After the excitement of camels, pyramids, and hustles, I opted for dinner at a restaurant I could trust, McDonald’s. The McArabia is two small kofta (meat) patties in a pita bread with a bit of salad and some type of sauce. I collected my things at the Berlin Hotel and awaited my pick-up from the travel office. Instead of a car, the kid was on foot, but as long as he was the one paying for the taxi to the train station, I was fine with it. Once at the station, I sat and tried a Turkish coffee, which was quite strong. I hinted to the kid that he could let me go at this point, but he complimented me and offered to see me to my train seat. I appreciated his friendliness, but at the same time tried to dissuade him from the horrible habit of chain smoking.
I asked a few questions from time to time but it was otherwise awkward. I would have preferred to have been reading my new book, Paul Theroux’s “Dark Star Safari” about the author’s independent, overland trip from Cairo to Cape Town (at age 60). When the train arrived, and I boarded, with the help of the kid given the information is in Arabic, I didn’t know what to expect of a 1st class seat in Egypt. The berth was a 6-seat, private compartment. It soon filled up with two backpackers each from Japan and Singapore, and an older Egyptian man who clearly would have preferred a different berth. The seats did not recline, so after some conversation, we propped our feet up on the backpacks and did our best to nod off as the train rambled its way south, parallel to the Nile River I would soon continue further up by cruise ship.
The morning greeted us with our first views of the Nile River Valley. Greenery around canals stood in stark contrast to the tan mountains and nearby deserts. Unfortunately, the train was running three hours late, so our sightseeing in Luxor was about to be crammed into a single afternoon.