Returning to Luxor after an extended absence since December 2020 feels like reconnecting with an old friend. The other day, I set out for a trip to the West Bank, with the intention of visiting a particular stone carver. What followed was a series of events that caught me by surprise, reminding me that even in a place I’ve called home since 2003, there’s always room for an unexpected twist.
To be clear – I’ve been living in the heart of Egypt’s history, Luxor, for nearly two decades. The shenanigans of taxi drivers, the art of navigating local transport – I’ve mastered these challenges over the years. But as fate would have it, this West Bank journey had more in store than I could have anticipated.
In Luxor, the absence of buses to the West Bank is an immediate drawback. If you’re like me, situated on the East Bank, the journey requires a Nile-crossing and the age-old taxi negotiation ritual. Now, I’ve haggled with taxis more times than I can count, but this time, the rules seemed to shift. The result? An unexpected and enraging taxi experience that took me by surprise. An experience that reaffirms the idea that no matter how well we know a place, there’s always a new narrative waiting to unfold, often when we least expect it. This is my story.
I took one of the motorboats across the Nile – I understand they now have a fixed price due to the ferry’s relocation upstream on the East Bank. As I stepped off the boat, I hailed the first taxi driver who approached me and simply said, “Nobles Tombs, please.” He agreed without hesitation, and off we went.
But here’s where things took an unexpected turn. As we neared the outskirts of the village, his confidence seemed to waver. He turned to me and asked, “Where are the Nobles Tombs?” I won’t dive into every detail, but let’s just say the situation took us to a crossroads near the Valley of the Kings instead of the Nobles Tombs. He looked at me and inquired which direction to take. It was then that I realized something – we had actually passed the Nobles Tombs right across from the Ramesseum earlier, but I wasn’t paying attention.
I found myself staring at him, a mix of disbelief and shock in my gaze. This was a taxi driver on the West Bank – someone who navigates these paths every day – and he didn’t know about one of the top tourist attractions. He was working the usual “con” and I had been unprepared, I could feel my blood start to boil!
The disbelief in my eyes mirrored my thoughts as I stared at him. Here I was, a Luxor resident, stuck with a conniving taxi driver, in the very landscape I called home. It was a moment that underscored the idea that even in the familiar, life can throw you a curveball.