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Published: December 8th 2015
We left the Keylany Hotel after another delicious rooftop terrace breakfast and departed Aswan on the local train ($6) to Luxor at 1000. The trip takes about 3 1/2 hrs, paralleling the beautiful shores of the Nile River and stopping at small charming villages along the way. We bought a pack of tissues from the cutest little girl about 6 years old wearing a hajab, who boarded the train by herself on one stop and departed on another. She went row by row somberly selling tissues until she came to us, and then she just beamed the most gorgeous smile. We insisted on her keeping the change left from our purchase, and she later showed up giving us a package of nutella filled croissants. She took a seat close by and watched us and smiled and waved until her stop, and then she exited, throwing us one last wave and smile through the window of the train.
We arrived in Luxor and went to our hotel, the Bob Marley Peace Boomerang Hotel ($15). The owner is an Aussie named Mia, a proudly self-proclaimed "bitch", who married an Egyptian and decided to open a hostel here that does not rip off
tourists (what a novel idea!) Mia immediately gave us the impression she was a bit jaded when she gave us a bunch of warnings such as "these f*ckers and will rip you off any chance you get...don't trust any of these f*ckers...and don't drink anything you haven't opened yourself." She went on to say that tourists have been drugged here, and said that I did not need to worry as much about getting raped because I am a woman and that the perpetrators would be arrested. She looked at Dennis and said "now you mate, you have to worry about getting buggered in the bum by these guys." Apparently man on man rape is not taken seriously in Muslim countries because homosexuality is forbidden by Islam so no one would believe the accuser if he said a Muslim raped him.
We immediately went out for a walk around the area as I mocked Dennis about everyone eyeing him up for a buggering. Our initial impressions of Luxor weren't super positive as it was just came off as a large noisy city, and the location of our hotel wasn't in the most picturesque area. We stopped at a local restaurant
on the corner called Abu El Hassan El Shazly and had some amazing Moussaka (fried eggplant in tomato sauce) with Tahina (hummus type dip), baba ghanoush (eggplant and tahnini dip) and baladi (a whole wheat and bran flatbread). So far we have yet to have a meal that isn't delicious.
The following morning we arranged for a guided West Bank tour ($6) that included all of the archaeological highlights from the west (opposing) side of the Nile. Luxor, also known as ancient Thebes, is considered one of the largest open air museums in the world, and it could take easily a week or more to see all the sites this city has to offer. It is believed that 70% of the ruins here have yet to be discovered. Our group consisted of a group of Chinese, a Korean, and a Greek we quickly befriended named Dimitri who was raised in Ft. Lee, NJ and moved back to Greece as an adult.
We started off the day with the famous Valley of the Kings that contains at least 63 royal tombs, with many many more yet to be discovered. The Valley was a necropolis used during a 500 hundred
year time span to house the tombs of kings and nobles. Many of the tombs are open for visitation, including the tomb of Tutankhumen. All the tombs have been plundered by robbers, many during ancient times and shortly after their construction. We entered 3 of the tombs, all unique in their construction and incredible decorations inside. Graffiti and desecration could be found in each, mostly having been committed by ancient Coptic Christians and Greeks, wanting to destroy the faces of all the Egyptian Gods. For this reason it is sadly nearly impossible to find any intact face on statutes in Egypt. It seems as though ISIS is the latest in a stream of religiously motivated desecrators seeking to erase all our beautiful historical remnants of our collective past.
After Valley of the Kings we visited Hatshepsut Temple, Medina Habu and the Collosi of Memnon. All the sites were majestic and awe inspiring, and interestingly still in the process of excavations as we were there. Our guide informed us that she was going to bring us to a local village and meet some direct descendants of the Pharaohs and see how they live in their traditional homes and how they
make alabaster vases, as the ancients did. Of course this wasn't the cultural experience that we were hoping for but simply a gift shop stop. I couldn't help but buy a small funerary urn made of basalt with the head of my favorite god Anubis. Anubis has the jackal head and is the God who oversees the mummification process.
Once the day was complete we felt sufficiently "templed out," even though we had one last temple to visit tomorrow in Luxor, Karnak. We had another amazing dinner at El Shazly's and were happy to run into our Kiwi friend Stephanie from Aswan on the rooftop terrace. Dimitri later joined us and we drank Stella's, the local Egyptian beer, telling them stories of life in the American Wild West.
The following day we booked a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the West Bank starting at 0400 ($30). We had planned to do a hot air balloon trip later in Turkey, but at 1/4 the price we couldn't resist. Floating silently over the scores of temples and ruins we had seen the previous day was a magical experience. We were amazed at just the multitude of sites that covered
the entire region that you cannot see from being at ground level.
We later walked out to Karnak temple, about a mile north of Luxor along the Nile River. Karnak is considered to be one of the largest religious complex ever constructed, tied with Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It is 247 acres wide, easily requiring a few hour trip to just scratch the surface of what it has to offer. We stayed for a brief visit, running short on time before our evening flight to Sharm El Sheik. Karnak had been the location of a foiled suicide bombing in June where three militants were killed by police before they could wreck the havok they wished. As we were leaving we got swarmed by a group of kids on a school trip who were much more interested in us, than of the ancient temple. Dennis ended up giving at least a hundred "knucks" and high fives to a seemingly never ending stream of boys.
We finally took a caleche carriage ride (Egyptian Ferrari) back into town after having been offered this over at least 100 times since the start of our trip. Happilly our horse looked well kept after
and our driver gentle with her. Several times so far I have been driven to almost tears over the condition of horses here. Egypt, like many economically depressed countries have horrific treatment of animals. I cried for about 10 minutes earlier in the morning after seeing a young man kick a dog, who had obviously just had puppies, so hard it made her yelp and run away. He looked and smiled at us while he did this and saw our reaction and laughed. We briefly considered if going to Egyptian jail was worth the satisfaction in assaulting this guy.
We ran into Stephanie and Dimitri in the souk while doing so last minute souvenir hunting and learned that they had been together sightseeing all day, and were off to dinner together. We were secretly hoping that we had successfully played cupid for our new single friends. We departed Luxor that evening for our final destination in Egypt, Sharm El Sheik.
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