November 1997

People joked with me before I flew out about whether I'd packed my flak jacket or Uzi or whatever because of the terrorist attack outside the Egyptian Museum back in September. I laughed it off. It couldn't happen to me. The news that greeted us all when we returned to Heathrow proved otherwise.

The first we knew of it was when Liz phoned her dad to tell him she had landed safely. He had said something along the lines of "Thank God you're safe, there's been a terrorist attack in Luxor" but we weren't sure about the details. Then I saw Andy (that's my brother Andy this time) waiting for me in arrivals and he was holding a copy of the Evening Standard, the first paper to carry the story. The headline read GUNMEN KILL 61 TOURISTS and this is what the reporter wrote:

Evening Standard headline: Gunmen kill 61 tourists"At least 70 people were killed today by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who machine-gunned crowds outside a temple in the Egyptian tourist resort of Luxor.

The dead included at least 61 foreign tourists, six gunmen and three policemen, one of whom was killed with a sword, according to unconfirmed reports from the scene.

Eyewitnesses said the gunmen hijacked an empty German-owned tour bus in the town centre and forced the driver to take it to a temple complex outside the town, where they opened fire on queuing tourists."

Many thoughts went through my mind.

The fact that we were all at the precise spot where the massacre took place, at the same time but one week earlier (for someone who's never been abroad before, I think this could be considered a pretty close shave).

My St Christopher - the patron saint of travellers - which I had worn throughout the first week and only removed after our visit to the temple when I collected my chain from Hamdi's shop. I'm not superstitious but it's strange what you think of sometimes.

Mohammed, our tour guide in Luxor - was he at the temple when the shooting began?

The other tour guides and groups that we met out there - were any of them due to visit the site on that Monday? And what of their holidays, would they be sent home or be allowed to carry on? Would they want to carry on?

Kali - how bad a day must she have had? She was due to go to the Explore office in Cairo to find out about any 'developments' before picking the next group up at 8pm. I'm sure that what happened in the morning was way beyond the latest updates to traffic restrictions that she was expecting.

And finally, my thoughts went to the Egyptians who had shown nothing but friendship during my holiday and who will be crippled by the blow this attack will undoubtedly deal to the country's tourism. I saw much poverty there but once the restaurants empty, the bazaars have no-one to sell to but each other and the tourist hotels find their foyers empty, the poverty before would be a fond memory.

Despite the attack, I would like to return to Egypt one day - the people there didn't deserve to have this happen to them because of a minority of fanatics. There's an old saying: "The minority spoil it for the majority." It couldn't be more suitable here.