Luxor - and beyond

We travelled from Cairo to Luxor by sleeping train. It was cramped and the food was bad - but not as bad as the toilets.

We arrived in Luxor in the early hours of the morning. The air was very different from Cairo - cleaner but with a hint of ... woolshed without the wool. In short you could smell the horse dung. The horse taxis were out in force in front of the station. But we were travelling by bus. At least we would be once our luggage arrived which was being taken across the tracks. Many people were tired having not slept well on the train, some hadn't slept the night before having gone to see Lucy, and some were ill.

Our luggage arrived and we were taken to our cruise ship. We entered what we thought was our boat only to be told to walk through reception. On the other side was another boat. Through that one and ... the Carnival was number five out from the shore.

It was just like being in a hotel on land - reception, shops, lounge bar etc. First problem was we were too early to get our rooms. As much of the group were in no state to go sightseeing we all waited for the rooms to come available. I found it a chance to read and check out the deck. But many people slept. When we finally got our rooms several hours later they were a pleasant surprise.
Sleeping car - click to enlarge waiting for cabins - click to enlarge our cabin - click to enlarge
Our cabin in the sleeping car Waiting for cabins in the lounge of the Carnival Suzie in our cabin.
The view was so great we left the curtains open that night. Next morning another boat had pulled up on the outside and our cabin looked into - and was looked into from - the dining room.
Although the name "Luxor" may not be immediately familiar, "Thebes" is known to most people interested in ancient civilizations. Thebes was the seat of Egyptian government 4000 years ago. Even when the administrational functions moved to Memphis, Thebes remained the ceremonial capital with dozens of important temples. And it was to Thebes that the pharaohs returned for burial after Giza's brief turn.

The modern city of Luxor (or Al-Uqsur - the Palaces) occupies part of the 93 square km that once was part of the ancient Thebes.

Our first spot of tourism was to visit the Karnak and Luxor temples.

Ram headed sphinxes- click to enlarge Karnak Temple - click to enlarge Luxor Temple - click to enlarge
Karnak Temple
Ram headed sphinxes
click for more information and photos of Karnak Temples
Karnak Temple
Great Hypostyle Hall
click for more information and photos of Karnak Temples
Luxor Temple
court of Amenhotep III
click for more information and photos of Luxor Temple
The following day we drove over to the West Bank of Luxor. This was striking due to the contrast between the strong green of the crops and the dry, brown sand/rock. There was a definite line where the irrigation stopped. Here too, we saw more of the stereotypical views - donkeys, hand carts, palm trees.

Our first stop was to view the Colossi of Memnon - as tourists have been doing since Graeco-Roman times. The other reason we stopped was to pick up Gallina and crew who had an early morning look at the Valley of the Kings by balloon.

West bank - click to enlarge West bank - click to enlarge Colossi of Memnon - click to enlarge
West bank - donkeys were common West bank - contrast with palms The Colossi of Memnon (18m) are all that is left of what was a huge complex (larger than Karnak) built by Amenhotep III (1390-1352BCE) - and washed away by the Nile over thoursnds of years.
They are nothing to do with Memnon - other than they used to emit a whistling sound at dawn like the legend.
The West was the place of death - where the sun/scarab burrows into the earth - so many tombs etc are found on the west side of the Nile.

The Valley of the Kings has some 62 tombs - not all open at any one time. (For more detail - including video inside the tombs - The Theban Mapping Project has some great information.) We had the standard "three tombs" ticket and we went into a tomb of each the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. The early one (KV34) was well hidden and hard to get at. But in time, as tomb robbers learnt the new burial place of the pharaohs, they reverted to more elaborate structures. It was also interesting to observe the change of artistic style of decoration over 300 years - from stick-like cartoon figures to more elaborate frescoed style artwork in KV6 (Ramses IX). The other striking thing was the incredibly strong colours that had survived hidden from the light.

Some of the group then paid extra to visit KV62 - Tutankhamun's tomb. As everything has been stripped out, and much of it was at the Egyptian Museum which we had visited in Cairo, I didn't see the point.

Next stop - Temple of Hatshepsut. Huge and fascinating. Followed by a rushed stop at an alabaster factory that only one person wanted to go to. And an even more rushed stop at the Valley of the Queens - where both Queens and the pharaohs sons are buried.

Top speed back to meet the Carnival as it had already set sail up river.

KV34 - click to enlarge Temple of Hatshepsut - click to enlarge Inside Titi's tomb - click to enlarge
KV34 (18th dynasty)
Tuthmosis III (1479-1425BCE)
There was quite a climb to the tomb which still contains the pharaoh's sarcophagus but the mummy is now in the Egyptian museum.
Temple of Hatshepsut
Deir al-Bahri - backing onto the Valley of the Kings
- click for more information and photos
Inside Titi's tomb
(Valley of the Queens)
As we returned, we were greeted with hot towels and lemon drinks. Our hotel was on the move up the Nile.
Nile cruising - click to enlarge Singing waiters - click to enlarge Gallibaya party - click to enlarge
Somehow, I'd imagined there's be just us on the Nile. I never thought there's be a convoy. The staff on the Carnival were there to make sure we had a good time. Even the waiters and chefs would come out and sing for birthdays.
Gallibaya party

For a look at the area from space click here; also here's one at night

Edfu Temple (Temple of Horus was started by Ptolemy III in 237BCE)
Kom Ombo Temple (a dual temple dedicated to Haroeris and Sobek)

And on to Aswan

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