Thursday, March 29, 2012

Luxor, Egypt 3/2 - 3/5

After reenergizing in Abu Simbel we flew to Luxor, where we were immediately swarmed with pushy taxi drivers. Luxor is one of the major attractions that draw tourists to Egypt. It's also the start of many Nile cruises. Needless to say, this city was swarming with tourists (many from European countries) and people trying to sell you something.

Armed with a list of places to see, we hired a guide and driver through our hotel and set off to explore as much as possible.

See a closer view of our interactive map.
Many of Luxor's highlights are located on the west side of the Nile, where the sun sets on the necropolis dedicated for temples of the deceased. Our first stop was the Valley of the Kings; the burial site of many pharaohs of Egypt's New Kingdom. This is where the famous King Tut's tomb was discovered. We then saw the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. The temple once had a lush exotic garden and portraits of the Queen depicting herself as a male Pharaoh with royal headdress, kilt and false beard. We also visited the great Temple of Medinet Habu. Lastly, we saw the rarely visited Valley of the Nobles, which is the burial site for the high officials of Egypt.

Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut.
Our guide knew much about history but not about taking pictures.
Queen Hatshepsut and Queen Laure.
Temple of Medinet Habu.
Ditched the crowds of tourists to check out the Valley of the Nobles.
Wall paintings were well preserved at the Valley of the Nobles
where they were long buried underground.
Since the sun rises to the east, this side of the Nile is for the temples of the living. Our guide first took us to Karnak Temple. Before the Nile was dammed, this temple was once connected to the Nile River. Multiple rulers made additions to the temple. Some parts were left unfinished and gave archeologists clues explaining ancient Egyptians' construction techniques. Karnak Temple was connected to Luxor Temple by a street called dromos which was lined with Spinxs on both sides. Today, much of the street is still being excavated. Our guide spent a fair amount of time breaking down the hieroglyphs and explaining the stories etched and painted into the walls and columns. He also bought us to the Luxor Museum and explained the highlights on display.

Laure with our guide at the entrance to Karnak Temple which connected to the Nile.
Column abandoned while under construction.
Q decided to finish up the job.

Dromos connecting Karnak and Luxor Temple.
The god of fertility's penis turned black after being touched throughout the ages.
Q claims to have abstained from touching it.
We spent the afternoon and evening exploring Luxor on our own. We walked around the city and along a newly renovated river front, checked out the bazaar, had dinner at a Lonely Planet reccommended restaurant, and checked out Karnak Temple's Sound and Light Show. The Karnak Sound and Light show was relatively interactive compared to other shows we saw in Egypt. We were led as a group through the temple as projected images and audio explained the temple's history.

Luxor's new Nile promenade.
Luxor's Bazaar.
Sound and Light show at Karnak Temple
Although Luxor is filled with western hotels on the east bank, we decided to get off the beaten path and stay at a small independent hotel named Desert Paradise Lodge located on the west bank. The owner (originally from the area) worked with a Swiss expat to create a western friendly atmosphere while preserving the local architecture.

Courtyard of the Desert Paradise Lodge
Breakfast at the Hotel. Best omelet in Egypt.
Dinner at the Desert Paradise Lodge
Outdoor hallway to our room
Swiss expat lives next door to the hotel with her pets donkeys, chickens, rabbits, and cats.