My Vacation in Ruins


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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Luxor
February 24th 2016
Published: February 29th 2016
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Now, please don’t get worried it is just a title; nothing has been ruined on this trip (yet). Luxor is full of ruins, temples, monuments, tombs and more ruined stuff than one can imagine. It is an amazing place and we did more than I think any of us expected to do. After a wonderful night’s sleep in a bed with sheets, in a building with plumbing no less, we had a leisurely breakfast and coffee while enjoying the view over the Nile. Ragab met us in the lobby and we piled into the van in our same seating arrangement before setting off for our morning in ruins. Our first stop was the Valley of the Kings where many of the famous tombs are located. Each visitor is permitted to go into 3 separate tombs that are predetermined so they can control how many visitors go through each one. The heat and moisture of our bodies can build up and affect the paintings inside. Our first tomb must have been a small player in the scheme of things we thought. As it turns out, the tombs are started while the person is still alive and work continues until that person’s death. In this tomb we could almost see where the workman, sounding like a school teacher during an aptitude test, hollered out “pencils down boys, we gotta go.” This is in no way to say that it wasn’t absolutely amazing inside, but that it wasn’t as extensive as I had imagined it would be. The colors are still vibrant, the carvings intricate and breathtaking. The next tomb was an interesting one due to the fact that the King had a tomb built for the Queen as well. It is the only one in the Valley of the King to include the Queen. The first burial chamber is about the size of my apartment with a barrel vault ceiling. Yeah, it was large and impressive, the tomb not my apartment I mean. Though it is not summer yet, the day was warm and sunny outside and the tombs were hot and stuffy. I can’t fathom how hot they must be in the summer months. Our guide Ragab had worked on a dig with an American archeologist when he was younger. It was what led him to Egyptology. Our final tomb was for a very old King with a very deep network of tunnels to his tomb. It was a good hike to make it all the way to the Burial Chamber at the bottom, but worth it when faced with one of the best, if not the only, painting of the judgment of the dead. Cameras are strictly forbidden, so we left ours in the car. It was disheartening to stand and watch others blatantly taking selfies and posing for pictures in the tombs. After seeing these impressive tombs, we changed our minds about purchasing tickets to see King Tut’s tomb. We understood that it was very small, not filled with as much paintings or treasure, yet we wanted to see it. They are doing research on it and now believe that there is another tomb behind one of the walls. To get to this tomb though, they would have to destroy the precious paintings on the side of the wall. What to do? For a good long time we watched a group of three people who were taking cotton swabs and restoring or cleaning the paint on the walls. As we left, we all agreed that it was worth the time to see.

Our next stop was the Temple of Hot Chicken Soup. Well, perhaps that isn’t the actual name of it but more what it sounded like to me. So as to not give false information, I looked up the real name for you and hope you appreciate how much back breaking work I do for the accuracy of this blog. (oh the drama) The Temple of Hatshepsut is an impressive site simply due to how imposing it is. It is carved out of a mountain and is huge. To be honest, there isn’t too much to see at this site, but standing under the huge columns and statues I could only imagine how much work this took. Sadly, after the death of Queen Hatshepsut her face was carved off of most of the statues. Of all the places we visited, this site had the most visitors touring it and I am not going to lie, I was over the selfie sticks and having to wait to walk anywhere.

At the Valley of the Workers it was a much more casual atmosphere. We could see the foundations of the homes of the workers and were able to visit two tombs. The ceilings in the tombs themselves were not
Selfie Photo BombSelfie Photo BombSelfie Photo Bomb

No selfie stick required. Take that!
bad, but the tunnels to enter them were small and tight. I would wager that these workers were not tall men. As is the case all over Egypt, a “guide” helped us during our visit in the first tomb. He pointed out special paintings for us to take photos of as long as we didn’t use a flash. Since his job was to ensure that we didn’t take photos, this was of course conflicting information. We were respectful of the tomb, only taking a few shots and of course leaving a hefty “thank you”. It was a good chance to see how the royal tombs differ from those of lesser means.

Our last ruin was the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III called Temple of Madinet Habu. I was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information I had heard and amount of ruins and carvings I had seen in the past few days. This temple was, once again, huge with the deepest carvings I had seen. Ragab told us that Ramses had seen how other carvings had been changed or chiseled off in other temples, so had his done deeply enough that they would last. Apparently it worked because even today they are easy to see. By now our Team Egypt trio had figured out that we had to stay in a pack. If one person wandered off, he or she would become the limpy gazelle and the guides would pounce in a frenzy of information, suggestions and pointing until hands were turned up to the heavens for a “thank you”. At the first sight of “help” we would tighten our circle and move in a swarm not unlike anchovies. Please don’t ask me how anchovies can all of a sudden turn into a limpy gazelle; they just do. Unfortunately, this is in a large part to the lack of tourists to the country. While we were in Luxor we continually commented on how empty it seemed. True, there were people here, but not nearly the amount I would imagine. I am a big one for analogies, so here is my take on being in Egypt, especially Luxor right now- it is like being at Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park on a Monday in April. The season is open, but with school in session, the park is nearly deserted.

Having been templed, tombed and ruined, we were pleased to be back at our hotel, and even more pleased to have the name of a local restaurant that was highly recommended. We piled into a taxi with a humorous driver who did not speak much English, but had a card explaining that “my brother does not own a shop”. Since each person seems to have an angle and offers something, it was funny to see this self deprecating humor. The restaurant Sofra had the look and feel of something out of a movie. I ordered Chicken Tagen and Falafel. It was delicious. The chicken was baked in a metal pot with okra and vegetables. I realize I keep saying this about my dinners, but this was so fricken’ good. We all sat relaxing, well fed and well traveled. It was just what we needed after the day we had. Feeling properly energized we walked back to the hotel enjoying the nice day. We took the evening to do nothing, and while I can’t speak for Dave and Merry Jo, I can safely say that did absolutely nothing.

Morning came quickly in the form of a 5AM pick up for our balloon ride over the Luxor Valley. We were put onto motorboats and taken across the Nile to waiting vans. As we pulled up to the balloon loading site, they were in process of inflating most of the colorful balloons. I am lucky that the wind and weather were right today. Twice this week the balloons were not able to fly and this was one of the must have excursions on my trip. I have never been in a balloon, though D and MJ both have. I will say that being very tall, the heat of the burners on my lightly sunburned scalp was a bit irksome, but the ride was worth the, well, irksomeness. Liftoff was smooth and quick. As we rose, the sun started peaking out of the hills to the East filling the sky with color. The moon was still out, providing some nice picture opportunities. We floated over the Ramses III Temple that we had visited yesterday, could see Hatshupset’s Temple, the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Workers and more scenery than even I can describe. Landing was a bit bumpy. We had to hold on, bend our knees and wait for impact. At first pass it was a good landing, but then the wind caught us and we rose, fell, bumped along for a bit before coming to a full stop. It was everything I had hoped it would be.

After returning to the hotel, we had breakfast and then met Ragab for tours of Karnak Temple, the Luxor Museum and Luxor Temple. I’m sure you are glazed over from looking at the small amount of pictures I have posted, so I won’t go into great detail. Think huge columns, avenues of sphinx, lots of rocks, obelisks and more history than I can do justice. At one point we saw a picture of the man who had carved all of the sphinx for the avenue. His job title was sphinx-ter. HA HA HA. Oh heck man, I crack myself up. Even in Egypt I am funny. (note Dave and Merry Jo may challenge this notion.) To tell the truth, by now we were pretty saturated with history and temples. I am very happy to have seen them, very much enjoyed them, but there was simply too much information to process. We decided to return to Sofra for a late lunch. The experience was not the same. There were several tables in the restaurant and whereas the food was good, it didn’t have that roll my eyes and moan quality to it. We all ordered the mixed Kabobs and rice. I almost wish we had not returned so that I would have the untainted wonderful meal memory. Back at the hotel we enjoyed an Egyptian beer in the downstairs lounge before heading upstairs for the evening.

For our final day in Luxor, we opted to sit by the pool and read. We have gone full tilt for so many days that it felt like a vacation to spend a day of vacation reading. Even for a Power Traveler it was actually quite nice to sit and do nothing but read. The pool is on a barge floating on the Nile, so ships would pass and lightly rock the barge. We ordered lunch and some beers and had a wonderful morning of leisure. In the afternoon we had a felucca ride arranged. It was a simple 4 hour trip down and back to enjoy being on the water and see the sunset. When we were planning this trip we had originally looked at a three day/two night felucca trip from Aswan to Luxor. Trust me when say this, if we had, I wouldn’t be here writing this now because I would have drowned myself in the river. It was lovely for a 4 hour trip, but the thought of spending more time than that is less exciting than I had first thought. We stopped at a banana farm for a tour of the banana field and saw a crocodile in a cage as well as wolves. Sailing back into Luxor, we passed two large hotels that were closed due to lack of business, not to mention the amount of large river cruise boats docked along the shores with no one on board. It is very sad. I have felt nothing but safe here.

For dinner we had planned on taking a taxi to a different restaurant, but none of us were up to leaving property. We went back to the Chinese restaurant we had visited our first night. After a very good night’s sleep, our driver picked us up to deliver us to the Luxor Airport. It was a surprisingly modern airport, but was a ghost town. We sat in big, comfy green chairs and waited for our flight to Amman, Jordan via Cairo, but you will have to wait to hear about that. Until then, ciao!


Additional photos below
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Vibrant PaintingsVibrant Paintings
Vibrant Paintings

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Making FriendsMaking Friends
Making Friends

Believe it or not, this is supposed to be the Queen. They put a fake beard on her
Valley of the WorkersValley of the Workers
Valley of the Workers

Foundations of worker's houses


1st March 2016
Tomb Painting

Hot Chicken Soup and Hot Air Balloons
This leg of your journey seemed quite pleasant compared to the wild west of your first part. While you may have been "templed, tombed and ruined", you also had a memorable meal, your first hot-headed balloon ride, luxurious lounging on a pool in the Nile, and came to appreciate your decision not to felucca it for days--well-done. Love those tomb paintings and carvings--still so clear and vibrant!
1st March 2016
Tomb Painting

The leg is done
This leg of the trip was quite different from some of the others. It is always nice to have some rest after a marathon adventure. Looking back I can honestly say that I wouldn't have changed much about this trip. It was spot on to what I wanted.
1st March 2016
Avenue of Sphinx

Lucky in Luxor
Sounds like the crowds are down, some hotels closed but that sounds like lucky you to me. To score a pic on a fine day like this with no one around has gotta be grand. Now the balloon flight over the Valley of the Kings...is it definitely a must way to go?
1st March 2016
Avenue of Sphinx

Wandering Alone on the Avenue of Shpinx
We were very lucky in Luxor. Being taller than most I am usually able to shot pictures above crowds, but you are right. There would be no way to take this shot with crowds of people. Have you and Denise been to Egypt?
1st March 2016

Overload
Hi Brendan Yes I can see all,the history , info and ruins would give anyone overload... And good tip about the felucca trip, I like a boat ride on my travels so good to hear that 4 hours was enough... Wolves in Egypt ??? Every traveller need some downtime , reading and relaxing by the pool . Look forward to the next episode of your adventures. Lynne
1st March 2016

We certainly did it all
I am glad you are following along with us on this trip. Are you planning on heading this way? I would highly recommend it. I enjoy a boat ride, but this one didn't go anywhere. No wind, no go. Thanks for the comments, I very much appreciate them.
1st March 2016
Avenue of Sphinx

Wandering Alone on the Avenue of Sphinx
We were in Ethiopia when the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and been somewhat discouraged from venturing to Egypt since then due to unrest in that country. But your reports that it is now safe put it back on the radar to do so. Be safe Brendan and enjoy the ride.
2nd March 2016
Avenue of Sphinx

I hope you will be able to visit
I think you would enjoy the country as well as the people. This was a great trip and I am glad I was able to share it with friends around the world.
11th February 2019
Tomb Painting

What animal is represented
Interesting to see a possible Scarf around the animals neck , was it not always hot those days ? I wonder if you felt a little like Indiana Jones while in the tombs? Thank you for yet another interesting & educational trip that you have shared!

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