2014 – In the streets behind and away from the East Bank of Egypt’s famous Nile River and the strip where the 5 star hotels are located – Luxor is dying. It is no wonder that people speak nostalgically about the Mubarak days, curse the brotherhood and are waiting for a miracle from El Sisi. I have the utmost sympathy for that man because it is not possible for one man to now ‘fix’ Egypt. In posts during 2011 I made the observation that Mubarak was only one man, surrounded by an impenetrable circle of Ministers, Aides and Advisors – removed from the everyday life of Egypt. Surrounded by corruption – what could Mubarak fix? What will El-Sisi or and new President be able to fix? Nothing. Because the corrupt still remain in power. Because on his own he will soon be lost in a haze of mis-information (Egyptians fear telling any ‘BOSS’ the truth if it is not pleasing)
Fixing Egypt – providing an encouraging economic environment so the people can work, eat and provide even the basic necessities for their families requires that every government worker from the office cleaners to the Ministers and area Governors do their basic jobs to perfection – alas a dream I fear……
Luxor is not a huge metropolis – it is not much bigger than a medium sized town in Ireland and behind the scenes work, production and basic functions, amenities and services are grinding inexorably to a halt. We experience daily power cuts, sporadic rubbish collection, an erratic internet system, fuel shortages and now even nature is playing it’s part in our demise with thunder, lightening, hailstones, wind and rain!!! Even the working committee of ex-pats set up by the governor has silently faded away into obliviom …..and in the midst of all this despair and mayhem – the local mosques appear to be afraid their Friday sermons and daily calls to prayer are not being heard, so their solution is…?
POWER CUTS – I have no idea why they are happening again – we screamed against them in the reign of Morsi. When he was ousted the power outages stopped. Why they have started again and are increasing in frequency and length I have no idea now. I am sure the weather will be blamed for it over the last 3 days but they have been going on for weeks. What I fail to understand is why it always has to be at night…are the controllers trying to drive the population crazy? They are succeeding! It’s not just the pervading, intense darkness that engulfs us during a night-time power cut – it’s the rats and the cockroaches!!
Yes, you read correctly – I said RATS and COCKROACHES. You see, while they are ever present (due to the sumptuous feasts provided in every street for them in the rubbish heaps, they stay hidden for the most part and if a household is vigilant with a combination of cleanliness, poison and traps it is possible to keep your house free of those horrors. They tend to stay out of the light also – so when the lights go out at Mara House we rush to shine the emergency light onto the street outside the Front Door, light up the stairs with another one, keep garden solar lights on the roof and light up the front entrance hall. God forbid we are out of the house when the power is cut!!!
Have I experience of those critters in the dark? Yes, I have – way back in 2003, shortly after I moved to Luxor and was living in an apt. nearby there was a power cut around 11pm one night. I was lucky…..I had one decorative candle. Within minutes I heard a stream of ‘clickity clack, clickity clack, clickity clack on the stone stairway and entrance hall outside my door. Thankfully at the time I had not seen the movie “The Mummy” – you know that scene where the guy is locked in the treasure room and the sea of scarabs swarm across the floor to surround him and eat him up?? Remember the sound? Clickity – clack!!! Yup! Had I seen the film then I would probably have had a heart attack from fear!
When the darkness comes the cockroaches swarm up from the sewers (a favourite haunt and breeding ground) and have free run of the streets and access to the houses. Same goes for the rats. Now, if the power cuts were during the day we would at least be spared that horror.
RUBBISH – for some reason every rubbish collection bin has disappeared from the streets in our area – our area is called Sawagi, a mostly Christian area – it’s just behind the train station but now has become the ‘the forgotten city’ Even after the revolution and up to the last 12 months or so we had street cleaners (not that they did much) and a truck that came to empty the big street rubbish bins…..a now disappeared facility. A few weeks ago the police moved the fruit & veg sellers back into their purpose built centre and there was a big clean up underway – streets being swept etc. so we were in high hopes that something positive was happening – alas we are sorely disappointed now – that initiative ended as suddenly as it began. Consequently, the rubbish piles up on on the actual streets. Where else to put it??? Perchance the rats petitioned the City Council to provide more available food depots for them?
A couple of years ago the internet cable in the Mediterranean was cut – or so we were told, and we had no internet for 15 days or so. I wonder what the excuse is these days? Internet here, internet there….but oh not for long enough to send an email! Oh I almost forgot – before the internet started playing up we had a problem with the telephone cable in the street – apparently people dig them up and steal them. Speaking of stealing….you will never guess what is the most sought after item in Luxor by the Big Time Thieves??? THE MANHOLE COVERS!!! They are made of cast-iron metal I think – so they come in the dead of night and whisk them away. It is now a common sight to see a traffic cone, box or some such makeshift warning in the middle of the roads – a warning of an open sewer access.
LOCAL MOSQUES appear to fear their calls to prayer – especially the early morning ones are not being heard by their communities (they certainly are not being heeded in great numbers). So what is their solution? They appear to have decided to raise the volume on their megaphones and speakers – and where possible stick up a few more! The nearest mosque to me is not even in my street. It is a tiny one in the street that runs parallel to mine. Someone told me that mosques are only supposed to have one speaker – and that is supposed to be on top of the mosque…..I really don’t know if that is true or not. But my local mosque – from the next street has run cables from the mosque to the family home of the guy doing the call to prayer and he has put FOUR speakers – aimed North, South, East and West on top of his house!!! ANDDDD then he ran another roll of cable from his home to the house across the street AND put a FIFTH speaker on top of that house…..not finished there though! THEN he takes another roll of cable and runs it to the top of the 8 storey house at the end of the NEXT street. This guy really thinks he has important stuff to say – he needs to cover North, South, East and West and 3 parallel streets!!!! GIMME A BREAK!
LUXOR COMMITTEE – uh um .. yes….well…with much ado and fanfare a ‘Governor meets with Luxor’s Ex-Pats‘ meeting took place in October 2013 – the main points we took away from the meeting were that:
- Committee will meet every Saturday.
- Committee will meet regularly with Governor
- Committee will recommend lawyers to help ex-pats with legal matters.
- Committee will follow up all cases to ensure they are sorted.
- Governor will have monthly meeting with the full ex-pat community
- Office will be in the Tourist Information Cente
- Ex-pats welcome to bring their problems, complaints and ideas to the office during working hours.
- Web site to be set up for the Committee to disseminate information incl. important phone numbers.
Amid much fighting, back-biting and punch-throwing among Luxor’s ex-pats the Committee got off to a ROARING start 🙂 On the Egyptian side the well-known General Hafez, CEO of the Viking Group appeared to be the main lynchpin of the organisation and the man who was to solve all the problems presented at the weekly meetings.
Alas and alack, the idea appears to have quietly faded away and died – might have been helped along the way by successive resignations on the ex-pat side. The Facebook Page of the Luxor Committee seems to have gone from being open to everyone to ‘postings only by the Admin’ to pretty much no postings at all. If you email them there is no response. The web page of the “Luxor Committee” doesn’t appear to be doing any better and there have been no reports from the weekly meeting since the 11th January
Finally – nature…….hailstones the size of marbles has stripped the paint from walls of our roof top garden at Mara House and shredded the remains of our canvas canopy!! The rain has turned the sand and rubbish in the streets to mud, the skies are cloudy, the sun is hiding…….Luxor is dying and if the Minister for Tourism or El Sisi want to revive it then they got to get the basics right first and the people working with them have to do their jobs conscientiously, properly and consistently – otherwise the next President is going to go the same way as Mubarak and Morsi……and Egypt is running out of time – or at least Luxor is…..