Back in 1979, when I was 24, my Dad’s boss said to him one day “Silly question Alec, you don’t know anyone who would be interested in going to Egypt do you. My sister is organising a trip and someone has let her down.” Well of course Dad did, me! Having been dragged and made to queue for 5 hours to see the exhibition of Tutankhamen in 1972 and having bought me loads of books since I first got interested aged 9, he definitely knew someone.
So starting 1st September I will be posting my 1979 diary entries, with photos and commentary. So look for the 1979 tag.
At the time I was living back home with my parents having separated from my first husband, so I was earning with little outgoings. I signed up with Claire Abbott and went along to the pre tour meetings. Now you have to understand back then going to Egypt was a big deal. It was very expensive, it cost me nearly £380, about the same as today! Hardly anyone did it and those that did were mad keen Egyptologists not sun seekers.
At the meetings I first got the idea that I did not know as much as I thought I did, what was Deir el Bahri for example. You can laugh but I seriously did not know, I knew about Hatshepsut of course and her temple but I had not come across that name. Actually this realisation of just how scant my knowledge has grown and grown. Although I can safely say today that I know a lot, really a hell of a lot more. I also now have a better idea just how much there is out there, although that grows. My percentage seems to go down every year as I discover more things I should know about but don’t!
So back to the holiday, there was lots of preparation, it was suggested we did not wear sandals but enclosed shoes and cotton socks, take shady hats. I had a list sticky-taped in the lid of my suitcase. We attended lectures, film shows and got to know each other. I was working in a Bureau du Change and got currency at staff rates so was able to buy Egyptian pounds. To bring this much into the country was actually against the rules back then, but I decided to take the risk.
A lot of them attended evening class lectures in London; I lived in Sussex so this was new to me. Some of them had been several times, I was awe struck. Flying for 5 hours was exotic, although I had been to Zambia to meet family living there. It was all strange and new and so very different to today.
I decided to keep a diary, I have a very bad memory and didn’t want forget one minute of the most exciting holiday of my life, after all I would never come again! Who would have thought I would visit regularly until 2003 when I moved here.