I HAILED A HORSE CARRIAGE TO GET ME TO THE CHURCH ON TIME.

HORSE CARRIAGE CLIP-CLOPPING THROUGH CENTRAL LUXOR

Sightseeing by traditional  horse carriage is a pleasant way  to explore the old city of  Luxor in Upper Egypt. For less than five dollars you can clip-clop along the corniche where tall masted feluccas are moored on the Nile between the famous temple sites.

FELUCCAS AND A CRUISE BOAT MOORED ON THE NILE IN LUXOR

Spend a little more for an hour’s circuit through dusty back streets passing spice shops, perfume blenders, tailors and stalls selling alabaster busts of Queen Nefertiti, onyx statues of Anubis and other Pharaonic gods.

SEATED PHARAOH IN THE GREAT TEMPLE OF KARNAK IN LUXOR

I had flown to Luxor in order to photograph the Coptic easter rituals known as Shemen Nessim in Upper Egypt. Rather than take a taxi to the church, I chose a traditional horse carriage from the row outside my hotel. Placing my camera bag on board, I stepped onto the metal plate to climb up, but it came down on my legs, slicing them to the bone.

“Ambulance!” I shouted and seeing my distress, a French tourist called Florence, helped me to a nearby pharmacy.

A HORSE CARRIAGE WAITS FOR CUSTOM AT LUXOR TEMPLE: NOTE ITS METAL STEP

Florence (she was definitely a nightingale) asked the pharmacist for bandages to strap my legs and stop the blood flow.

“How much?” I took out an E100 note I had intended for the church collection plate.

“E15” he said. Then thinking better of it, he waved. “Nothing,  alhamdulillah!”

When a taxi stopped outside, with Florence supporting me, I slid onto the back seat and sped off to Luxor International Hospital.

Wheeled into Emergency, I had X-rays and blood tests and within the hour I was in theatre being stitched up by a local surgeon.

I spent three days in hospital and the following four in my hotel arranging via telephone calls with my insurer, to pay my costs and get me home.

Though serious enough —I required a further operation and skin graft back in London— my injuries were not life threatening.

“But they well might have been,” said Thomson representative in Luxor.

“I advise tourists not to travel by caleche but they take no notice,” she told me.

“You see families,  children sitting up with the driver, galloping along the corniche.  Accidents occur when they round a corner and are thrown off,” she gesticulated.

“The Tourist Police are attempting to crack down on scores of illegal horse carriages touting for rides outside Luxor’s hotels,” she continued. “All horse carriages require to register. So check there is an official yellow license plate on the back”.

Wanting details of my mishap, an officer came to interview me within hours of my coming round from the anesthetic. Did I get the driver’s name? Did I record the license number? Did I want to press charges, he wanted to know.

“No”, I explained in my limited Arabic. “In any event the carriage responsible is likely TO BE miles away by now.

Hoping to make a quick buck, many poor fellaheen bring their unstable horse carriages into Luxor which are literally lethal  weapons for unsuspecting visitors.

MANY POOR FARMERS BRING THEIR UNREGISTERED CARRIES INTO LUXOR

Locals use them. I saw one carriage with a family of seven squashed in like chickens going to market. But for bare-legged tourists, a carriage ride is an accident in waiting.

Like my own motives, most people want to use this traditional means of transport not only because it is a novel way of sightseeing, but because the fare will help to feed the horse.

Instead it is better to donate to the Brooke Animal Hospital which cares for Luxor’s tired old carriage horses rather than risk having your visit ruined. The moral being never forget to take out travel insurance…

THE BROOKE ANIMAL HOSPITAL IN LUXOR TAKES SPECIAL CARE OF CARRIAGE HORSES

 

Photographs: www.worldreligions.co.uk   and  www.amongbelievers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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YEMEN & THE WAR THE WORLD IGNORES

The terrible war over who rules Yemen drags on to its third year. Yemen was always one of those off-the-beaten-track places, totally untouched by tourism. When I first visited the country in the early eighties, there was no national newspaper, only one international hotel and not even a McDonald’s. The old city of  Sana’a containing some 6,000 tower houses—many more than a thousand years old — was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986. Since the outbreak of war in 2015, this jewel of the Arab world has been subject to ruthless bombing by the Saudi-led coalition. In fact not just Sana’a, but most of Yemen’s precious heritage has been largely destroyed. And an estimated 10,000 civilians, many innocent children, have been killed. I took the following pictures during peaceful times in 1981. Even then it was a difficult country to get around.

THE OLD CITY OF SANA’A IS A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
A CLUSTER OF TOWER HOUSES IN THE MOUNTAIN TOWN OF AL-HAJJARAH
A DONKEY-DRAWN PLOUGH ON A SMALL FARM ON THE CENTRAL PLATEAU
CONJOINED HOUSES IN HUTH ENABLE WOMEN TO VISIT NEIGHBOURS WITHOUT BEING SEEN IN PUBLIC.
HOUSES ON THE ROAD NORTH TO SAADAH SEEM TO GROW OUT OF THE GROUND
HOUSE IN AL-MANSAF MADE ENTIRELY OF MUD. WOULD MELT AWAY SHOULD IT RAIN
A SMALL OASIS IN THE OTHERWISE ARID WADI JAWF, ANCIENT TRADE ROUTE FOR FRANKINCENSE CARAVANS
SCENERY ON THE WINDING ROAD DOWN FROM THE CENTRAL MOUNTAINS TO THE COASTAL PLAIN
PICKING OKRA ON THE RED SEA COASTAL PLAIN KNOWN AS THE TIHAMA
SCENE IN THE OLD COFFEE PORT OF MOCHA
FISHERMEN IN THE RED SEA PORT OF HODEIDAH
TAIZ, THE OLD RASULID CAPITAL, IN THE YEMENI HIGHLANDS
A MARKET STALL IN TAIZ, THIRD LARGEST CITY AFTER SAN’A AND ADEN
WOMEN TRADERS SELLING HANDWOVEN BASKETWARE IN A MOUNTAIN TOWN
PASSING THE TIME IN A SEAFRONT CAFE IN HODEIDAH

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TOURISM REPLACES SPICES IN ZANZIBAR

‘..Not a ray of optimism can be seen,’ concluded Amir.A.Moh’d writing painfully of Zanzibar twenty years on from the violent revolution in 1964 that killed an estimated 17,000 Arabs and Asians on the African ‘Spice Island.’

ZANZIBAR WAS ONCE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST PRODUCER OF CLOVES

Summoned to help in the aftermath, Eastern Block countries threw up drab housing estates and encouraged drastic nationalization measures. Food rationing was introduced in 1970 and Zanzibar’s woes were further compounded in the 1980s by a dramatic drop in the price of cloves. By 1997 income per capita was around $200 making Zanzibar one of the poorest places in the world.

Massive political corruption initially dissuaded investors, but Italian investment during the 1990s turned Zanzibar into one of the Indian Ocean’s most fashionable holiday resorts. Visitor arrivals are currently expected to reach 500,000 by 2020.

LATEEN RIG DHOW HEADING FOR PORT IN ZANZIBAR

Once only accessible by dhow, Ujunga (its local name) is now served by international airlines from Europe and the Gulf States while sleek hydrofoils skim across from Dar-es -Salaam in 60 minutes.

STONE TOWN, CAPITAL OF ZANZIBAR, WAS LISTED A WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN 2000

But while Zanzibar has become a tourist status symbol, at heart it remains an old world island struggling to reconcile its popularity with local poverty. With your hotel comes a whiff of drains and the odd rat scurrying through capital Stone Town is not uncommon.

Stone Town was designated a World Heritage site in 2000. Some 1,700 buildings are classified of architectural significance. Tall pink and umber coloured houses, three sometimes four storeys in height, line the narrow lanes. Some buildings have been restored. Without maintenance others are in an advanced state of disrepair. The first discotheque — in an old house near the Zanzibar National Bank —collapsed with the vibrations.

STONE TOWN BEACH WITH THE OLD BRITISH CONSULATE BUILDING, LEFT

The most elegant houses were built by wealthy Arab and Indian traders in the 19th century. Grand mansions along the waterfront, they include the large white coralstone palace, former residence of the Omani sultan’s of Zanzibar, now the National Palace Museum.

STATE ROOM IN THE SULTAN’S FORMER PALACE, NOW THE NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM

Of further interest is the House of Wonders a curious tiered edifice topped with a Victorian clock tower, at one time the tallest building on the Swahili coast of Africa.

HOUSE OF WONDERS WITH BLUES WATERFRONT RESTAURANT IN STONE TOWN

Stone Town’s must be explored on foot with a local guide to lead you to the best original doors for which Zanzibar has enjoyed a reputation since time immemorial. The size of the door, the number of brass studs and the intricacies of its decorated panels being a sign of the owner’s wealth.

ZANZIBAR’S CRAFTSMEN EXCEL AT WOOD CARVING

Stone Town’s notorious slave market was closed in 1873 by Sultan Barghash who consented to missionaries building a cathedral on the site provided it did not exceed the House of Wonders, at the time East Africa’s tallest building.

CHURCH OF CHRIST CATHEDRAL STANDS ON THE SITE OF THE OLD SLAVE MARKET

The Church of Christ Cathedral which held its first service on Christmas Day 1877 has a window dedicated to the great explorer and missionary David Livingstone. Livingstone, Burton, Stanley and Speke all planned their expeditions into the Dark Continent from Zanzibar which Livingstone called ‘Stinkibar’.

Zanzibar is only 85kms long by 30 kms wide, but unless you drive a four-wheel vehicle as do local politicians, the lack of infra-structure may mean even the shortest trip can take all day. Planning a quick visit to the East Coast, I was obliged to stay the night as the public dala-dala (mini-bus) went straight back to Stone Town and didn’t return until the following afternoon.

A SEAWEED FARM ON THE BEAUTIFUL EAST COAST OF ZANZIBAR

With long sandy beaches, swaying palms and a turquoise sea, the classically beautiful East Coast has attracted many hotel developers to the chagrin of local seaweed farmers who complain their plots are damaged by tourists wading out to swim.

FISHERMAN HOPING TO SELL HIS CATCH TO A TOURIST HOTEL AT RAS NUNGWI

Some of the biggest hotels are at Ras Nungwi on the north coast where the water is too deep for seaweed cultivation. Secluded here, the mainly Italian tourists, can behave as they like, being only asked to dress with some approbum when they go out.

A POPULAR TEA STALL IN STONE TOWN

A shopping excursion in Stone Town and a tour of the legendary spice plantations are often the only time they leave the hotel complex. For the rest of their holiday they lie on the beach watched by Masai security guards from mainland Tanzania who find Zanzibar more lucrative than looking after cattle.

TOURISM HAS USURPED SPICES BUT A SPICE GARDEN TOUR IS A MUST WHEN IN ZANZIBAR

http://www.copix.co.uk  for further photographs of Zanzibar. All are copyright and available for purchase.

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