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.
|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 for more information and photos of Karnak Temples
Great Hypostyle Hall
click for more information and photos of Karnak Temples
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 - 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 (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.
|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.
For a look at the area from space click here;
also here's one at night
(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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