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Published: January 5th 2011
After disembarking from our cruise ship we took a taxi into Luxor and headed straight to the Nefertiti Hotel
on a friend's recommendation. They were very busy but managed to squeeze us in for one night. Unfortunately they were not able to extend our stay such is their popularity. Their rooftop terrace is fabulous with superb views over the Nile to the West bank. It also overlooks the Luxor Temple so there's no real need to pay to enter!!
In the evening we went into the touristy souk to eat. First we tried the Jamboree Restaurant but they clearly couldn't be bothered to serve us so after 15 minutes of waiting we left and nobody even tried to get us to stay. The nearby Lotus Restaurant was good though with tasty tagens
and cold beer. Afterwards we went onto the rooftop terrace to puff away at a sheesha and drink some refreshing black tea.
The next day we had to move hotels which was a shame. We went into the ultra-cheap Venus Hotel
which was comfortable enough but you can see why it's thecheapest place around! We overlooked a busy street and a very busy market which wasn't too bad by
day, but at night a new restaurant was having an opening night street party and the whole building vibrated with the bass of the awful music!!!
That afternoon we decided to avoid the taxis and caleches and walk up to the temple at Karnak. It's about 3km in a straight line and must have been impressive back in ancient Egypt. The Avenue of the Sphinxes
extends all the way and was lined with a sphinx every few yards. Today major excavations are under way to find them all but it's still an impressive sight. Karnak
is a wonderful place to wander around. Getting there we passed through some very traditional and untouristy areas of town where we were greeted with smiles instead of requests for money. We arrived at the Southern gate only to find we had to walk all the way around to the West gate to get in! We must have spent a good couple of hours exploring the different parts of the temple complex. The multitude of columns are very impressive and it was great to see some obelisks in situ as well. It was also a bit strange seeing the pictures of ancient Egyptians
with their limbs all painted blue!! We then got a caleche back to the hotel which took a bit of haggling but it was a nice way to travel having walked all the way out there.
In the evening we went down to a different part of town where it seems the British package tours must go. There we found the imaginatively named Arkwrights
shop (Open All Hours! Sorry, British joke!!) stocking many things that ex-pats tend to miss. There's also a superb Indian restaurant on the same street which we took full advantage of. A Taste of India
is probably really A Taste of Bradford
and we were thoroughly impressed!! We went for a swift pint in the King's Head
but it wasn't really that nice! We ended up drining tea and smoking sheesha in the souk instead.
We had to be up early the next day so the late night street party wasn't much fun. Against our better judgement we had booked a tour of the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings. It was a disaster as there were many cock-ups over numbers and guide availablility and 90 minutes after setting out we hadn't even crossed the
bridge to the other side. We stormed out of our tour and took a taxi back to the hotel demanding our money back. Shockingly it didn't seem to come as a great surprise to the hotel which makes you wonder why they persist on using that operator!
So, back to independent tours we went. The cheap ferry took us over the river to the West bank and a really nice taxi driver took us out to the Valley of the Kings, trying all the way to get us to hire him for the full afternoon. We had other plans though! The Valley of the Kings was not as impressive as we had anticipated. After paying 80 Egyptian Pounds each to get in, we paid extra to take the small train up to the entrance. Don't bother, it was only about 500 metres! Before long we had been to the tombs of Ramses IV, Ramses IX and Merenptah. No cameras are allowed inside and this is very strictly enforced. It's impossible to avoid the thousands of tourists cramming into the same narrow corridors but they are still outstanding. Credit to the authorities for their work at preserving these national treasures.
When we walked further up the valley away from the huge tour groups, we tried to enter the tomb of Siptah. That's when we discovered that our expensive tickets were only valid for 3 tombs and a little man clips your ticket as you go in to each one. It felt like a bit of a rip-off and we persuaded the guardian to let us in this tomb, but we didn't succeed anywhere else.
Thanks to the Lonely Planet
we managed to find a path climbing high above the valley despite the signs warning us not to climb the mountain! From the top we got some great views and then we continued over the summit and descended down to the Temple of Hapshesut. It was a tricky descent but the views of the temple were worth every skipped heartbeat near the edge! The storm clouds were gathering though and when we reached the bottom it actually started to rain!!! We then managed to get a minibus driver to take us out to the former home of Egyptologist Howard Cater who discovered Tutankhamen's tomb many years ago. It is now a small but free museum and had a rather expensive
but very nice cafe attached to it.
Refreshed and educated we returned to Luxor in a bright red camionette. Then we took the ferry back over to the East bank. We returned to the West bank that night by public ferry and ate a feast of Egyptian dishes for a ridiculously low price, the Nile Flowers. It's a new restaurant and deserves many more customers so please go if you are in town! They serve beer too!! Back on the East bank once more we ventured into a dark alley in the souk and drank cool hibiscus juice whilst smoking our now customary sheesha!
The next morning we were due to travel to the Red Sea resort of Hurghada. This was plan B. Plan A had already been scuppered and we were relieved because on New Years Eve there was a bomb in Alexandria
where we had planned to be. Hurghada was off because the previous days rains had clearly been much heavier away from Luxor. The road had been damaged and was closed. That meant no road transport to Cairo and we already knew all the trains were full! We got all the way out to the bus station
about 8km out of town to discover this meaning we then had to pay for a taxi back into town as well.
As we had to stay in Luxor for the rest of our trip we decided to do it in a bit more comfort. The St Joseph Hotel
managed to fit us in for three nights. They are mainly used by Russian, German and British package tours but they had a couple of rooms available for independent travellers. Ok, so the room wasn't as light and airy as the pictures on the website show, and we didn't have a balcony either, but it was very comfortable and the swimming pool was nice if crowded!
We didn't really do much for the rest of our stay! We lounged by the pool, ate exotic food (Indian and Chinese!!) which we can't get in Tunisia, shopped at Arkwright's (!) and found a wonderful sheesha cafe who looked after us so well for three nights that we left a generous tip!!!!
We had manged to get ourselves on a flight to Cairo by the skin of our teeth. They were all fully booked and we feared being stranded in Luxor and not
getting back to work!! It meant an 0500 alarm call which the hotel generously gave us at 0400! At Cairo Airport we discovered there is no left luggage and Egyptair refused point blank to help us in any way. We ended up getting a taxi to the City Stars Shopping Centre
. There we persuaded Spinneys supermarket to let us leave our bags in one of their offices whilst we shopped. What an amazing shopping centre and something Tunisia is definitely lacking. Cinema, restaurants, cafes (Costa Coffee!!), glitz and glamour all under one roof! We even ate noodles in Wagamama
!! All too soon it was time to return to the airport and fly back to Tunis.
Happy New Year everyone. Thanks for reading the blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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