- Karen Frost
Chapter 11: Planes, Trains and No Automobiles
Updated: Mar 27, 2021
This chapter starts with a question: how fast could someone sail from Luxor to Alexandria in 1923? I started with the Luxor to Cairo leg, which as previously noted is about 420 nautical miles (nm). From Cairo, one would have had to take the Rosetta branch of the Nile (later two canals were constructed between the cities, but in 1923, that wasn't an option). The Rosetta branch is 239 km long (130 nm), but has a depth between 3-7 meters, meaning any boat passing along it would likely have to have a shallow draft or risk running aground on sandbars. In this interesting article, an American couple sailed from Alexandria to Cairo in 1963, but they took a canal for a while that paralleled the Nile because the river was too shallow for navigation at the time. Their journey took them eight days. For this book, I shaved a day off that travel time and pegged it at seven days, being unable to find any further confirmation of the time it would take.
The second travel issue addressed in this chapter is how to travel from Luxor to Alexandria. According to this awesome history of trains and a few other sites, the Caire-Louxor-Express ran from 1898-1939 (or possibly to at least the 1950s), covering the distance in 740 km. Per its wikipedia page, the train departed from Cairo on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and from Luxor on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The cars were cream-colored. Howard Carter wrote in his journal on Wednesday, 6 December 1922 of having taken "Cook 4 LE. on a/c" from Luxor to Cairo. This was obviously an overnight train, since he reported arriving the next day. I was not able to find any further information about Cook's Luxor Express.
In 1900, there was an 11 pm train from Cairo to Alexandria. And in 1923, Howard Carter took an 8:15 am train from Cairo and arrived in Alexandria in time for his 1 pm steamship to Venice, Italy. Per Thomas Cook's guide in 1897, three express trains ran daily from Alexandria to Cairo in three and a half hours, with ordinary trains taking about six hours.
As a final note, Georgette notices two statues in the antechamber of the tomb. These have been called "guardian statues," although that's not technically accurate. Per this cool article, these statues were the norm in burials of New Kingdom pharaohs.