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Published: June 11th 2017
On board the sleeper train
This is our two-berth cabin.
So, after I left you last night, we were on the sleeper train heading to Luxor. The train was pretty comfortable and it was an enjoyable trip. Breakfast was served about 5 am, which consisted of several different buns/pastries and jam, and coffee or tea. It wasn't a great breakfast but it was fine. I used my silk sleeping sheets that I got in Vietnam last night, which worked really well.
We watched the sun rise as we were arrived in Luxor. The scenery as we arrived was quite pretty with lots of palm trees around, and brown hills in the distance. There were some homeless-looking people sleeping in the train station. We saw another train boarding as we arrived, and I'm sure glad we weren't on that train. It looked in pretty poor shape and extremely uncomfortable. The sleeper train is luxurious by Egyptian standards.
We rode to Karnak temple in horse drawn carriages, which is the main way of transporting tourists in this area. We saw lots of horse carriages in Alexandria where the horse did not appear to be very well looked after, so we were a bit leery about this, but Amr said this was
really the only way to get from the train station to the river boats (or in our case, to Karnak). I'm not sure why Peregrine couldn't arrange for a mini van instead, especially as it is supposed to be an ethical company. Our horse, however, looked in good shape, and we clip-clopped our way to Karnak.
From the train station Luxor seemed a dusty town, but as we saw more of it we liked it more and more. It is in a very pretty location surrounded by cultivated fields and of course, the Nile.
Karnak Temple was built over a very long period (over 1000 years) and the oldest section dates back to 2055 BCE. It is the largest religious building ever built, and includes the vast Hypostyle Hall. It was quite pleasant when we arrived about 8 am, and there were very few other people around. The temple as a whole is an amazing site, but the Hypostyle Hall is truly incredible. The enormous columns are covered in hieroglyphics and some of the paintings on the ceiling areas between the columns are still vibrant and colourful. Amr gave us a very informative tour of the highlights of
the temple (he is extremely knowledgeable about ancient Egyptian history - he has a history degree) and then we had some free time to wander around on our own. During the free time, for a few minutes Susan and I just roamed around the Hypostyle Hall absorbing the majesty of the place. It really is an incredible place. It is hard to believe until you actually see it in person.
We joined the group at a little cafe where we enjoyed an Arabic coffee each and shared a kardedey (a very tasty hibiscus drink). It had warmed up quite a bit by then. We met our horse drawn carriages again for the ride to our river boat. I took a picture of the boat as we walked towards it, and of the lobby area inside (it looked really nice). However I was rather surprised when we kept walking through the boat to another boat that was moored next to it! Our boat wasn't quite as impressive inside though it still is nice. We were served a refreshing glass of karkedey while we awaited our room assignments. Although it was only about 10 am Susan ordered a beer. Ok, I
had a few sips. Our first Stella! The sand cleared from our throats for the first time since we arrived in Cairo.
We were pleased that our room has a view of the Nile, rather than the boat moored next door. Not that it will matter as soon as we leave Luxor (about 1 pm tomorrow). Our room is nice and even has a fridge, so we can store beer, which Amr promised we would be able to buy in Luxor.
Amr took us for a short orientation walk around the area. We are practically next door to Luxor Temple. Luxor Temple is different from Karnak in that it is smack dab in the middle of town. Plus it is far smaller than Karnak. I got some photos as we passed. We went into the market area briefly, where Susan and I eventually located some beer to buy. Susan asked one of the vendors if they knew where we could buy beer, and he took us down a few side streets until, there it was, a small beer store. We got some Stella and some Sakara Gold. The vendors in the market are fairly persistent but not aggressive
Coming into Luxor
in any way. Unfortunately Susan was either pick-pocketed or she dropped a 200 egyptian pound bill on the way. We are going with she simply dropped the bill out of her pocket. I'm sure the person who found it needed the money.
I added the photos to yesterday's blog (ok, way too many I know!) and we had lunch on board at 1 pm. We have free time this afternoon, and Susan and I arranged with Amr to visit a few sights on the West Bank that I wanted to see: Deir el Medina (the worker's village) and the Tombs of the Nobles. Our car picked us up at 2 pm and we drove over to the West Bank. The East Bank of the Nile is where temples were located (for the living) and the West Bank is where the tombs are located (for the dead). The drive was very pretty, passing fields of sugar cane, corn, banana, guava and lemon. We passed lots of donkey carts and rural scenes. Most of the men are wearing those long loose garments, and all the women I saw wear the hijab, many dressed in the long loose black robes.
picked up our guide and drove first to Deir el Medina (Worker's Village). It was extremely hot by this time (likely around 40 degrees, but not humid). Deir el Medina is where the workers lived who worked at the Valley of the Kings (the people who designed, built, and decorated the tombs). You can see the remains of the walls of the houses and of the rooms inside, about chest high now. They are made of mud brick and stone. Here is where the ordinary people lived, not the kings and queens, not the people the tombs were made for, but the people who made the tombs themselves. It was a different perspective and one we really appreciated seeing. While there we toured 2 tombs (both of engineers who lived at the village). The paintings inside of the tombs, particularly the first one, was astonishing, just mind blowing. The colours are so vibrant and alive. Some of the paintings are in pristine condition. It was also incredible that Susan and I were the only tourists there. No cameras are allowed but you can take photos with your cell phone if you give the guards who open up the tombs a
sizeable tip. We did, so we have beautiful photos on our cell phones. I will add them when we eventually get on wifi and I have some time.
We then continued on to the Tombs of the Nobles, where we visited three tombs. These were the tombs of high ranking people associated with the kings. They were all quite amazing, some quite large for a tomb, containing beautiful carvings. We saw only three other tourists at this location.
We got back to the boat about 5 pm, and we enjoyed a cold beer in our room while admiring the Nile view. We ordered our cartouche necklaces from the jewellery store on board (Hend had advised that the river boat would be the best place to buy a cartouche because the quality is good). I chose a silver cut out version for me, and Susan chose a white/yellow gold version, plus a gold chain. I also picked up a silver bracelet shaped like an ankh (they call it the key of life here), and a hand of Fatima silver pendant.
We showered and I finished adding the photos to yesterday's blog, then we had dinner at 7:30. Dinner
was similar to lunch, and I think the food may get a bit tedious after awhile. I wish they included more Egyptian dishes, rather than the somewhat generic food that is served on the boat.
We then went in search of wifi. The wifi on board is not working (the server is down), but Jill said the boat next door had wifi if you were willing to pay for it. So we checked it out, and it cost 3.50 euros for 30 minutes. More than enough time to get the blog published, and to check email and facebook. So that's what we did, coming back to our room close to 9 pm. On the way we picked up our beautiful new jewellery. I then worked on today's blog. I'm too tired to add photos tonight, so that will have to wait till tomorrow. I hope the wifi is fixed soon!
We have a very early morning tomorrow, meeting the group for breakfast at 5 am, then at 5:30 we head out to the Valley of the Kings. This early start means it won't be as hot or as crowded at the sights as it will be later on.
Luxor train station
We had just got off the green train
Off to bed now!
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