Monday, January 16, 2012

Twice Across the Nile

The adage is "when in Rome, do as the Romans do", but when in Egypt you should probably do a few "tourist" things.  I drew the line at riding a camel, but it was very worth it to climb around inside one of the Great Pyramids at Giza.

So, when there was an opportunity to go hot air ballooning at Luxor we figured, why not.

You get up very early and board a little shuttle boat to cross to the far side of the Nile.
And have an early morning cup of tea.  The coffee was a bit too much like Nile delta mud for my palate.

Then a quick van ride to an empty field at the edge of cultivated land.  About a dozen hot air balloons were firing up for the day, which is really a rather spectacular sight.  But from long habit I always scan the ground beneath my feet, and was amazed to see that we were standing amongst scattered pottery shards.  I suppose they might have been "new" (that's Roman era in Egypt), but they sure looked like the stuff we had been seeing excavated.  Temptation spoke to me, but all the shards stayed in Egypt.

I had never been in a hot air balloon before, and was very surprised to discover how little sense of motion there is.  You look away for a minute, then look down and see...

yikes! how did that happen?

The balloon was operated by an energetic fellow who called himself "Captain Meemo".  He wore a uniform that looked appropriate for the captain of a Caribbean  cruise ship but seemed to know his stuff.  The entirety of our pre flight training involved telling us to get down to the bottom of the basket when landing.  Safety lecture?  Liability waivers?  Nah, things will be just fine, Inshallah.

We recrossed the Nile and looked down into the houses of Luxor.  A large percentage have unfinished sections.  We heard various explanations including the theory that taxes are paid per story so everyone just gets a permit for a small one story building and adds on slowly so that it is easy to ignore the change.  Of course, a bit of baksheesh helps that as well.
Addition? What addition?

Obviously the people running this business have the prevailing winds all figured out.  In fact, weather in Egypt is so predictable that I wonder if they even have weathermen on the news. 

We set down in a field of sugar cane outside of town.  The advice to get low on landing was prudent, you need to drop the center of gravity down lest the basket tip.  We nearly hit a donkey, but that sort of thing just can't be helped sometimes. Malesh.
Tragic news from March 2013.  One of the Luxor tourist balloons burst into flames as it came in for a landing.  19 dead, two badly injured survivors.  One of whom was the Captain, a certain Momin Murad.  I can't be sure in a land where many share few names, but I fear it was our "Captain Meemo".  Sad.  And makes our faux anxiety seem much less funny.  So much recent sadness in Egypt....

Update March of 2013:
Tragic news out of Egypt, a land of much recent sadness.  One of the Luxor tourist balloonsb

Update 30 March 2013:
Recent news out of Luxor is tragic, with one of the tourist hot airballoons going down in flames as it came in for a landing.  19 dead with two badly injured survivors.   One of the badly burned survivors was the balloons's captain, a certain Momin Murad.  In a land where  so many share so few names it is impossible to be sure, but this may well be our "Captain Meemo

1 comment:

Harry said...

I'm sold. Adding hot-air ballooning over Luxor to my bucket list. Looks like an amazing trip. Roman pottery underfoot??