Luxor Things to Do Tips by JulesH
Luxor Things to Do: 879 reviews and 1,821 photos
Watching the world go by at El Kababgy
Our final day in Luxor. Tomorrow we fly to Cairo for a stay in an Oasis and desert trek and we really weren't sure what to expect from that. We checked if we could use the hotels internet to access and print the itinerary we'd been sent, but were told that the hotel rate was expensive so we'd be better off finding an internet cafe in town. So we set off on a mini adventure through the streets behind Luxor Temple in search of an internet cafe, avoiding constant offers of 'caleche' and 'taxi' with a polite but firm 'no', a smile and refusal to slow down or break step. This seems to be the best way to deal with the hassle that is as ever present as flies around camels, and just as annoying.
We eventually found as internet cafe on the corner of a broken down street just past the souk, and managed to print out the trek information we needed for the next leg of the trip. It cost us 5LE to access, but a further 15LE to print! After the internet cafe we took a brief detour through the souk on our way to the Egyptian Museum. The souk was another bustling place full of hassle and vendors trying to thrust things you don't want into your hands. We weren't in the market for anything today though, so on to the museum.
On exiting the souk we encountered a man who insisted on showing us the way and indignantly insisted that wouldn't ask a penny for his help. He just wanted to make sure we were safe. He didn't seem to care that we knew where we were going and didn't ask for his help. When we came to the end of the street we turned the opposite way to his suggestion. He stopped and held his hand out for payment. We just walked off. This goes against everything British in us, but we've eventually learned that it's the only way if we're short on time or money. Engaging chancers like this isn't dangerous, and may bring an interesting day, but they will take a good deal of both these resources.
On arriving at Luxor museum, we found it to be a modern museum, but the street was in the middle of extensive renovation so we had to walk over a ricketty plank balanced over a ditch to reach the entrance. It seemed a bit pricey for what it was at LE800 each. The exhibits were sparce and minimalistic, mainly archaelogical finds, but well displayed. There were also some mummified remains on display in a darkened room with no photography allowed. It really is an astonishing thought to realise that what you are looking at are the remains of a real person from thousands of years ago. It brings a bit of a lump to my throat to look at them up close.
The museum of mummification was a single room with various sorts of mummy (fish, cats etc.) and it is here they tell us that despite the modern techniques at our disposal, scientists still have no idea exactly how the mummification process works. It took only about 20 minutes to do the whole museum. We didn't think it was worth the LE500 entrance fee, as it was a bit unimaginatively laid out and not very informative.
Next, back to El Kababgy for a meat feast and some Nile watching. It was early November and the start of the tourist season so long trails of feluccas were being towed into the harbour to meet the anticipated demand. We spent a lazy afternoon followed by an evening dinner at the Chinese restaurant at the hotel. Our flight to Cairo was at 5.30am the next morning, so we spent a little time on the balcony before turning in for the last night.
I genuinely will miss Luxor.
Luxor temple by night
We had a brief rest after we returned from the balloon flight and at lunchtime we headed down to the Metropolitan Cafe, otherwise known as El Kababgy overlooking the harbour. If you like good reasonably priced kebabs, they do a pretty mean one. Maybe steer clear of the pasta though, unless you like it mushy.
We moved on to visit Luxor and the mummification museums after lunch, but hadn't realised that they would be closed until 4pm. We had a drink in a bar at the far end of the town but didn't feel like waiting around, as it was way too hot, so we wandered slowly back to the hotel for a shower and to wait for sunset as we planned to see Luxor Temple by night. It was a stunning and romantic sight by night, but we thought it looked a bit more ordinary by day. It was just as we'd hoped so we weren't disappointed. As long as we politely declined all offers of guides and people showing us stuff they then wanted money for, the evening heat was balmy and exotic as we wandered around the columns and pillars on our own. A lovely experience.
Balloons before sunrise
We thought yesterday was an early start? Today we had a 4am start to reach the balloon launch site in time for sunrise. The planning was a bit disjointed, with us being shunted from one group of tourists to another with each change of transport: bus, boat, van. I had the impression that the "good deal" we had been given on the balloon flight was because it had been full and they were just cramming us in. This impression became firmer as we arrived at the launch site and all the balloon baskets were apparently full. We managed to squeeze in together...just! However, just as we were practising our emergency landing drill (crouch - if you can) we were hauled back out of that basket and told to get into another one where there had been a "cancellation". Unlikely. This basket was even more crowded and Rob and I couldn't even stand together. Disappointingly we ended up at opposite ends of the basket where we couldn't even see each other, let alone share the experience. It was a spectacular sight as we climbed to a height of 1900 feet (or was it metres?) Despite the disappointment it was well worth it for astonishing views. It helped that we had seen the West Bank at ground level so we had an idea what we were looking at.
Despite the fact that we knew before we arrived that we would have to haggle hard for everything and agree a price in advance, we still managed to fall foul of this on our first full day. It was our own bad planning that caused the problem. We tried to walk to Karnak temple without consulting a map or having any real idea where we were going. Naturally we took a wrong turn as the mid morning heat started to kick in, and, sensing we were close, we flagged down a passing caleche (horse drawn carriage) and negotiated a price to Karnak of 15 LE, which was about £1.50. Sounds great, we thought! However, when we got to Karnak the driver Ali, cab 334, refused to take any money and said he'd wait and pick us up when we came out. No amount of telling him no would work, so we went inside the temple to look around, taking our time and hoping he'd be gone by the time we came out. Big mistake. At that point we'd completely lost our ability to negotiate.
We enjoyed looking around the temple at Karnak, but when we came out he was there waiting, and this time told us he'd take us to eat. It was a rather dull looking backstreet restaurant, empty of all clients where we were served a rather bland tagine charged at what I can only describe as tourist prices. Next we were whisked off to a papyrus factory and a clothes shop. We parted with money in both places for things we didn't really want or need. After this we said we wanted to go back to the hotel thinking that enough was enough. However, when we got to the hotel, Ali decided that we should take a felucca ride. We'd been so close to escaping, but now we'd agreed to more! More friends were roped in to assist with the boat ride, then finally we were taken to a brick built shed with no roof where Egyptian mint tea was brewed up for us as we sat on upended buckets. I couldn't work out if this had been a good day or not!
It ended with a blazing row as he charged us over £100 for the day, which we hadn't planned to spend. We managed to negotiate him down to just under £100, but he wouldn't take any less. Rob drew cash out of the bank machine whilst I waited in the caleche, but I finally lost my temper when Ali held up a 10 LE note he said I had given him instead of a 100 LE note. I had never been in possession of a 10 LE note. the cash machines don't dispense them. I shouted at him as a policeman approached...strangely he backed right down at that point! In hindsight, it was an expensive day, but full of adventure and I wouldn't change it for anything.
Queen Hatshepsut's temple
Woke up early this morning as we planned to travel to the West Bank. At 6.30am we could see the balloon flights floating up over the hills. That would be us tomorrow. We'd negotiated a trip with the hotel. But today, it was a chance to explore the tombs at ground level. Our guide, Mohammed, introduced us to our fellow tourist, also called Rob, who was from Virginia. Mohammed was a seemingly knowledgeable Egyptologist whose family hails from the West Bank and whose father was a personal friend of Howard Carter. I'm not sure how much of that is actual truth, but it made for an entertaining story on the journey. First stop was Deir Al Bahari, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. The Queen who imprisoned her stepson and ruled Egypt as a man. It was quite a good Mohammed had. He told us all the historical facts before allowing us to wander round on our own. Far better than pointing out things to us as we went along.
Next we visited an Egyptian village selling handmade alabaster pots and suchlike. They only started working on their pots when we arrived though, so they probably have a factory out the back. Next we stopped briefly at Howard Carter's house before moving on to the Valley of the Kings. Mohammed recommended that we paid the extra 100LE to see the tomb of Tutankhamun, and I'm glad we did because the mummy was there on display in the first chamber. The tomb itself was tiny and not beautifully decorated, but to see the actual blackened mummified remains of King Tut was pretty special and humbling. We visited 3 other tombs whilst we were there including Rameses III and IV as you can't go indescriminately into all of them. Your ticket only coveres 3 of the tombs which are open on any given day. These are rotated daily. 11 were open the day we went, and no photography was allowed inside. Lucky as they were all incredibly hot and claustrophobic. Time in the tomb is limited to 10 minutes as human breath affects the delicate paintwork.
After the Valley of the Kings we headed back. We didn't visit the Valley of the Queens as the tomb of Nefertari was closed, but we did look around the Deir al Medina, the artisan tombs. These tombs are much smaller in size, and really claustrophobic, but as you would expect of an artisans tomb, beautifully decorated. It's an experience I'm glad I didn't miss.
View from Iberotel Luxor
When we landed in Luxor our first impression was of how welcoming the Egyptian people were. The excitement at landing among the ground staff and firecrews, who cheered and sprayed the plane with water was palpable. Then it occured to us that this was the inaugural Easyjet flight to this location. A cause for celebration indeed! We were given a rose as we disembarked and a glass of fresh squeezed juice as we collected our bags. I wish all flights could be welcomed this way. It made 5 hours with Easyjet worthwhile at least! ;) The warm welcome continued as we met our driver, Gava to drive to our Hotel, the Iberotel in Luxor. The drive however was interesting. Lane markings: optional. Use of horn and flashing headlights: indescriminate! But Luxor itself was breathtaking in its splendor. I had no idea that Luxor Temple stood actually in the middle of the town, gloriously spotlit like a beacon. Only just past the temple, our hotel stood right on the banks of the Nile. The view from our balcony looked good, even in the dark. We could make out the tombs and Queen Hatshepsuts temple again, all lit up, but in the morning it was even more stunning!
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