When you fly across the ocean to a country that houses the majority of the world’s antiquities and find yourself, on a regular basis, standing inches from intricately decorated temples and monuments 20 times older than your country, trying to grasp the physical and psychological enormity of their existence – and survival – life gets a little surreal from time to time.
The discotheque felt pretty surreal, too.
Yesterday, we decided to collectively punctuate a week of intrepid tourism with a late-night jaunt at Tutotel in Luxor. More importantly, it was an opportunity to celebrate Colby and Melissa’s birthdays! Everything ruled, pretty much: free birthday cakes, two-for-one beers, Ini Kamoze.
But our experience was a far cry from authentic: Managers at Tutotel specifically shut out “local hustlers,” so, for the bulk of the night, our group had exclusive access to the dance floor. Which was wonderful and fun, for sure, but instead of immersing ourselves in Egyptian culture, we immersed ourselves in ourselves, as sonically represented from middle school until now. The loose timeline was: Montell Jordan, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga. The DJ’s only technical misstep was “Rock DJ” by Robbie Williams, but maybe he thought we were European.
Anyway, right before the birthday cakes were ushered out, he started spinning “Kids” by MGMT. And that’s when things got surreal.
Tutotel sits on the East Bank of the Nile in Luxor, practically parallel to the Valley of the Kings, where we spent the afternoon climbing into ancient tombs and running our hands over words and images we couldn’t understand. Fast forward, and we’re tucked inside a club pulsing with contemporary indie rock from Brooklyn. Eating free cakes, drinking discount beers. Right outside, guys were desperately hawking chariot rides for as little as a couple of bucks, and 5-year-old kids were walking through the dark streets in rags, thrusting bookmarks and trinkets at passers-by. Earlier, a woman holding a baby simply put her hand to her mouth: a universal sign of hunger. And we’d just watched a handful of local 20-somethings get turned away for no apparent reason, except to increase the number of tourists who could cram themselves onto the dance floor.
And the chorus of that song kept looping: “Control yourself / Take only what you need from it.”
This trip is forcing me to reconsider what I need, exactly.