Heron on the Nile
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  Meroe and Ab Roaf Meroe Sun 26 Dec 2004  

Sun 26 Dec

Katy has popped out to change some dollars while I really question whether I want to go to Meroe. Last night, in a fatigued haze, it sounded a good idea. But now, exhausted, in the harsh light of a late morning, I'm not so sure. She returns with an extra blanket and lots of dinars and reassures me it will be fun. I want to believe it, and I guess I am kind of flattered that she is asking so I go and pack hurriedly. We wish Neil a safe journey back to the UK and head off to the long-distance bus station.

Despite the intensive offers of assistance to find the best luxury coach we head for the local "hafala" service and buy our tickets; about half the price but without the boxed lunch, in-flight video or any idea of departure time. Once we are finally on our way, the three hour journey passes quite quickly although it's late afternoon before we alight for the pyramids. A camel-hand comes to meet us, hoping to give us a ride, but there are no takers.

At the gate we meet Mustafa, the caretaker. I like to think he remembers me from the year before but it doesn't really matter. We sit in his office with no particular urgency and drink tea. Katy chats to him in Arabic has great fun going through his address book with him recognising and discussing the many khawaja who have visited in the past year. We laugh. We chat. Eventually we tell him we don't have permits but by then it doesn't matter. Katy and I can show we are teachers so we end up only paying for Stu (Katy's brother).

The pyramids look fantastic, especially in the late afternoon sun. We watch the sun set beyond and make our camp right in amongst them. Katy has rather smartly (I thought) brought loads of leftovers from Christmas day so we have a bit of a feast; we even have some of Natalie's homemade chocolate cookies to finish off with. Soon the moon is up, bright and full, it is almost like daylight, but there's a chilly breeze and by 8pm we are in our sleeping bags, keen to keep warm and catch up on some sleep.

Mon 27 Dec

There is an awesome sunrise making the pyramids and sand dunes glow. I am soon scampering around taking snaps.

We hear on the radio the news of the Tsunami tidal-wave disaster of the day before; a certain tragedy but at this stage too early to know the extent. (The last time I slept at Meroe, just a year before, the BBC interrupted programmes to cover the capture of Saddam Hussein.)

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