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Pole to Pole

Day 56: Luxor

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe shall be joining a Nile cruise for the next leg of our journey, and as we drive along the river to find our boat - the Isis - I can see serried ranks of chunky four-storeyed vessels, maybe a hundred in all, lined up along the river bank, awaiting the day the tourists come back.

My guide to Luxor is a tall, straight, matchstick-thin aristocrat of the business whose name is Tadorus but who asks me to call him Peter . . . 'It's easier'. I would rather call him Tadorus, but he doesn't look the sort you argue with. He wears a white djellabah and cap and carries with him a Chaplinesque walking-stick, which he often rests across his shoulders. An enormous pair of Esprit sunglasses almost obscures his striking but emaciated face, and when he removes them they reveal a pair of moist, sad eyes. He is eighty-three years old, and as a boy of fourteen was present when the archaeologist Howard Carter first pushed open the door of Tutankhamun's tomb.

Peter takes me across on the Nile ferry to a cluster of mud buildings on the West Bank opposite the city. We are driven past fields of sugar cane and alongside an irrigation canal financed by the Russians in 1960. The greenery ends abruptly as we climb a winding road up into barren, rubble-strewn desert. We pass an ostentatious modern cafeteria. 'The Temple of Coca-Cola,' Peter announces, permitting himself a shade of a smile. Then we are into the Valley of the Kings, which resembles a gigantic quarry, littered with rock debris, bleached white by the sun. We leave the bus and walk up towards the tombs in dry and scorching heat. Peter estimates the temperature at forty Celsius, 104 Fahrenheit. I ask him if it's usually like this.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 56
  • Country/sea: Egypt
  • Place: Luxor
  • Book page no: 121

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