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Published: February 28th 2016
As our train rolled into Luxor we realized one of the advantages of hiring a local guide is that he or she has that extra shred of knowledge that can make life a lot easier just when you need it. As we neared our destination point, Ragab made arrangements for the train porter to provide an assist, as the train station at Luxor was “undergoing renovations.” On the surface a rather innocuous statement, but it turned out to be a gross understatement as the entire platform had its tiles ripped up, leaving only a sandy surface. Luggage on wheels would only provide good entertainment for the locals, watching the tourists attempt to drag their luggage for about one hundred yards through the sand. Two porters grabbed our bags and made a mad dash for the station and we struggled to stay up with them. They had to hurry, as they needed to jump back on the train before it departed—which didn’t give them much time as the train waits for no one. The plan worked well and the next thing we knew, we were being whisked to our hotel in the comfort of a van.
We discovered that our lodgings
were steadily getting better at this point. Although clean, the hotel was somewhat outdated, but we found it to be quite comfortable. The quality of our mattresses was improving by the day if you have been following us along this past week. We had transitioned from sleeping on the ground, to napping for a few hours in a hotel room, to sleeping in a van at night as it raced across the desert. We were to stay for four nights and it looked promising for some well-needed rest. We arrived after dark and the view from our room was of the Nile River and just past that there was some unidentifiable and somewhat lit structure, or so it seemed. You just could not tell what exactly what it was.
Up early the next morning, we peeked out the window and this mystery structure was actually rather mountainous in its appearance and we would soon learn its history. It was the Necropolis of Thebes, home to the Valley of the Kings. It is a series of natural pyramids where many kings had been buried over the centuries, including the famous King Tut. We explored three of them that
were open to the public and learned that the kings of the day would have them built during their lifetimes as a final resting place. If the tomb and accompanying rooms were large and had plenty of wall art and hieroglyphics, it meant that the king had lived a long life. It would seem that a King starts building his tomb as soon as he becomes King and the work immediately stops when he dies. Some Kings have lived 40 or more years so their tombs are massive. The walls are filled with beautiful art, etchings and carvings. They drawings tell a story and make offerings to the Gods.
In this location there are 62 tombs and they keep 9 of them open at all times. Our ticket in allowed us into any 3 tombs….they were amazing. Each tomb was different from the next but all were bigger than expected, much bigger except for King Tut’s tomb. As it turns out his is the smallest of all tombs…mainly because he died so young. King Tut gets so much attention because his tomb was discovered in recent years and was intact, complete with treasures.
As it turns
out, King Tut was an extremely minor king as he was only in power for about nine years and died quite young. The celebrity around him is due to an Englishman named Carter, who “discovered” his tomb in the 1920’s. Most, if not all the other tombs had been discovered many hundreds of years previously, so all the fame was due to this recent discovery. In fact, as the story goes, Carter did not actually discover the tomb, but a local lad had in fact done so, but of course, Carter got all the credit. He was not an archeologist, but rather an illustrator. Strange stuff, indeed. The man had no experience in the science, but rather stumbled upon greatness. The tomb itself is small in nature and quite pedestrian in comparison to the others, but hey! It’s King Tut!
Our explorations also included a trip to the Temple of Hatshepsut, Temple of Medinat Habu, and the Valley of the Workers. At the first two temples, we were amazed at the number of people taking "selfies." While most folks like having their pictures taken occasionally, the narcissistic displays before us were almost an affront to the venue.
Up up and away
Can you hear the 5th Dimension Singing ?
One girl in particular could simply not take a picture without her being in it. Over and over again she would stop and take another selfie......
The next day saw us up early again, only this time we wouldn’t be trapped in a van for hours….we were going ballooning! A quick van ride to the river, transferred to a boat across the Nile and back into a van for a short ride. We watched as the many balloons were inflated in the pre-dawn minutes. We then hopped in our gondola with about 16 others and the next thing you know….we’re floating up into the sky with magnificent views of the Necropolis of Thebes, the surrounding fields of sugar cane, wheat and alfalfa beside the Nile as the sun rose. Quite a little adventure, and all before breakfast!
Later that morning we visited the Karnak Temple, the Luxor Museum and the Luxor Temple. The Karnak Temple is amazingly huge, the second largest ancient religious site in the world, Angkor Wat being the largest. The Hypostyle Hall is quite impressive with its huge columns. How they could spend all this time and effort on these structures is a source of
constant amazement to us. The Luxor Museum contains fascinating and well-displayed artifacts. We can only hope that the new museum in Cairo has been taking notes and can match the design of this museum.
Later, at the Luxor Temple, we paused for a moment, looked at one another and came to the same grand conclusion; we were officially “templed out.” Yep, we hit the limit and had our fill of all the great archeology that our Egyptologist of a guide could impart to us. Our eyes and minds had glazed over and we were officially done….cooked….you could stick a fork in us….we were done. We were to the point where we were able to identify many of the symbols…bring on the written exam…we’re ready!
We found Luxor to be the cleanest town of those we visited. They do a nice job keeping it looking nice.
When you tour Egypt you’ll be descending down stairs into tombs, climbing up and around temples and ancient archeological sites so wear good shoes. You will blow sand and or dust out of your nose for days. That’s just the life of a curious tourist in these parts. Well worth the effort,
we would also note. But at this point, we had simply had enough……
Fortunately, the next day we made the grand group decision to do almost nothing. We sat at the pool for a bit, had a light lunch and then hopped on a felucca on the River Nile in the afternoon and also to take in the sunset. It is a single-masted vessel that relies on the wind to makes its way on this mighty river. There was only one problem………there was no wind on this day. This is no exaggeration. Upon departure we were towed upriver by a small tug boat to Alladin’s Island, where we saw an unusual assortment of things. Banana trees, mango trees, caged foxes, even a caged crocodile. A rather unique rest stop on our river voyage.
Back on board, we saw an older British couple struggling to approach and moor their boat. They had wrapped a fisherman’s net around their prop and appeared to be in a bit of a pickle. Our able sailor Ali had a knife and fifteen minutes later had successfully untangled the net. The couple realized they had ripped a brand new net and made arrangements to
pay for the damage.
We floated downstream back to our digs, yes floated, relaxed with a local beer and dinner, then retired for the evening, our trip to the Land of Pharaoh’s was complete.
We’ve enjoyed our time in Luxor, but would also like to take a minute and talk about the state of Egyptian tourism…..Egypt is open for business! They have an infrastructure that allows travelers to move around the country with ease exploring deserts, temples and artifacts. We have felt completely safe all over this country and everyone has been friendly.
Egypt had an 18 day revolution in 2011 and the tourism industry has been paying the price ever since. The industry was devastated by this event and even though it may turn out to be a positive for the country as a whole down the road, right now tens of thousands of everyday people are affected by the dearth of foreign tourism. Any casual observer of the history in the Middle East is aware that it has been in turmoil for decades and that is likely to continue for years to come. While in Lebanon we were 6 miles from the Syrian boarder and
in Egypt we were 15 miles from the Sudan border and 80 miles from the Libyan boarder. We didn’t see anything that could remotely be considered as dangerous.
If you have wanted to travel to Egypt we would tell you now is the time because sadly there are no crowds and all things are cheap and on sale. For example, our hot air balloon ride that sells for $180 only cost us $50 if we paid cash. A little black market deal but we were in the same balloon as those who paid full price. Housing rates are reasonable and everything can be negotiated! If you are looking to see Egypt on the cheap come soon as the British and the Chinese have begun to return to this most interesting nation.
We are traveling with our friend Brendan bvchef
who is a chef in San Jose, California. Brendan grew up near Findley, Ohio but we didn't get to know him until we were living in Marin County, California a few years ago. We met through this web site because his blogs made us laugh. His writing is wickedly funny so hope you will take a look at his
On the Nile
view of this trip. Crash Course in Cairo The Chaos That Is Cairo Audacious Adventure in the Black and White Deserts My Day in Da’Nile
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