Mark Jones: Come to Egypt – you'll have the place practically to yourself

 

The official slogan of the Egyptian Tourist Board is "Egypt: where it all begins". Instead, they should lift one which the Australians ditched a few years back: "Where the bloody hell are you?"

I'll tell you where the bloody hell I am. I'm sitting on the balcony of the Hilton Luxor hotel. It's pleasantly hot outside and I'm looking through the palm trees over the Nile towards the Valley of the Kings. I was over there yesterday morning. I spent 10 minutes alone with Tutankhamun in the tomb excavated by Howard Carter in 1922. This wasn't a VIP visit. There was just hardly anyone there.

It was the same in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. You could gaze into the young Pharaoh's gold death mask for as long as you liked. In normal times, you'd queue 40 minutes just to get into the museum and a further to get anywhere near Tutankhamun.

The Hilton is running at 15 per cent occupancy, which is about average for Luxor just now – "now" being right at the end of high season. It's a lovely property, just refurbished. Or rather, refurbished just before the revolution of 2011, and that's the crucial point. Tourism ground to a halt then and it's barely shifted since. Plans for a new Four Seasons in Luxor are on hold. The historic Winter Palace hotel, managed by Sofitel but owned by the government, awaits a badly needed restoration. The east bank of the Nile is clogged with mothballed cruise ships.

Then, in February this year, the hot-air balloon disaster happened. The world's focus was once again on Luxor, and once again for the wrong reasons.

So where the bloody hell are you? At home, not putting Egypt on your travel list. At home, worrying about the images from Tahrir Square.

I can't blame you. All I can say is that I haven't had a moment's concern for my safety – and that includes a couple of hours hanging out in Tahrir. As for the hassle? Well, the trinket and postcard sellers are desperate – you can hardly blame them – but they do take "no" for an answer. You'll get more grief in India, believe me.

They need your help and your pounds. But don't visit for their sake: do it for your own. You'll never get a better chance to see these temples, treasures and burial chambers with so much time and space to contemplate them properly.

There's a useful travelling principle here. As the BBC foreign correspondent, John Simpson, wrote recently in High Life magazine: "If I can, I always go somewhere which has just suffered a political upheaval, because security is always hugely reinforced, prices are rock-bottom, there are no other tourists and everyone's delighted to see you."

Following Simpson's Law, I've already been to Tunis and Greece. Apart from the rock-bottom prices, every word is true.

Mark Jones is editorial director of British Airways 'High Life' and Best Western 'Do Not Disturb' magazines. The full story of his trip to Cairo and Luxor is in 'High Life' (bahighlife.com).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones