Luxor – Not just a cheesy hotel in Vegas

After our inspiring trip to the desert, we were dropped off at a kitschy little hotel (the “Tutotel”
) in Luxor. Luxor is about 600 Km south of Cairo on the Nile river. It is famous for it’s archaeological sites: massive temples and tombs built during the time of the Pharoahs.
Luxor has the dubious honor of being the “Hassle Capital of Egypt” according to our Lonely Planet Guide. It warned of their being more touts here than anywhere else in the country, and they were right. But, fortunately, our experience in Cairo had taught us how to deal with them it got to be fun saying “La, Shukran” (“No, Thank you”) with a raised hand as we walked down the street. Dave even got to use “Imshee” (“Go Away”) on a few occasions. In some ways Luxor was easier than Cairo – the touts were much more obvious in their approach, so it was simple to identify them. It did not detract from our experience of the city.
The first morning Dave went down to the Luxor Temple at daybreak to buy tickets.
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On the way he walked by the original Luxor Hotel:
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Once everyone was up and about we all headed down to the Temple, which was a short taxi ride away. Dave takes great pride in getting the lowest possible fare for a taxi now, using various antics he learned from Nader back in Alexandrya. The whole family now knows to immediately walk away from the taxi once they name the starting fare – which drives the price down. Anna has even gotten savvy: she used to cry when we walked away while bargaining with horse carriages (which she loves to ride) but now she knows it is just part of the game we have to play and she turns her back just as quickly as the rest of us.
Luxor temple is right in the center of town and is impressive in it’s proportions. A massive obelisk stands in front of the temple with winged baboons decorating the base.
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(hey, can someone patch those last two photos into a panorama for us?)
There are two huge seated statues of Ramses II around the entrance (A tour of Luxor demonstrates that Ramses II’s ego was perhaps larger than these effigies). It is amazing the scale of everything in Luxor: your neck gets tired from looking up all the time.
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Hieroglyphs and murals adorn every surface of the temple.
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And there is even Greek “graffiti” from tourists of a bygone age.
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The main hall has enormous pillars and statues.
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There is also evidence of the reconstruction during the Greco-Roman Period.
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Caleb had been doing some reading about hieroglyphics and was excited to decode some of the writings on the walls.
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Because we had gotten and early start we managed to avoid the crowds and at times we felt like we had the place to ourselves. It was wonderful to imagine what this place must have been like when it was constructed – brightly painted hieroglyphs, silver, gold and electrum plating and massive enclosed spaces. Even today the splendor of the temple is inspiring – there is very little we construct today that will last for 35 centuries and retain this sort of grandeur.
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When we got back to the room of the Tutotel we were treated again to that famous Egyptian humor and hospitality. Opening the door to our room we were confronted by this alligator, which actually made Meta jump.
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It was made of a rolled-up bed-cover and towels. The other towels were on one of the beds.
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For all the flash and tourism of Luxor’s main drags, you can still find back streets that remain Egyptian.
Shoeing a horse in LuxorSpice Shop in LuxorStreet scene in Luxor
Later that day we visited the magnificent Luxor Museum. It was a fraction of the size of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but was designed and architected to display its treasures much more elegantly.
Statue at the Luxor Museum
Day two was off to Karnak – the sister temple to Luxor located 3 Kms to the north. There is a famous “Avenue of the Sphinxes” at Luxor Temple:
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It used to stretch all the way between these two temples!
Karnak takes Luxor’s scale and doubles it. It was difficult to capture its size in just one frame.
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A 90’obelisk is the tallest in Egypt:
Obelisk at Karnak
And once again the hieroglyphs are everywhere.
Karnak Heiroglyphics
Karnak was jammed with tourists on buses (mostly Europeans) which really detracted from our experience there.
Crowds at Karnak
The Nile separates Luxor into two halves: so far we had been on the East Bank which had most of the temples (and most of the hassles). The west Bank borders the desert and contains many burial sites, including The Valley of the Kings, famous as the location of Tut’s treasures.
We decided to move to a new hotel on the West Bank for our last night in Luxor to enjoy a more peaceful and genuine experience. The only sights we saw on the West Bank were the ruined “Collosi of Mnemnon” that are next to the road.
Colossi of Mnemnon
We stayed in a beautiful hotel right near the edge of the desert (the Nour El Balad Hotel). It was designed like a traditional Egyptian home and the owner lived right next door.
Nour el Balad in Luxor's West BankNour el Balad in Luxor's West BankNour el Balad in Luxor's West BankNour el Balad in Luxor's West Bank
The area around the hotel was agricultural and Anna got to play in the fields with the local kids.
Picking wheat in Luxor
They also showed us the farm animals.
Horse ride in LuxorSheep in LuxorAlbino BunnyRunning with SheeptMoo!Kid chasing donkey in Luxor
kids were playing soccer out in the desert
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until Caleb put on a magic show for them.
Magic for the kids in Luxor
After a delicious breakfast the next morning we made our way across the Nile
Crossing the Nile in Luxor by Boat
to catch a bus to the town of Safaga on the Red Sea, where we would spend the next few days relaxing by the water before returning to Cairo.

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