Luxor is famed for many ancient archaeological discoveries and perhaps most notably for the 1922 discovery (by the British) of the tomb of the young-King, Tutankhamen. Whilst that famous golden ‘headed-mask’ you can probably envisage is kept in the Museum of Antiquities back in Cairo, the tomb remains here in Luxor making it two very separate destinations for tourists to visit. How convenient. How Egypt…
I mean this famous golden head-mask of course:
This is an image from the WWW. I didn’t take a snap of it when I was in the museam as ‘photos of it were strictly forbidden’. Blah blah blah.
Clearly it didn’t look this dazzling back in 1922 after thousands of years in hibernation and I’m sure it’s taken plenty of restoration work but still, can you imagine how those British archaeologists felt after such a discovery!? In fact, get this, the long-pointed beard fell off in 2014 and the folk at the museum used glue of some form to stick it back on. However, this left a visible crust so it had to go off to ‘Ze Germans‘ for proper restoration.
Luxor is situated in-land far away from the Red Sea so visitors coming here will be seeking the ancient monuments, not rest and relaxation. No wonder then many tourists come here from a distance away through organised tours to see the sights before retiring back to their luxurious hotels in the evening.
Luxor itself has been heavily deprived of tourism for some time now, especially as it’s not a choice of destination for sun-seekers or Red Sea divers. Tragically tourism on the south Sinai peninsular has been almost non-existent since November 2015 due to that unspeakably terrible incident involving the Russian plane but Luxor’s decline starting well before then. Yours truly can confirm how dire the situation is here by the desperation I see on the streets ranging from the touts, scam-artists, taxi drivers, shop-keepers, market folk, horse and carriage riders. Heck, just about everybody. Yet still, and just like I saw and felt in Morocco, these African/Middle eastern people still somehow get by and the majority do so with a smile. The most common sentence you’ll hear as a foreigner is: “Welcome. Where you from?”.
Having heard it so many times it’s making me chuckle writing it whilst thinking back…
Contributing to the Egyptian economy
As our hostel advertised what we felt were really good rates for some tours, we were happy to oblige and so Tristan, I and an Asian pairing signed up. Get this, the cost of the guided tour from a nice man who provided a mini AC’ed tour bus was less than £4 each. Then consider we left at 8.30am and came back around 2.30pm so we definitely got our monies worth. Sadly that very reasonable cost doesn’t include the blasted ticket entry prices!. This is not a scank on the side of the tour guide as we saw each ticket and their printed price. What’s frustrating and somewhat upsetting is that tour guide gets so relatively little from this arrangement whereas the Egyptian government arguably profiteer! Just not far. Speaking of unfair, and if you’re ever down this way, they want further money from you to see the tomb of Tutankhamen despite you having already paid for the entrance fee. (All four of us decided we would not do this).
Anyhow without further ado, here’s some photos highlighting some of the places we visited.
Oh, and be sure not to miss my last couple of paragraphs towards the end of the post to see where I’m off to next from here.
The Valley of The Kings:
It took us approximately 30 to 40 minutes from central Luxor to reach The Valley of the Kings.
Below is the entrance to the awesome-looking valley and quite literally after this point, you are forbidden to use your camera and they even request you to leave it their at the gate. No thanks, as if I’m going to leave it there with you lot.
So almost immediately upon entry I was disgruntled and if I knew this before coming, I’d very likely not have paid for this particular attraction. You see, there’s only so much to view and me providing imagery for you guys is half of my enjoyment. So honestly, that’s literally it on the photography front from The Valley of The Kings.
Seriously though, imagine my annoyance and disappointment. I mean there’s one thing banning flash-photography from inside an enclosed area when a foot away from an ancient artefact. Sure, fair enough, so be it. However, what I was being told here was ludicrous. I’m in the vast wide outdoors, what on earth do you mean I cannot take photos of the mountains!?!?
By the way, if like me you can’t make out the logic behind this, that’s cos there really isn’t any. Well, actually that’s not true, as the logic is further tourist exploitation. I saw just two people with cameras noticeably on display and both of them had a white slip of paper close by. This means they’ll have paid to be able to take photos.
A number of tombs here were closed so we visited a handful of other which consisted of walking deep underground which was quite cool and then marvelling at the ancient hieroglyphics. As mentioned earlier, you can pay to visit (but not take photos of) Tut’s tomb. Online pictures show you all you’ll need to see from this.
Next up was The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Last up for today was Medinet Habu
Day 2: Enjoyment and contentment in Luxor.
Tristan was catching a return night train to Cairo tonight but it wasn’t departing until 23:00! As such, we had the whole day to fill and entertain ourselves and that we did. During the day we visited another historic site known as Karnak temple though the best part today’s morning activity was the getting here as Tristan and I ‘hopped’ on the local buses which consisting of just that, literally hopping on and old VW camper vans in the direction of wherever the driver is headed. After a couple of different vans, we’d made it to the temple. Pretty cool and certainly authentic. In fact, so local and authentic the price, even for locals, is 10 pence a ride!
Having now been completely ‘templed-out‘ after two days, finally some enjoyment of a different sort came between the hours of 3pm and 6:30pm. I can pretty much say I doubt I’ve had a combined 3.5 hours of fun in my last one week in Egypt! Also what is coming up has always been something I’d always wanted to do since in my late teens and perhaps we’ll find its something you’ve wanted to do too, or perhaps you already have. That is, to take a cruise down the Nile.
Now I get the appeal of making this a romanticised experience too and certainly we saw a couple of more luxurious feluccas with couples ‘dining’ on board, however…
‘100 euros per person that will cost you‘, our skipper announced to us.
When you consider, and I swear on all things holy, that today’s experience cost us individually a sum that you won’t quite believe, well it definitely felt like the bargain of all bargains. Let’s see, for the boat hire and the skipper (obviously), entry to banana island and two rounds of mint tea, it cost us £5 per person. Yes, I really said £5!
Next stop, the islands of bananas. This stop cost us each a whole £1 and we saw a banana forest, two hungry fellas that you’ll see shortly and of course we indulged by eating a large plate’s worth of the said, yellow fruit!
Except, bananas weren’t all that were on offer on banana island.
Meet these hungry fellas being coolly hosed down for us to get a slight reaction from them.
We continued to enjoy our last 30 minutes of sunshine before day and night would slowly start to merge.
Hope you enjoyed the pictures, folks. Honestly, what a magically memorable experience and without doubt, the Nile cruise was most enjoyable experience I’ve had in Egypt so far and for so little money…
If you guys get to enjoy this it’ll probably be on a bigger budget so perhaps you’ll roll with the full cruise and dining option and if you do, I’ll certainly look forward to your pictures too.
Moving on from Luxor:
I was a couple of days into my three days here in Luxor that I started to doubt whether it was worth while me venturing down further south to Aswan, another notable city in Egypt. Visiting here was something I always assumed I would do but the reality of my time in Egypt was giving me serious doubt as to whether this would be worth it. You see, the reality would be another 3-4 hours to get there on train, find further accommodation for a night or two and then head back another 3-4 hours to only be where I started out, in Luxor. And as you may have deduced so far, seldom are things as easy as that in Egypt. There would almost undoubtedly be a drama of sorts on the way. Let’s also not forget I would then still need to get a plan together to move on from Luxor and there weren’t that many options available. Would that mean yet more time on a blasted train!?
Also Tristan had now departed so I’d be doing this two day jaunt on my own and from my time in Egypt so far, I wasn’t sure if the hassle and added expense would be worth it. Besides, it would only be to see another temple although Abu Simblel is said to be also quite spectacular. In saying that, it’s not exactly in Aswan so that’ll have been more expenditure to get there.
By the end of that second day, I had made my executive decision and I did so without regret so I knew it was the right decision here and now. It was time I allowed myself to see what the average tourist does here in Egypt and that was to see commercial, tourist Egypt. To be honest, after ten full-on days experiencing ‘real-Egypt’, I’m not going to lie, the mere thought of some rest and relaxation (akin to how I felt on the Nile), would be just what the Doctor ordered and frankly, I couldn’t wait…
Now there was just the small matter of getting to the edge of land over in the East; a place named Hurghada. Unfortunately Hurghada’s name has been tarnished recently and I do mean recently. As in, two months ago! Who remembers that?
At least it wasn’t tourists targeted. Oh wait…. Tourists attacked in Hurghada
Let’s hope it all goes well here then…