bus / taxi
walk / photo’s
We wake up fairy well rested. Again Minya is not exacty a quiet town, but our room is not on the main road, so the midnight/all night honking is not as intense.
First stop is the tourist office. This town has one, so we might as well stop by for some tips. On the way there we get stopped by a group of men brewing tea on the sidewalk. Not much English is spoken, but it is clear that we are not allowed to leave without sharing a tea with them. It is amazing how friendly the people are in the towns. Not sure if this is because of the lack of tourist at the moment, or because so few tourist stop over in the cities between Cairo and Luxor.
Tourist info is open and friendly. Unfortunatey we did not get much info though, as they seemed more concerned with us signing the visitorsbook and giving them info about our likes and dislikes of Egypt. Besides us and two Americans earlier this month, nobody had signed the book since 2006.
Today we just want an easy day looking around Minya. On the outskirts, about 7km out, is a realy big graveyard that sounded interesting. (Zawiyyet al-Mayyiteen) Hundereds of mudbrick mausoleums streching 4km between the nile and the hills on the east bank. Tourist info said to take a taxi, but they said that for everything, we still wanted to try the local bus. At the busses a nice guy helped us find the right one and of we went. For about 20 meters. Then the bus stopped and the guy told us to get out again. A bit confused we did and got ushered into a shared taxi. On asking how much the taxi would be, he yelled at us that all is good. Suddenly not so friendly anymore. We tried to talk to the taxi driver on where we wanted to go, and how much it would be, but he was not interested. So far people have not steared us wrong, and a shared taxi should not be expensive, so we sat back to enjoy the traffic going out of Minya central. We made our way across the nile, but got a bit worried when we went up and over the eastern hills. We were giong in the right direction, but should not have left the nile valley. The two other passengers got dropped off, and finally our taxi driver was willing to listen to us. Apparently to take us to the graveyard would cost us 50 pounds. (Remember it is only 7km away) In disgust we got out. He dropped his price to 20 pounds, but we were no longer interested. this is why we prefer busses. They might be slower and less comfortable, but taxi drivers will almost always try to rip you off. Not a problem if it is a few pounds, but this trip should not have been more then 10 pounds..
We are now passed all the new contruction and the army bases in the desert.. Great.. a nice long walk back, and not a graveyard in sight… We walk back the way we came.
From the top of the ridge we get some great views over the Nile valley to the west. Minya is off in the distance. Unfortunately we still cannot see anything that looks like the city of the dead, but we stop for a while to admire the scenery. A group of young men arrive and again we end up sitting and smiling for photo’s. Half the time it seems like we are the tourist attraction for the locals. We try to ask them where the graveyard is, but they seem to think it is way on the other side of the Nile. Our guidebook in not very accurate, but it should at least get right which side the attractions are on.
Walking further along the ridge, there are tracks going down to the river. We decide to follow these instead of the road back to Minya. Amazed we find our selves in a quarry. All around the rock walls have been cut to extract limestone blocks. On closer inspection we think it is actually an old quarry as the work seems to have been done by hand.
It is very impressive to see the cuts and grooves cut through this stone. In places we can trace all the steps taken, like the horizontal ledges where they would slide in wooden post to crack the block free.
Also now we spot some domes way off in the distance. Could this be the graveyard? we have fun making our way through the quarry canyon. Nice and quiet with only the occasional calls and waves from the guys at the top who are keeping an eye on us.
In front is definitely the graveyard. It becomes clearer as we get closer and we can see it stretch out for kilometers. We had almost given up on finding it anymore, so are happy to get there. We have to pass a few houses and the mandatory garbage pile on the way. The locals seem stunned to see us go past. Going up higher we hope to get a view over the whole area of domes. A few kids are following us and after the rock throwing episode at lake Qarun this is making us nervous. If they just want to have a good look at the tourists, we can do that. We find a place and sit down for lunch. We have brought bread with us and this way the kids can have a good look and hopefully get bored and leave us alone. Two teenagers are unfortunately very persisted and don’t leave. When we go of to explore they follow us still. We can make it clear to an older men that we do not need an escort, thank you, and we would like to walk by ourselves. He gets the point and tells the guys to get lost.
Now we can appriciate the stuctures. The tombs are built of brick, some modern some mud and topped with mud brick domes. Some in mud colour some in white with coloured metal doors. The mauseleums are grouped together in square enclosures with walkways inbetween. We are looking forward to getting lost in amongst them. We are at the high side where the tombs go up to the ridge and get some good views of the many many tombs lower, down the steps.
Then the guy shows up again and starts following us again.. Sigh.. We again try to make it clear to please leave us alone, but he doesnot want to get the point. We try to ignore him, but it is no fun walking around being followed all the time. Off course he finally sticks out his hand to ask for money. For what exactly? We tell him no and continue on. Apperently he is upset as a massive rock flies past our heads, only to hid a metal door with a big bang! This a ridiculous! These are not small stones he is throwing and if this one had hid us, it would have seriously hurt us. What the F##k is his problem? We make it clear in no uncertain terms (and a few English swearwords) that we are not happy (and he is a complete a###ole). He backs of for a bit, but comes running back with more stones. We are starting to get scared and quickly make our way down past all the beautifull domes to the mainstreet where there are more people. We get the attention of the first man we see and explain to him that a lunatic is throwing massive rocks at us. Not much point to it all, as our day is ruined. Hopefully someone can beat some sense or s##t out of him.
Upset and disappointed we grab a tuktuk and head back to town. Nice of the people in the tuktuk to say “Welcome to Egypt”, but as they don’t speak anymore English we can’t explain to them why we are not feeling welcome at all.
We thought Egypt wanted tourists, and especially now. Then why are these kids getting away with this behavior? We are worried now that we cannot visit any site that isn’t on the main tourist trail, without the risk of something like this happening. And as it is no fun to just do the standard Pyrimids-Luxor-Aswan, than why are we in Egypt? I’m sure we can find some counrty we are actually welcome in to spend our time.
On arrival we head for tourist info as they seemed so intersted in our experiences before. If we complain and explain how unsafe we felt, maybe the next tourists will be better off. Unfortunately the one remaining guy did not seem to understand much of our story and tried to give us some more brochures. We declined as at the time we were more likely to leave Egypt then to go on traveling here.
A coffee at a cafe along the way and back to the hotel. We are in no mood any more.
At the cafe we run into the same guys as yesterday and apperently they do not have enough photo’s of us yet. Another sesion of posing with the guys and anybody walking passed that decided to jump in. We jokingly told them “one pound, one photo”. In the mean time Anna’s boots got a polish to get the quarry dust off. She then asked the shoe man to pose for a photo only to get the reply “one pond, one photo”.
It was all in good fun, till the guys started pulling out their knives.
The limit of weirdness was reached when Anna had to pose holding these 6 inch knives..
We paid up, waved and went back to the hotel for a bad tv movie.