Travel Journal

Luxor

(Tuesday 11 January 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 133-34 – 12/15-12/16/10
We arrived at Luxor and made our way to a hotel which we thought would be good but it was rather filthy and they wouldn’t honor certain bonuses they had posted on their website. We checked out the Venus Hotel which was nearby and despite the name and exterior turned out to be quite good so we got a room there. The owner gave me his spiel to sell a day tour of the west bank for 80 EP each but we declined as I had made up my mind we would do it alone on bicycle. The hotel had a gopher named Jimmy who was real friendly and most of the time helpful he offered to get us bicycles for 30 EP each which seemed high so we also declined that and later ran into an Australian who told us where we could get them for 15 EP each.
The next morning we got the public ferry to cross the Nile and brushed off a couple people trying to rent bikes at 50 EP and offering a car tour of the area. We got the bikes and cycled to the Colossi of Memnon and stopped for photos. Julie remarked that one of the statues looked like the creature from Predator which struck me as amusing.
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We stopped further on at the ticket office and had to determine what we were going to see as prices here are rather expensive and we would not have time to see everything in one day. We decided to see Medinat Habu and I am glad we did. The temple complex is very large and we spent over an hour exploring the site with its many statues, colorful pillars, and temple rooms. I’m guessing that the colors we are seeing are original rather than restoration as they exist only on the sections not exposed to the elements but Julie believes them to be recent.[[
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We decided to give the Valley of the Queens a miss and went to the Valley of the Kings. There is no way we could have made this on foot because of the distances involved. It also would have been hard in the summer heat to cycle but this time of year was mild so we got there easily despite the upward slope over and then down into the valley. The guard made us leave the bikes outside the gate so we locked them up and went into the parking lot noticing signs that said leave your camera in your bus or taxi. Obviously since we had neither it didn’t apply to us, right! At the visitor center a youth showed us the computer and helped us pick out the three tombs we would visit on the general ticket for pound bakeesh. We eschewed the Disneyland like trolley that takes you the 500 meters to the main entrance and walked it. I took one picture of Julie in the valley and ignored the lone shout of “no photos” – surely you could take a picture outside but not in the tombs, right?
The three tombs we decided on where Rameses IV, Twosret /Sethnarkt, and Thutmase III. They were each different and so I think we got a good sample of different styles. They are extremely strict on preventing photos. A guard saw Julie’s camera in her hand as she was moving it from her jacket to her backpack and confiscated it. When we finished with the tomb he only returned it when we proved there wasn’t a photo in there. He warned us there was a 1000 EP penalty for taking photo in the tomb. In the last tomb, a guard refused to return a camera to a couple of women and last we saw he was taking them to see the police. I took another shot of Julie outside the tomb and was told that no photos were allowed at all in the valley even outside the tombs so I just smiled and nodded. The two popular tombs, Tutankhamen and Ramses VI, are separate entry costs with good old King Tut being almost $20 which seemed steep to me as I saw the diagrams at the Cairo Museum and the burial chamber is rather small.
We got back to the bikes and I asked directions to Hatshepsut another site we considered going. After getting general directions from the guard and declining his request for bakeesh, we rode on arriving at the base and realized there was a considerable climb involved to reach it. We decided to skip it and honored the signs that said it was forbidden to take panoramic pictures of the structure without a ticket. We decided to call it a day and returned the bicycle and went back to the hotel.
We checked out the next morning and left our backpacks at the hotel. We had decided to skip the Luxor Museum which the guidebook didn’t really have anything good to say and the entrance was 80 EP and went to the Luxor Temple. First we took a walk down the Avenue of the Sphinxes which I believe ran from the temple all the way to Karnak. The temple has massive pillars and gigantic statues and the relief inside are colorful and take up every inch of the walls. When the Romans took control of this region, they built walls around the temple to use it as a fortress as well as a catholic church. Later as it came under Islam control, a mosque was built inside the walls. The open air museum has a bit of the history of the temple but it’s just really a lot of rocks lined up outside the temple walls.
We decided to splurge and took a horse carriage to Karnak from the temple although it was only 10EP and made for a good photo op. Karnak is a massive complex and to be honest I’m not sure we didn’t miss a couple of areas. The Great Hippostyle Hall is the most impressive with its hundreds of columns. I suppose the massive size of the hall required so many pillars to support the roof at such a height that there wasn’t very much usable floor space left. Like Luxor temple, every inch of the walls and pillars were covered with colorful hieroglyphics and pictures. There were many temples within the complex as well as a sacred pool. The visitor center also has some good photos and descriptions of how the restoration was done.
We took a microbus back to the hotel and a very nice man paid for our fare back. We stocked up for the train trip back to Egypt and just hanged around the hotel catching up on the journal and doing some reading before we got on the 9:15 PM train.

 


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