21/10/91

 “…BOUNDLESS AND BARE
THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS STRETCH FAR AWAY.”

MONDAY 21 OCTOBER – DHAKLA TO ASYUT  We decided to blow Dhakla as early as possible so left the rest house at 7 a.m. and walked up to the centre of town. The bus office was in the dusty square and we bought two tickets for Asyut which cost us E£9-50 each. That left us with only E£1 to last us until we got to Asyut.

The bus was late arriving and when it finally rattled into the square we climbed aboard and settled into seats ١٦ and ٣٠[19 and 20]. We were only about 5 miles from town when the bus lurched to a halt with a broken accelerator linkage.  We sat there for half an hour while the driver fixed it by stripping some strands of an old fan belt and tying the brochure broken pieces together.

The day passed slowly as we travelled, the sun burning down from the pale sky, it’s furnace-like heat shimmering off the brown rocks of the desert. My guide book contained a piece of the poem Ozymandias by Shelley and the lines

 “…BOUNDLESS AND BARE
THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS STRETCH FAR AWAY.”

could no better describe the baked and lifeless land through which we were passing. Yet in that same lifeless and scorched land there was indeed life. Small oasi supported a few people and amongst the rocky gullies and on the wide plains men could be seen moving: nomads following their age-old ways.

The sun reached at Zenith at midday then began its descent towards the Western skyline. We reached as Asyut as the shadows were growing long and the heat was beginning to leave the air for another day. We checked into the Desert Tourist Hotel (“SWISS RECOMMENDED” …WHATEVER THAT MEANS !) and I went to a nearby bank and changed forty British Pounds into Egyptian money.

We ate at a restaurant across the street from the hotel then went to the station to enquire about the trains to Luxor. A young Egyptian English student talked to us for a while then we wandered back to the hotel and into bed. The noise from the square below hardly lessened during the night but we still managed a reasonable night’s rest.

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