At Home at Gezira El Bairat
Gezira El Bairat, Al Ramla
March 9, 2020
Here in the town of Gezira El Bairat, on the west bank of the Nile, the modest El Masala Hotel provides a simple and comfortable guest room with a balcony overlooking the Nile. The staff is friendly and accommodating. Breakfast is served at the open-air rooftop restaurant with a sweeping view of the river and the river traffic.
Kareem, the owner of the hotel, is determined that my week’s stay in Luxor will be both active and restful. He drives me around town. He helps me to book drivers for my tours. Kareem invites me to his home for lunch where I meet his wife and children.
Regina and Gerben rent apartments in the neighborhood. I meet them at my hotel where they take breakfast every morning. They live in Holland and like many other folks from northern Europe, Regina and Gerben escape their dreary winters for the sunny and warm months in Luxor. I taught them a new English word. Regina and Gerben and several other Europeans I met in town are “snowbirds.”
Best of all, the town of Gezira El Bairat is my kind of town. No glitzy, noisy hotels. No aggressive taxi drivers. No monstrous tour buses. No shops selling expensive clothing I don’t need or souvenirs made in China. Gezira El Bairat is a traditional Egyptian town. Donkey carts and motor bikes and public vans are the chief means of transportation for the local population.
I choose a small restaurant and take lunch (twice) on the shore of the Nile. I find a falafel vendor. He is happy to see me (almost every day). On the main street I engage a tailor to mend my torn trousers. There’s a pastry shop up the street and a nearby convenience store that sells halvah! All the prices (except for the halvah) are embarrassingly low.
One evening Regina and Gerben invite me to dinner to the local vegetarian restaurant-art gallery. I meet their local Egyptian friend, a Dutch lady who is a judge, and a young Pakistani man traveling alone and overland from Egypt to Sudan. The conversation is stimulating and the food is scrumptious.
After two weeks traveling across the Western Desert of Egypt, Luxor was my destination. On the East Bank of the Nile, the major attractions are within walking distance of the “international” hotels. Since I had visited the Luxor temples and Karnak on my first trip to Egypt in 2007, I decided to stay in the “traditional” and much less touristic area of the West Bank.
I am pleased with my decision.
In Gezira El Bairat, I am still in Egypt.
In Gezira El Bairat, I felt at home.