Funny but when I was younger and hasn’t traveled much I thought Luxor was a beach resort town much like Saint-Tropez, it sounded like that, or maybe because it rhyme with the word “luxury”? Until it landed on my travel bucket list.
Much like the capital city of Egypt, it may be full of overcharging merchants – from the smallest convenient stores, to bakeries, to taxis, to caleches, to even the local pharmacy who tore the price tag off the Vitamin C box that I bought to conceal the real cost when I bought one as I started to feel feverish probably from the heat of Aswan the previous days. But that should not hinder any visitor to this place as there are more amazing sights that dot the entire city.
I have an open-jaw air tickets – Cairo to Aswan then getting out Luxot to Cairo – so I have to take a train in between Aswan and Luxor, that was my plan as I’d like to spend a couple of days in Luxor.
When I mentioned to one of the guys at the hotel in Aswan that I’ll be heading to Luxor, he instantly offered to go to the train station the day before my travel. I asked him for a “First Class” seat but he recommended that I take the “Second Class” instead which is cheaper and that there is not much difference anyway. I gave the guy EGP30, the fare is EGP25, an EGP5 is not even enough for a taxi fare back and forth to the station so that was a good courtesy.
|Statue of Ramses II at Luxor Temple.|
I took the train journey to Luxor after four days in the Nubian city of Aswan. Seat at the train is comfortable, spacious, supposed to be airconditioned but I think the AC is low or can't make the whole carriage really cold. There are staff selling food on board, and sometimes there are people who get in and hand you a paper, don't take it unless you're prepared to dole out few pounds for charity, not sure if it's genuine. There was a toilet at the end of the carriage. The trip is about 3 hours or so passing along beautiful green countryside, Nubian village, and mostly along the Nile river and some irrigations. You'll get a moving view of rural life along the way and there were frequent stops at several stations with people getting on and off the train.
|Green countryside as seen from the train.|
|Rural houses as seen from the train.|
Arriving at the Luxor train station after 6:00pm, I avoided the touts right after exiting the train station. Taxi cabs are a pain in the butt in Egypt. As I already have figured out the walking route, with a couple of inquiries from people at shops I found my hotel opposite the Luxor temple.
I‘ve lined up three main sights to explore starting with Luxor Temple which is right across the Nefertiti Hotel where I was staying, Karnak temple which is about less than three kilometers from Luxor Temple and the necropolis valley in the West Bank which may have been an excellent sight but the photography prohibition defeated the excitement for me and travelers who wanted to blog about it.
Both of the temples are worth seeing, mind-boggling I would say, and if you will have to choose either one of them – Don’t. You have to see them both and very possible to explore in one day, just don't include the Valley of the Kings and Queens in a day tour as it won't be possible. The vast necropolis valley deserves a separate full-day tour.
|Entrance to Karnak.|
After exploring the two temples, I even had ample time to wander around the souk, meandering the busy market from the souvenir bazaar near the hotel up to the busy dusty poultry and vegetable area where the market terminated on a highway bridge. There are veiled women selling those poor pigeons along the streets, not a pretty sight seeing those wounded creatures but it’s a popular delicacy served in some restaurants and a bit costly, I tried once, but didn’t find it really palatable. Had some chat with locals selling bread on the street – primary or high schoolers – who want to polish their knowledge of the English language and I’m not even a native speaker but it was fun nonetheless.
I had a bit of time in the late afternoon before the night fall, I took the ferry to the West Bank. I could see Luxor Temple from the other side while watching several boats and feluccas mooring along the Nile river. Be careful though as a lot of people hanging around the ferry bank have a business or two to sell.
|Luxot Temple as seen from the West Bank.|
I’ve met a guy who offered his private tour to the necropolis valley, a tough negotiator (he and me), I ended up with EGP40 which I scheduled for the next day. The price wasn't that bad, the only trouble is that his car is an old peugeot that doesn't have an airconditioning and it was unbearably humid in Luxor.
|Valley of the Kings at the West Bank.|
The following morning, they driver was there waiting for me as I embarked from the ferry from the east to the west bank. The tour was practically a transport service, he dropped me to the sights – VOK, Temple of Hapshepsut, Medinet Habu and the Colossi of Memnon – waited outside the entrances, and drove me back to the ferry landing. He said his name was Ahmed Nubi, though I doubt that was a generic name, or may be not because he gave me his mobile number so I could may be recommend him? Unfortunately my phone got screwed, and all the data on its memory were deleted when I reached Istanbul. Even the number of that old driver of the taxi who I considered to be the nicest person I've met in Luxor and who picked me up at the hotel at 4:30am for the airport for my flight to Cairo at EGP30. I think that was a real bargain.
The ancient city of Thebes with its breathtaking two temple complexes, the royal necropolis on the west bank, and the beautiful Nile – Luxor is the place that brought me a lot of excitements and perhaps the best place I've seen in Egypt in terms of incredible sights to behold, even beating Cairo’s pyramid, at least for me plus the atmosphere is a little laid back compared to the capital city. This place has a lot to boast about, not the regular stuff that one can see anywhere else but impressive and massive historical artifacts.