Luxor

Luxor as seen from a hot air balloon

Authors note: This narrative begins partway through my journey to Egypt after my experience in Cairo. I apologize for being preoccupied with other writing earlier in my trip. If I can ever find the words to express a fraction of the magic and energy that was Tahrir Square and revolutionary Cairo, I’ll be sure to publish them here.

Arriving at 5am by sleeper train in Luxor, we called the Princess Hotel from the guidebook. The French-Egyptian couple that owned the establishment left behind a younger brother to look after the place during their absence in France. He picked us up at the train station. The Princess Hotel, more like a hostel, had a lot of character. The dimly lit entry way led up to staircase with several floors, but only the second floor was fully constructed, while the remaining floors were simply concrete slabs with bits of metal reinforcement poking out of the roof.

Our room consisted of three beds and a bathroom with an arrangement in which the entire bathroom was a drainage basin for the shower. It had bright pink walls and in one of the windows had been blocked off with a leftover cardboard box of Dasani water bottles. This box flew out of the window when we turned on the fan. We may have been the only guests at the hotel.

In front of Hatchepsut Temple

The tour of Luxor, arranged through the hotel, took us in a van along with an Australian couple, two Korean boys on holiday, and a Korean KLM flight attendant. Our guide was a peppy, flirtatious Egyptian woman in her mid-30s. She gave us a tour of the Valley of the Kings, Hatchepsut’s Temple, the Valley of the Queens, and a few other sites on the West bank of the Nile at Luxor.

Hieroglyphic tablets of monkeys

A horse starving in front of the Luxor McDonalds.

The tour left us at Luxor temple. First we wandered into the nearby town to get lunch. Rather than the overpriced recommendation in the guidebook, we opted for a small place on the street that seemed to be crowded with locals. There I had some of the best falafel I’ve ever eaten. Just across the street we also tried a local blend of sugar cane and mango juice, mixed with frozen banana and fruit yoghurt.

Entering Luxor Temple. The Obelisk is the twin to the one they stole for Place de la Concorde in Paris.

After lunch we returned to Luxor temple. We first visited the 14th century mosque, which is built directly into the ancient temple. Luxor Temple was probably my favorite sight because we essentially had the entire complex to ourselves:

A mosque built right into the temple for religious continuity and laziness.

Great statues at Luxor Temple

We then negotiated a cab ride out to the massive Karnak temple complex. Again we shared a temple complex twice the size of St. Peter’s basilica with only a handful of other tourists. Like many of the major sights in Egypt, with tourism post-revolution down to a minimum, we essentially had Karnak to ourselves.

A 3 km road lined with Sphinxes leads to Karnak

The largest obelisk in the world at Karnak Temple

The next morning, the hotel manager convinced us to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride. We crossed the Nile in boats and took a jeeps out to a field filled with deflated balloons. Dozens of enormous balloons were in the process of being filled with flamethrowers.

Fire!

The weather was perfect for a balloon ride and we managed to see everything from the previous day, but flying over from above. I would highly recommend this method of seeing the sights:

Balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings

Another nice view of Luxor

After ballooning, we ordered a quick car ride to catch our faluka docked in Edfu.

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