By Bob Schwabach
Originally printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, March 16, 1975
Luxor is what the Greeks called Ancient Thebes, to distinguish it from modern Thebes in Greece itself, and everybody who was anybody built a temple here. Across the river, on the western bank of the Nile, is the Valley of the Kings. The dead live on the west bank of the Nile, where the sun sets, and the living on the east, where the sun rises.
It is all planned out that way and has been that way for six or seven thousand years. Death is the business of Egypt; it is what tourists come to see and what they have come to see ever since the first millennium before Christ, when Herodotus complained that the tour guides were selling fake antiques to the Athenians. Now Americans, Frenchmen and Scandinavians gawk where Caesar did, and we are the new Romans.
The Egyptians are as prepared for us as they were for them. Hotel rooms are scarce, the Nile boats are booked months in advance, the food is spotty, the service poor, and nobody speaks the language very well. It probably wouldn’t matter if they put people up in tents and fed them K-rations. Because this is Egypt, and nobody comes here for the resort cum fun and sun atmosphere of the Riviera and the Costa del Sol or even to sample the native food and rummage the bazaars for brass plates. This is The Land of the Pharaohs, as Cecil B. DeMille kept reminding us, and by gum it really is.
A lot of it has the air of some leftover movie set. The pyramids, the Sphinx, the great temples of Karnak and Abu Simbel, look disappointingly just like their pictures and everything is instantly recognizable. The Great Pyramids of Giza are just on the edge of Cairo, a one dollar taxi ride from the center of town. Turn right at the “Pirate’s Cove” nightclub. Continue reading