I hate trains.
And this Egyptian train was the worst of all.
Of course, it started out innocently enough. My “roommate” (the T in the MBT, for those in the know) and I had our own cabin with cute little bunks that folded out from the wall. A cute little Egyptian man came around and gave us our dinner—which consisted of a roll, honey, rat meat, and rice. And as I was eating the rice a mouse came and sat by my foot, looking all cute and mouse-like. It was really a nice change of pace from all the cats that ran around our feet during most of our meals in Egypt. And then I laid down on the sliver of wood some would refer to as a bunk.
For the information of anyone who hasn’t slept on a train, you should know that it’s impossible to sleep on a train.
The random jerks and rattles and whistles and explosions tend to prevent sleep. And, also, every time another train passes on a neighboring track, a noise is created that sounds something like the universe exploding. And that drives away sleep. And so does the fear of thieves. And so does the awareness that one is laying among bedbugs.
I had already been paranoid (thanks Dad!) about sleeping in the beds, so I had “gone to sleep” wearing my daytime clothes. Unfortunately, I only had on a short-sleeve shirt, and the bed bugs, upon seeing my exposed arms, decided that they would make an excellent place to bite and do all sorts of mean things.
By the time morning rolled around I had a dozen bites on each arm—bites that itched like mad for the next several days.
I was also very tired.
The next morning I also had very sore legs. But that wasn’t because of the bedbugs, whose powers were limited. No, the soreness of my legs was the result of the previous day’s fiasco inside the great pyramid of Khafre the Little Person. The fiasco, readers may recall, in which I exercised muscles that were never meant to be exercised, all for the purpose of seeing the Room In Which Nothing Is Contained Other Than Gullible Tourists (the RIWNICOTGT, for short.)
So yes, in addition to crazily itchy (itchily crazy?) bed bug bites, I also experienced great difficulty (and pain) moving up and down stairs for the next several days.
Before leaving the train we were served a breakfast of gross things, which I declined
And then we arrived at Luxor, which is a lot unlike Cairo. That is, the Nile is slightly less polluted, you don’t feel like you’re breathing in 5 packs of cigarettes with each breath, the roads are safer, there are less than 57 trillion people, we had a new (and massively improved!) tour guide, and the merchants were slightly less pesky. (Okay, that last one was a lie.) All in all, compared to Cairo, it was like paradise.
And sure, I’ll admit the hotel was kind of nauseating, but what town is perfect? Even a perfectly paradisiacal place like Luxor can’t be perfect.
But before we could experience the hotel, before we could shower and wash off the three inches of grime that had formed on us during the night among bedbugs and mice, before we could get rid of our bags, before we could get just a little sleep, they dragged us to the Valley of the Kings. And I’m sure it’s a fantastically cool place—how could any place with lots of dead bodies and treasures not be cool? But I sure don’t remember it. That is, I have fleeting memories—I seem to recall passing through King Tut’s tomb, and walking up and down lots of stairs, and lots of colorful things on walls—but I’m not sure. Maybe it was all a dream.
I woke up once I saw the hotel.
I deposited my bags on the floor, then, looking around, decided that I valued my safety and cleanliness so I went and slept in the dark alleyway outside the hotel (where the local gangs rumbled.)
Later that day we rode a falucha on the Nile, which is altogether a forgettable experience. Which is not to say that it was boring. It was. But, also, it was bland and tiring, and, again, forgettable. Maybe it was just a slow day, but we drifted about half-a-mile in our entire ninety-minute “voyage”, which is not anywhere far enough a distance to travel when one is on a boat on the Nile River (a three-month long voyage into the “heart of darkness” would have seemed more appropriate, but alas.)
I also touched the Nile.*
After the falucha ride, a small group of us went to a local shopping mall.
It was much more exciting.
You can imagine what it’s like to walk through a Luxorian shopping mall if you imagine an American shopping mall, but just replace all the English (and Spanish) being spoken with Arabic and pretend that at every single shop there is a man waiting and calling for you to come in and that he is reaching out to grab your arm and drag you and he will use violent force if necessary and that he is offering you a very special price that’s available only to American tourists.
Now spend a moment, re-read that paragraph, close your eyes, and try to imagine the place.
And then we went to the Luxor Museum, wherein we viewed many random artifacts, two ancient dead people, and a few other things. It was better than the Cairo Museum, but worse than the Smithsonian.
We spent the night at the hotel (the alley was closed for renovations), whose scumminess I believe I already mentioned, and the next day we went to Karnak and Luxor temples which were both pretty cool (the latter was located in the middle of downtown Luxor, just a block away from the Nile.)
That night it was time to return to Cairo—this time by air.
Yes. The people who run the Jerusalem Center bought us plane tickets back to Cairo, proving that, despite appearances, they do in fact have hearts....
...But only very small hearts, as we will see in the third and final part of the Egypt Epic, estimated to arrive December 22, 2012.
*Please note: You are under absolutely no obligation to tell my future wife that I did this. I have been assured the consequences of this action (genetic mutations, etc.) won’t show up until the fifth or sixth generation of grandchildren, so neither of us will be around to feel bad.