at night was too ambitious – earplugs did not shield all the screaming in the movies, which continued until around 1 AM. There was a brief period of silence until the morning prayer at dawn, after which the driver turned the TV on again.
Luxor temples: closed flowers – click on the images to enlarge them
Why am I writing about my old trip (2011) to Egypt? I explain here.
[Diary] “This used to be a marvelous city,” everyone tells me, and it seems that locals here are more adequate to their environment, more natural. Signboards still remember what it used to be like, some streets have their names still written in French, and the place sort of reminds me of Istanbul. Unpretentious Roman ruins have been rebuilt. People come to the library to use computers. The library staff keep thinking how to showcase its riches better. Movies about Egypt receive disproportionate attention. There is a smell of fish lingering by the shore.
[Reconstructed from memory] Alexandria was my friend′s favorite city, and he seemed to take delight in showing it to me. There were lots of ′colonial′ details around there, with the French street names and all. I saw lots of graffiti and remembered reading that some of the main clashes of the revolution happened precisely there. Alexandria felt youthful and cosmopolitan. Its amazing library is a museum and a working hub in the same space. As a visitor, I took time to look at its historical artifacts, but it was just as interesting to observe how locals used the library.
As I took note in my diary, Alexandria reminded me of Istanbul, but the port also looked like Akko, Porto or other Mediterranean cities I have visited. Indeed, going between Alexandria and Cairo one can notice how a Mediterranean feel slowly morphs into a Middle-Eastern one.
Before returning to Cairo, we sat for coffee at a Brazilian-themed cafe.
I went to Egypt in April 2011, but I was so busy that I hardly wrote anything about it. One exception is this article for Cafe Babel. I spent hours showing photos and telling stories to family and friends, but all of them were still waiting to be ′immortalized′ in the blog. I found an old notebook that I used in Egypt, so I guess it′s time to translate and digitize these notes.
Why am I writing about this now? Several reasons. I keep following news from Egypt, and it seems it will never be the same as I saw it. With each day it moves away from what I saw three months after the revolution. Also, my friend whom I was visiting has already returned to Lithuania. Moreover, I recently visited Thailand and, although most people asked me if I had been to Asia before as if other Asian countries made a sort of transition to what I was experiencing there, Thailand felt more similar to Egypt than to other Asian countries. The political system of these countries is built around tensions between populists, weaker middle-class-based opposition, and the military. Both of these countries depend on tourism for their income. So traveling in Thailand made me reflect on my memories from Egypt.