Luxor East & West

 

Luxor Nile
Sailing on the Nile at sunset

 

The sights, sounds and colors of this intimate city of Luxor, built on the east bank of the Nile. Why go over there, except to the supermarket to buy the things you need, or maybe to see some museums, okay, of course, you should see the museums, the people on the west bank say. These people have been born beneath the golden mountain where rests the kings and queens of ancient Egypt. I am living on the west bank for two months amongst interconnecting villages built on canals, interspersed with wheat fields and banana groves. I awaken to the cacophony of birds, braying donkeys and children’s laughter, call of the muezzin–and loudspeakers of people selling wares who drive by all day, various farm machines, motorcycles–everyone rides a motorcycle…but mostly birds.

 

Luxor view Valley of the Kings
View from the terrace of Irie BnB, where I’m staying

I’m sorry to say I can’t recommend where I stayed, at Irie BnB, Al Bairat, West Bank. It’s a beautiful building and great location, however the woman who managed the place was a nightmare and most unprofessional. I paid two months in advance and when her behavior became so erratic and aggressive, I had no alternative but to leave. She promised to refund me for my second month but never did. I have nothing against smoking pot, however this woman smokes it constantly, even had many pot plants growing in full view on the terrace, a public space where tourists are invited to sit. This made me very uncomfortable, considering it’s illegal to grow pot in Egypt. The washing machine is on the terrace and guests are invited to use it–except when she decided I shouldn’t use it anymore. She threw my laundry on the ground and when I asked where I should hang them to dry, she responded that I should find a rope and string them up in my room. When I asked if this was how she treated all her paying guests, she laughed, used some foul language I won’t repeat and told me if I didn’t get out of the apartment immediately, she would throw my clothes out on the street. Needless to say, I left, and to this day she has not reimbursed me for my money. I’ve never had an experience like this anywhere in the world in my travels. It verged on scary and could be termed most bizarre.. She started out nice, although somewhat brusque, but it seemed once she got the money, she just didn’t care anymore how she acted. Her behavior was unethical. to say the least. I didn’t report her because I happened to fall in love in love with her brother-in-law, the man who owns the building that she and her husband manage and we got married. (He husband is very nice and seems to find himself in an awkward position). Perhaps that was her problem, she didn’t want me marrying her brother-in-law. At any rate, it’s impossible to know what goes through someone’s mind when they are so bitter and angry and I can only imagine it has more to do with her own problems within herself than anything else. Case in point, the next person who came to stay lasted about three days before she packed up her bags and left. I don’t think anyone has stayed there since.

So my advice would be stay somewhere else! There are many, many wonderful places to stay on the West Bank. After my initial fiasco, I stayed for ten days on the sandal, Amira Sudan, the most romantic of sail boats. It is where my husband and I got married. I am now moving to Luxor permanently, it has captured my heart–in more ways than one!

 

TWELVE OF MY FAVORITE WRITING LOCATIONS

Although I live a simple life, and in fact, as a single mother, I have often struggled to make ends meet, somehow, through sheer determination and for the love of it, I have managed to write in some of the most astounding places. The views from my windows and terraces have inspired my works. How insipid and flat would be the world of the Night Angels if I had not climbed the dunes of Merzouga or walked the streets of Istanbul?  Here are twelve of my favorites, so far…

1. LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA

395941_10151139635875360_660401846_n[1]This was my view, once upon a time, when I was writing at Lake Bled. You can see the castle rising from the mist, perched on the rocky ledge. My inspiration for Professor Strejan’s castle in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES.

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This lake, that I came to as a child, just ten years old, and then as a teenager, vowing that I would come back and live here, and low and behold, I did as an adult. My daughter is half Slovene. I lived here when it was part of communist Yugoslavia and I still consider it my second home and visit often. I have many dear friends here and it is a place I always feel welcome. What a treasure.

 

2. FEZ, MOROCCO

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This most breathtaking view of Fez has a special place in my heart. After one month in the Sahara Desert without hot water, or even a real shower ever, or proper heating (don’t get me started), my friend Lux and I escaped on the night bus to Fez, where we found the most fabulous hotel in the Medina and climbed our way to the top to sit and drink martinis and be inspired, her in her art and me in my writing.

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What’s not to love about writing in a room like this, in the heart of the Medina?

3. LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND

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This is Ouchy, near Lausanne, Switzerland, on Lake Geneva. The little pink building towards the left is where I stayed with my daughter and my niece. I was working on my childhood memoir, Into the World, and had traveled all this way to visit the 17th century castle I had lived in as a child; chateau d’Echendens, on a hill above the city. In the mornings I ran along the lake side and the day we went to visit the castle…well, it was as if I was back there again as a child, running through the streets of the village after school, being chased by the children, who wanted to fight me and my sister, because they were convinced we came from the land of “Zorro,” since it was the only American TV show, besides Perdue dans la Space (Lost in Space). My sister and I would climb over the castle wall and peer back and taunt them.

4. DJERASSI ARTISTS RETREAT, BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA, USA

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This is the view from my time at Djerassi in Northern California, where I spent one week living in a pod-like room with this amazing view, and working on Key of Mystery, book I in the Night Angels Chronicles.

5. ISTANBUL, TURKEY

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And I suppose you could say my favorite place ever, the penthouse terrace on the steep little street, just off Istiklal Cadessi, in Beyuglu, Istanbul. From here, I could watch the ships come and go on the Bosporus, the knife that slices through the East and the West, the inspiration for Into the World and the Night Angels Chronicles.

6. MARTHA’S VINEYARD, UNITED STATES

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I guess they are all favorite spots. This is Martha’s Vineyard, where I have been three times as a writer’s resident at Noepe. I think I will keep returning. There is something magical about this island in October when all the tourists are gone, the shops close for the winter and it is just the ghosts of the past.

7. LAKE ARENAL, COSTA RICA

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Where I spent one month of bliss, in Costa Rica, writing every day. First, in a house overlooking Lake Arenal, then at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, right beneath the active volcano, and last, on the coast, the sunsets held inside of me forever.

8. SAHARA DESERT, MOROCCO

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Here is the view from my monkish room in the Sahara Desert, in Morocco, where I spent one month writing. It was not an easy time. But the magic is apparent. Birds were my constant companion, flying in and out of the open window.

9. SEDONA AND PHOENIX, ARIZONA, USA

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Sedona and Phoenix, where I spend quite a lot of time, visiting my son and his partner, and writing, writing! These are both views from my rooms where I write.

10. OJAI, CALIFORNIA, USA

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Closest to home, and what feels most  like home, is Ojai. I go here on many weekends just to get away and write and see a peaceful perspective. The horse always says hello to me.

11. TYRONE GUTHRIE CENTRE, IRELAND

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Here, the most brooding and mystical place, where I must return, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in Ireland. This was my view from my bedroom window. This was and is pure magic.

12. HAMBIDGE CENTER, GEORGIA, USA

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And here, the little cabin I called my own while a resident at the Hambidge Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. My very own cabin, where I was free to dream and create.

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Most appropriate to end with the street that I walked up and down, to and from my penthouse flat in Istanbul. I would return there in a second. I think Istanbul, so far, is my favorite city, and my most city to write. I would say Ireland, so far, is my most inspiring countryside.

I say, SO FAR, because who knows what my favorite will be tomorrow?

DOORS AT THE END OF THE WORLD

This is my last day of a thirty-four day trip to Morocco, twenty-five days of which were spent in the Sahara Desert. I’m now back where I started, in Marrakech, in the Riad Dar El Aila, and it feels a bit like coming home. Hello, you’re back! they greet me, as if I have survived some incredible undertaking. And, yes, I have been through the fire and come out a wiser and more enriched person for it. That’s how life is, a series of adventures that, when looked back upon, grow into the essence of who we are continually becoming.

While in Fez, a couple days ago, my friend Lux (who survived the desert experience with me, more on that later),  and I made sure to walk through Bab Boushloud, the “Blue Gate.” This was where I walked as a ten year old, filled with wonder at this mystical city, wandering the Medina with my sister, looking for magic bottles with genies in them. All part of my childhood memoir, INTO THE WORLD.

Lux and I went to Volubilis, the Roman outpost that must have seemed to those stationed there to be at the end of the world. A rough place where a person might be forgotten in disgrace or be determined to rise up and use it as a stepping-stone to something better. Sort of like people who stop off in Las Vegas to work, their goal being to get to Los Angeles, and somehow, they never make it out of the desert.

I found it to be a place of majestic nostalgia. Everywhere, there were doors and, depending on how you perceive them, they could be leading to another reality or to nowhere. Doors at the end of the world…and the beginning of another.

MY WORLD IN THE SAHARA

I spent the month of December in village Tissardmine, in the Sahara Desert, Morocco. I was there on a mission, to work on the last draft of Book of Angels, #2 in the NIGHT ANGELS CHRONICLES, and to conduct the MY WORLD PROJECT with kids in the village.

First, I had to figure out how to work with the kids. I started by going out in the afternoons, drumming with them on the dunes, making friends–they were so delightful, so excited and happy. I visited their one-room school up on a hill, overlooking the village and spoke with the two teachers, Hafid and Habib, who I found to be dedicated and supportive,. They invited me to do the project at the school. I discovered that the kids in the school come from three different villages and travel up to 6 miles one way, six mornings a week. The school provides them with lunch  before they journey home.

I started by sharing the art and writing of the kids we had worked with on the Hoopa Reservation in Northern California and in Amazonian Ecuador. I asked the Tissardmine kids, if there was one word they could share with the kids around the world, what would it be? Overwhelmingly, that word was Salam, or Peace. This is the word that everyone in Islamic countries uses to greet each other. They made a booklet, each child drawing a word that was important to them.

 

 

Here are some of the awesome kids in Village Tissardmine, in collaboration with Café Tissardmine, an artists residency program, I brought this project to the kids in the school. They are sharing what is most important about their world with kids in the Hoopa Tribe in Northern California, the Moretecocha children in Ecuador and kids imn Los Angeles. Their word they want to share is Salam, which means Peace. This is a good word for this Holiday Season and for always. In the Islamic countries this is the word people always greet one another with and I can’t think of a better way to say hello!