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Lions Roar : May 2018
The Spas of Luxore IF YOU’VE ALREADY BOOKED your tickets to Luxore, you’re certainly familiar with its hot stone massages and mudpack facials, its bamboo palaces where organic buffets are piled high, its yoga studios where gurus liberate us from worldly desires, and its oceanfront bars that serve lychee- nut cocktails and rum drinks. Travel to the city requires rail transportation (plans for a private airport are scheduled to begin this spring) and we recommend purchasing first-class tickets with sleeping cabins, bathrooms, and access to the dining car. The added expense is well worth it, since second- and third-class cab- ins are filled with locals and livestock, providing no facili- ties for relieving oneself other than a hole through which one can see the tracks below. The drive from the station to Luxore’s gates isn’t scenic. Dogs scratch themselves against shacks, families roast corn- cobs over burning trash, while children, no older than our own, play in a river choked by garbage. There are beggars crouched by our cabs’ exhaust fumes, their hands extended toward our window for coins. We recommend focusing on your guidebook instead. Read about the tantric retreats at the island’s westernmost end, or the benefits of pranayama breathing, until your taxi passes through the eco-village’s gates, where a breeze blows across the balconies, carrying the scent of sandalwood and papaya. And while you may have heard reports regarding the city’s stench—a smell so rank that tai chi classes had to be postponed—we’re happy to report that the problem has been solved by the installation of wind turbines, which blow the rancid air back where it came. Visitors should stop in The Hotel Sebastiaõ’s lobby, which displays one of the country’s most impressive murals. The mosaic presents a scene of local children playing in the fields, and speaks to the spirit of the native people, whose surviving artists were hired to work in the sugar factories. For those interested in learning more about indigenous tribes, hotels offer day trips to villages, where actors costumed as tribes- men reenact native life. Guests can watch women and chil- dren engaged in woodcutting, basket weaving, and jewelry making (all available for purchase from the gift shop) with traditional dances performed on Thursdays and Fridays. We’d be remiss if our description failed to mention the Quxtchol berry, used for thousands of years in healing rit- uals, and most recently featured in our fashion and health magazines. The berry has proven beneficial for anti-aging, beauty, and pharmaceutical interests, and international corporations have employed locals to harvest the berries. Although the remaining tribes claim their fruit is disap- pearing, there are always plenty of Quxtchol berries at our eco-spa buffets. As for travelers interested in witnessing the ancient harvest dance, it’s reenacted every Monday and Wednesday at the Visitors Center where colored beads are used in place of the berries. If you’re like most visitors, you’ll be charmed by the friendliness of locals, who serve you food at the hotels, clean the pools, trim hedges, and sing their traditional songs while sweeping terraces. Indeed, one of Luxore’s greatest gifts turns out not to be its hot oil baths, its Zumba classes, or its superfood smoothies, but the smiles of the people we meet who sell us their most sacred art. How simple yet beautiful their lives are. How inspirational to witness their joy amid such extreme poverty. It’s their grati- tude that teaches us to be grateful for the pleasures we have in life. We count our blessings as our massages begin. ♦ ALEXANDER WEINSTEIN is the director of The Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and author of the short story collection Children of the New World. Although the remaining tribes claim their sacred Quxtchol berry is disappearing, there’s always plenty of the fruit at our eco-spa buffets. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 72