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My boyfriend and I arrived in Luxor first thing on a very hot April morning and made our way to our hotel, past miles of neat banana and sugar cane fields. As we drove along the road, farmers were out early tending to their crops and fearless donkeys plodded alongside huge lorries and tractors carrying massive loads of dried sugar cane.
We were staying at a hotel called Al Moudira. As first impressions go, it was pretty impressive. The reception opened out into a large open courtyard, bordered with the most exquisite antique doors and shutters saved from a regal house in Cairo that was being knocked down.
Ginny Weeks Microsoft
The hotel has over 50 rooms, each hand painted in different themes by a local Egyptian man and a Lebanese artist. One extraordinary example had stars painted all over the ceiling, a water fountain in the middle of the room and a sunken bathroom with huge stained glass windows.
What was awfully sad - but wonderful for us - was that the place was completely empty. We were the only guests there and for two days we had the place to ourselves. After going to visit the Valley of the Kings (including the Tomb of Tutankhamun, which now houses a rather glittery replica mummy) we would return by lunchtime and laze by the pool all afternoon. In the evenings we feasted on the simple but delicious Lebanese food.
Ginny Weeks Microsoft
On our final evening we took a short taxi ride to the guest house Beit Sabee, owned by a company called Nour el Nil who also owned the boat we were to sail on the Nile the next day. A small, family-run business, the staff and owners couldn’t have given us a nicer welcome. The place epitomised ‘cheap and chic’ with its wonderful French style – think blue shutters, white linen, wicker furniture and simple furnishings. It also had the most astonishing view from the roof terrace with metropolitan Luxor on one side and the desert mountains on the other. We spent the night drinking beer and talking to two French archaeologists, who were trying to find a secret tomb in the mountains. With the sun setting and the warm desert breeze keeping us cool it was all a bit Indiana Jones but in a really good way.
Up early the next morning we made our way to the merchant town of Esna via a few hotels to pick up the other guests who would be joining us on a six-day sailing trip on the Nile. All we knew was that our boat was called ‘Meroe’ and could accommodate up to 20 guests. It was the largest of Nour el Nils’s fleet of four boats. After a brief tour of the Temple of Khnum, a tall temple nine metres below street level, we made our way through the dusty streets to the boat.