Train Travel to Abydos
Visiting the temple at Abydos is normally a rushed affair where you have to race around in 90 minutes as you are dictated to by the convoy system. Now for a lot of visitors that is exactly what they want and being as you get to see Dendera as well it makes for a good day out. However if you want to spend more time there, how do you do it?
Well I have just tried out the train and I can recommend it. We paid 21LE for first class seats, these were supposed to be allocated but not true in our case. However the man in charge of the car sorted us out. We caught the 9:30 Cairo train from Luxor and it stops at quite a few stations. Mostly it is labelled in Arabic but each station does have at least one English sign. We went through Qfet, Qena, Dishna, Nag Hammidi, Farshut and finally Balyana our destination. We were advised to move forward from car 1 where we were sitting to car 3 as the platform is short. But the staff on the train seemed to be on the ball and made sure we were in the right place and gave us plenty of warning before our stop. It took about 3 hours to get there and we arrived at 12:30.
As we got of the train a security man came up to us and inquired if we were going to Abydos. He took us to the taxi rank and we got a taxi for 20LE. We were escorted by the police but it was no problem at all. We arrived just as the convoy was leaving so we had the temple to ourselves. As I had seen the Seti I temple several times I treated myself to a good look round the temple of Ramses II. I am not a fan of his, especially his decoration style but this temple is lovely. The colour is fantastic and the relief work is quality stuff. I spent several hours there which was such a treat and left my companions to go round Seti I while I went to the café.
The owner offered us sandwiches so I needn’t have taken a picnic lunch. Whilst I was there I got talking to Ann (don’t know her second name). She has lived there for nearly 5 years and has taken over a lot of the legacy of Om Seti. She actually offers bed and breakfast to people and has promised me to send me full details by email which I will pass on. According to the guide books the hotel there is not very good so this is a great alternative.
The trains back went at 3, 5 and 6 pm and we had elected to go back by the 6pm one but as it happened we finished a little early and were in time for the 5pm train. When we went to get the tickets we were told that there were no first class tickets on the 5pm train and the 6pm train was late 1 hour. So we decided to take 3rd class tickets instead and get back early. Well that was a great decision because the train journey back was so much fun. For a start the price was so cheap, under 25LE for all 6 of us. It might have been cheaper than that as the ticket said 13, 50 but when we hand over 50LE we only got 26LE change. But it seemed silly to quibble at that low price. It works out at $4 USD or £2.5 each!!
The train was crowded and initially there were no seats but after the first stop we all managed to get a seat scattered through the car. The Egyptians were fascinated by us and we were fascinated by them. I was taking notes and they thought I was a journalist; my daughter was being wicked and telling them in Arabic that I worked for the BBC. There was a constant stream of vendors going through the cars. One man had a jug of fresh lemon juice and another, a huge kettle of tea. I had some of that. There was one man selling sandwiches and he had half a kitchen on his head as he carried fresh salad, bread, cheese and eggs. I also saw water, scissors, bread, tissues, sugar cane cones, chick pea snacks, biscuits, sandals, cigarettes, children’s clothes and key rings. Some young men were attracted to my daughter and when they got off the train they tried to take a photo of her but a lovely old man slammed the window down and wouldn’t let them.
I normally don’t recommend the train as a way of seeing the life 10 minutes of sugar cane, donkeys and palm trees is enough for anyone but if you get in a third class train then you really will see the life. But inside the car. The sun was setting as we came along and the view through the open window was wonderful. Normally you can’t see a thing as the windows are pretty dirty but we had a bird’s eye view of a blood red sun setting across the fields. The bullet holes in the windows were a little disconcerting until you noticed from the grime they had to be decades old. The passengers were a mixed bunch and apart from the cardboard boxes instead of suitcases some of them could have been in first class. The amount some of them were travelling with was amazing; one man had 7 huge boxes which he carried to the door before he got to his stop. When we were standing up everyone was so nice about telling us when a seat became free and as the crowd cleared when we stopped at various stations they made room so we could sit together. The journey back was actually quicker, we didn’t stop so long at the stations and we were back in Luxor by 7;30 pm A wonderfully experience both Abydos and the train and one I would recommend