Luxor. Photo by author.

Luxor beat me.

We arrived in time for the Friday prayers, tense with the noise and tiptoeing around the crowds of men kneeling outside on the street – overflow from the mosque next to our hotel. Karnak overwhelmed; the Kalashnikov carrying temple guards hassled and hustled, and the whipped-up sand and dust burned my eyes through my contact lenses.

In the Valley of the Kings you are permitted to visit just three tombs; we saw the tombs of Ramses IV and III at tourist-shuffle pace – never getting the opportunity to pause for quite long enough. At Ramses I, I spent some minutes alone, in silence studying the hieroglyphics before one of the guards interrupted and began his pitch.

We shuffled all together through the bone-dry valley; back to the waiting van, on to the boat across to the other side of the Nile. Together with the two Australians I walked through the souk, the three of us forming a buffer against the beckoning shop owners and catcalls. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the noise; the disorder and the dust, but then I went back to the hotel and I stalled. I sat in the lobby looking out at the city then back down at my iPhone. I saw carriage drivers calling to tourists; children and unidentifiable touts doing the same, so I stalled. I returned to my iPhone and read about Marie Colvin, killed by shelling in the besieged Syrian city of Homs; about babies dying and rockets raining down, but still, nervous of the looks and the calls, insignificant and cowardly in comparison, I couldn’t drag myself out into the city and wasted the rest of the day by just looking through glass instead.

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