I woke up to a beautiful and sunny morning in Luxor. The birds were out singing, we can smell the tea and breakfast just waiting for me outside my door, I had an amazing night’s sleep, laundry is done, dried and folded; everything was perfect. I spend another half hour in bed thinking about how lucky I am for being able to take this trip before finally getting up to get breakfast. After a quintessential Egyptian breakfast of eggs, cheese, flatbread, and tea, I decided to go across the river to the West Bank to spend the day biking around the Valley of the Kings and the surrounding areas. I found a nice man hiring out bikes right by the ferry docks. For the low low price of 20LE (1 USD=6.50 Egyptian pounds), I had a relatively functional bike to call mine for the whole day.
Two amazing things happened that morning I was biking in addition to being surrounded by a lush, gorgeous, and quiet countryside. First, after about a couple of hours going in around sugarcane fields, I came across a 3 boys with an ox and a cartful of freshly harvested sugarcane stalks. They were on their way home for lunch and were happily smiling and chatting amongst themselves. The eldest one who spoke a little English was so excited to practice his language skills that he kept offering me fresh stalks of sugarcane to gnaw on just to get me to stay longer. His two younger brothers that were on top of the bullock seemed to be more amused at the fact that I was attacking that stalk like a pitbull with a dentabone. After I said goodbye to them, they handed me a couple extra stalks to get me through the day and wished us well. These kids were no older than 12.
The second amazing thing that happened is that after about three hours of biking, I ran out of both energy and water. I started looking for a nice shade to park for a few moments before heading back to the docks to get lunch. I found a nice tidy house which was shaded with palm trees and decided to sit on the boulder by the window to catch our breath. I guess I was making too much racket because five minutes later an old man in djellaba came out and inquired who I am and what I was doing outside his home. I told him I’m a tourist from America exploring the countryside, and apologized for bothering him.
Instead of sending me away, the old man invited me inside his house and gave me the grand tour. The outer part of the house was divided in 3 sections, the public space where they received visitors, and separate private spaces for men and women. The inner part of the house was actually a stable with a couple of donkeys and goats and a few chickens.
In addition to his menagerie, the man lived with his beautiful daughter and granddaughter who came out 5 minutes later to serve us tea and biscuits. The little girl Dounia, threw herself on my lap and started playing with my hair. Her aunt, the gorgeous Hind, stood by the doorway clearly embarrassed by the presence of a weird Asian person on their house. Though reluctant at first, at the insistence of her father, Hind started talking to me about their life and what they do for a living. She was studying to be a teacher while her father was a taxi driver. As this was before the 2010 Revolution, she spoke with such hope and optimism for her dreams and her future. She wanted to make a difference in the lives and education of girls. She wanted to accomplish things that were for the longest time denied to her and other women. The little girl Dounia, on the other hand, found my stash of candies and managed to distract me with her cuteness so much so that I ended up giving her all my gummy bears.
After about half an hour, I decided to excuse myself fearing I have overstayed my welcome, but in typical Egyptian hospitality, the old man offered to drive me and my bike back to the docks so i don’t have to bike for an hour under the blazing midday sun. I politely declined, despite knowing that to refuse an offer from an Arab is an insult, and continued on my way. Before letting me go though, the old man thanked me for visiting his house and gave me his blessings and wished me well on my journeys. To this day, I wonder what happened to that family and if Hind ever accomplished her dreams of being a teacher.