The sun beat down as temperatures reached the upper 90’s. Sweat dripped off us as we hurried from shady spot to shady spot long the nearly empty streets. The heat even sapped the energy from the few, endlessly persistent touts who still roamed around looking for tourist dollars.
We were in Luxor, at the end of a whirlwind month of traveling through Egypt. Although our Nile cruise with Grand European Travel, had been amazing, the balance of our time traveling north to Alexandria and east to Hurghada, had proved an exercise in exasperation, and we were counting the days until our flight out of Cairo to Nairobi.
Relentless touts, cheating taxi drivers, screwed up reservations at every turn, and a general sense of overall aggression had led to a feeling of constantly being on edge. We had enjoyed our brief trip through Luxor on our cruise and, as we boarded our bus for the convoy across the barren dessert, we hoped the city would be the respite we needed to regain our travel equilibrium before over-landing South-east Africa.
It is often said that travel becomes more about the people you meet along the way, than about the places you visit. During our week in Luxor we saw the sites, visited the temples and museums, and walked in the path of history. We ate at some fantastic restaurants and watched the sun set nightly over the Nile. We also found ourselves race-walking past the touts offering felucca tours, the begging children, and every taxi driver we saw, desperate to avoid another “lucky man, lucky man” and “best felucca trip here”.
What I think about now,when I reminisce about our time there, is the people who entered our life in random encounters. The young boys who showed us around their village on the less-touristed right bank. The taxi drivers on this same side of the river, whom we drank tea with and watched the hazy heat rise around us as the afternoon drifted away. The endlessly irritating touts who became friendly when we stopped running from them and started, instead, to ask about themselves and their life. And the British foreign aid worker we met our final night, in our hotel bar. Scruffy and un-kept, he had just returned from Darfur and was spending time in Luxor to get his head on straight before heading out to the next war zone.
For me, travel enriches our lives on so many levels, certainly not least of which is in teaching that first impressions are often flawed, and that slowing down and treating people as individuals rather than as a group, can make all the difference.