Mara House (Luxor East Bank)

This bit was on Trip Advisor:

Review for:

Mara House, accommodation in Luxor, Egypt.

Website: Egypt with Mara

I stayed at Mara’s Guest house in Salakhana district just behind the railway station. Ten minute walk to the popular Sofra restaurant, another ten minutes to the piazza in front of Luxor temple and the Corniche overlooking the Nile. Mara house suited me in everyway and I certainly will be returning, probably with a posse. I stayed in Luxor the entire week, visiting the sites but also some prospective authors on the West Bank (I’m a publisher). Despite all the “troubles” one hears of in the press – this must be one of the safest cities to walk around in at night. I crossed over to the west bank to visit my clients and came back late – no problem. OK one minor problem, Egyptians drive on the right, so one has to take care to look in the correct direction before crossing – plus eyes in the back of your head as some veheicles still come at you the from wrong direction!

The guide books say this is hassle capital of Egypt – but that certainly isn’t true. Salakhana is an artisan’s district, full of people who make furniture, bake bread, drive taxis etc. People there are interested and friendly but that doesn’t really translate into hassle. There are probably some dodgy types around the rail station but nothing you wouldn’t find in UK – besides, the local traders have a vested interest in protecting tourists from hassle.

I’m not fond of big multinational hotels and prefer a more low key, locally owned guest house or apartment – actually less hassle and in many ways more luxurious. One of the stars of Mara’s must be Amr, the manager but also secret cook. Apparently they stopped having a professional chef, as on a good day Amr is a real foodie. It was very quiet in Luxor and the restaurant was closed apart from breakfasts. Everyday Amr laid out a big tray with half dozen freshly baked bread rolls, (the same shape you see on pharaonic offering tables) together with coffee, jam, butter and a egg, sometimes boiled, sometimes scrabbled and on one notable day still sizzling in its iron pan as an “Egyptian” omellet with herbs. Also fruit, juice, dates, and yogurt. Sometimes a doughnut, too much for one meal, always a little doggie bag for later.

On my last day Mara suggested I go chill out on the roof garden – they’d wake me when it was time for my taxi. Next thing I know its 3 o’clock and Amr says “I made you some nice soup” – what an underestimate that was!

I took my bags downstairs and chatted for my last 30mins. Another bowl of, this time mallow soup materialised – slight bitter aftertaste but delicious – especially good with the fresh pocket bread. I gotta go back on the promise of more culinary adventures. Mara says mallow soup is therapeutic so I maybe needed the vitamins in that soup.

“Amr!” I said, “You can cook!”

There’s more – all things permitting, you just got to go to Mara’s.

Mara has since written that things are picking up, although this is the cool season, and the restaurant will be opening for evening specials with Amr at the stove.

What was my room like? Many houses have a similar plan, the ground floor has utility room, restaurant, reception. Then a staircase with self contained apartments right and left as you go up. Apt 4 had three twin bed rooms. A large central kitchen/dinning room with sofa and satellite TV tuned to AlJazerra, Euro TV & perhaps an iranian channel Press TV. There would be enough space for all six occupants to sit and meditate – assuming that was their wont : ) A small balcony overlooking the street (see picture). There was a washroom with toilet and shower. Its the Egyptian arrangement, very clean and utilitarian with marble floor and drain, into which when done one squeejies the excess water. The western style water closest has a handy tap and spiggot, bidet style.

I was travelling alone but guess in busier times I might have to share or crash on the sofa. No problem but god help anyone sharing with me as I am a restless sleeper : ). There are fans and airconditioning, not used this time of year and in my experience its best to try to live without airconditioning or you really feel it when its not on. The little kitchen had a fridge “mini bar” with Egyptian beer (15EP) , water (3EP) , cola (10EP) , crisps (3EP) , chocolate (?). Also bottles of local wine, Omar Khyayam (100EP). I bought two reds to take to dinner with my West Bank friends and they said it was a good one, it went down well.

Room Tip: Location is good if you are happy to be in a real district rather than the slightly artificial behemoths on the corniche.

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