The other night we all went to Sequoia, a trendy restaurant on the Nile. This is the part of the Nile with pretty painted fences, little garbage and flowing water. Not trash, dead animals, and children bathing in stagnant muck. This is the part that’s meant for us to see. The restaurant looks like it was made in Hollywood. Everything is white, with low couches for seating and flowing canopies everywhere. The entire place feels like a palace, and waiters are everywhere. You can’t help but feel important and rich as you pay25 LE (Egyptian pounds, ~$5 american) for a bottle of sakkara and lounge in the breeze, watching a bright orange moon sparkle on the water.
As David said, it’s where you would bring foreigners or potential business partners to show them a good time, and convince them to invest in Cairo. This is when the discussion of our life as rock stars/club owners started. It only got more ridiculous/financially infeasible in Luxor.
Luxor looks like how we thought Cairo would. There is desert everywhere, and then a city comes out of nowhere. The place looks like Tatouine, a comparison we all made immediately but hesitated to share. Everyone wears traditional clothing, and shops selling all things overpriced and “traditional” are everywhere. In the hotels there are belly dancers and other cultural activities. The hotel was amazing, and looked like a palace anyway, but especially compared to the Flamenco here in Zamalek, our island neighborhood in Cairo.
In Luxor, they’re selling the Egypt brand hardcore, and we’re buying. People constantly offered my friend Taylor camels for myself and the other three girls we were with. He responds, “there aren’t enough camels in the world!” Smart boy. The men who say these things laugh and joke with us. They aren’t serious or dangerous at all. They know this is what we think we’ll hear, and like everyone in Luxor, they’re willing to conform to the stereotype for a little baksheesh (tip). The children who beg in the square wear new, ornate traditional clothing over their jeans and tshirts. There are bags to catch the poop from the horse-drawn carriages that are everywhere. Egyptians live on the West Bank (not THAT West Bank) and tourists on the East, and certain restaurants and nightclubs won’t allow natives in, even if they come with Americans. Everything is very deliberate and for our benefit.
Originally, we all loved Luxor. We wanted a six week Luxor dialogue, so we could lounge by the pool, sit in the open lobby and enjoy the city. Then we went into the city. Not much there. We saw all the cool old stuff, which took about 10 hours over the course of two days. We went into the city to explore, the way we did when we first got to Zamalek, and were sorely dissappointed. The “market” is entirely for tourists. Everyone sells the same things, all from China, many of which I saw sold in a similar area in Paris. The sellers all speak english in a variety of accents–Australian, British, Scottish, American. Everyone calls us pretty or sexy and asks if we’re Egyptian.
The hotel was another experience altogether. I could have been in Florida for all anyone cared. The place was gorgeous. The pool was on a boat floating on the Nile, which the balconies of our rooms looked out onto. Most of the guests stayed in the hotel for everything. And why not? There were several restaurants on the compound, and even shops and an atm built in. The place was a resort compound designed to keep westerners happy, and for a while it worked.
By now, none of our group likes Luxor.
We have been referring to Luxor as “vacation,” making Zamalek (our neighborhood in Cairo) home. We even miss the Flamenco, with its smaller rooms and wonky elevators. This is the real benefit of our weekend away. The group is much closer, and we all appreciate Cairo (and its cooler air) much more. Oddly enough, when I came back this morning via overnight train, I was comfortabley wearing long pants, a shirt, jacket and scarf. It appears I’ve actually started getting used to this heat.