After the first rounds of goodbye to Likhith and Karthik last night, I noticed that Mihaela is already crying realizing that the trip is halfway over:
Wrapping up 2 days in Aswan, we planned to set out this morning on a 7:30am train to Luxor, arriving at 10:30am in the morn ng. Since it was an ordinary passenger train and not a sleeper, we planned to buy tickets on the car. However, we were informed the night before by both the train station personnel and our hostel owner El-Amin that the train car had been oddly sold out.
Not to fear though, an even better plan emerged out of this trip hiccup: we would be provided 2 private vans to take us to Luxor, picking us up and dropping us off at our leisure.
So we woke up to a wonderful breakfast on the balcony overlooking the Nile.
After breakfast at 8:30am, we crossed the ferry over to our vans waiting for us on the East Bank.
Hopping in our vans, we nearly had an uneventful 3 hour drive to Luxor until 2 random men jumped in, claiming to be our “travel agents” and pushing us to book tours with them.
But we saw through their smokescreen from the very beginning, so we collectively trolled them by pretending to be interested, driving them all the way to the West Bank of Luxor, before telling them everything was booked and then asking why they were there. They promptly sulked and walked away: Mission Failed!
We then settled in our lodgings at Luxor Guesthouse with its fantastic owner, Ahmed. What a vibe:
After freshening up, Ahmed arranged us a private ferry right outside his guesthouse to take us over to the East Bank . . .
. . . and we headed out for Karnak Temple (120 EGP), an open-air museum and the largest temple of the ancient world. They shut their doors at 5:30pm so by the time we got there at 4:31pm, the ticket office initially refused to sell us anymore and let us in.
. . . But I charmed them with a 200 EGP bribe to let us in, and with a 50% discount as we had our student IDs. WINNING.
One of my favorite profile pictures was taken 10 years ago here on a timer:
But now I don’t need a timer. I have friends to take one for me:
… I remember the time it got served 10 years ago:
And on Grace’s insistence, I serve it again 10 years later:
How about a side by side comparison:
Still got it!
It’s good to be back. Other people also got the idea:
After Karnak Temple closed down at 5:30pm, we took our ferry 10 minutes down the Nile towards Luxor Temple. I was able to snag a VIP section above from all the tourists on an elevated and underutilized platform.
Then I took them down to the real thing —
I remember writing 10 years ago: “This is the first time my jaw ever dropped.”
The same holds true today:
After about an hour here, we then hopped back on our ferry towards our guesthouse on the West Bank, where we had dinner and toasted our sorrowful goodbyes to Neerharika and Andrena.
Then we danced it up with the guesthouse staff in our party room on the balcony!
The next morning, thanks to Ahmed, all of us booked the famous sunrise hot air balloon tour over Luxor at 6am:
This would be a first for me! I had attempted to get on a hot air balloon 8 years ago in Cappadocia, but alas the whole thing got rained out then.
After 50 minutes in the air, we returned back to Ahmed’s guesthouse where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast on the balcony at 8:30am.
Then to make things even better for the day, Ahmed himself offered to take us on one of the best tours of the trip so far, while driving us all around the West Bank — the Theban Necropolis used for ritual burials for much of the Pharaonic period, especially during the New Kingdom.
There are so many but instead of a single convenient ticket, you’ll have to buy tickets for each temple.
I have to mention I endured a lot of bargaining today trying to get a 50% discount with our student IDs, with partial success.
Halfway through, Ahmed took us to a much needed tea break at an alabaster shop where they let us chop stone for free over some complimentary tea and coffee.
As for the West Bank itself, there are countless temples and if you had to choose, we recommend seeing the following in order:
Colossi of Memnon, which are 2 massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. I recommend it because they’re both free admission.
Valley of the Queens, home to Nefertari and the Great Wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Often referred as the Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt, it is restricted to private tours of 20 people max and costs a pretty penny at LE1,200 (with a max viewing time of 10 min). No discounts for students.
Valley of the Kings, the burial place of most of the pharaohs of Egypt of the New Kingdom:
Your ticket (250 EGP) to the Valley of the Kings gains you access to 3 temples with extra charges for places like King Tut’s tomb (now essentially empty after everything was moved to the Egyptian museum). If you had to choose, our favorites were Ramses III, IV, and IX.
Try to find the inexplicable carving of the kangaroo in Ramses III!!!
Temple of Hatshepsut, One of the more impressive sights on the West Bank:
Ahmed’s and our personal favorite, Medinet Habu, a temple built by Ramses III:
Ramesseum: The fallen colossal statue of the pharaoh that inspired the sonnet Ozymandias by Shelley.
Deir el Medina, originally called Set Maat (the Place of Truth), the village was built to house the workforce of literate priest-craftsmen for the Royal Tombs.
The abundant domestic and written remains here make it the very best-studied Ancient Egypt community to date.
At this point we were all getting really templed out (this crew lasted up to 4), as expected, so we returned in the evening for a much needed lunch and shisha before catching our 8:10pm Watania overnight train back to Cairo.
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- At time of posting in Luxor, Egypt, it was 19 °C - Humidity: 54% | Wind Speed: 5km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear