Luxor (29 July – 2 August 2008)
The Hotel Oasis was the cheapest place we stayed at in all of Egypt, only 35 Egyptian Pound (R50) per night, including a breakfast of bread, cheese, pancakes, tea, fruit and Cornflakes (yummy!!!). And the hotel definitely made up for Luxor city, a noisy, dirty place with the most horrible of all Egyptian men.
After the long day of temples and a hot minibus ride (and terrible driver) we did not move from our hotel’s aircon room. Some days later, one of the staff noted that they noticed we did not leave the room on the first day and wondered if we were okay :)
My temper was really pushed to the limits the first time we set foot out of the hotel. The Luxor men are an awful species! Even though I was walking next to Eon, with a fake wedding ring as extra protection, the men still made hideous remarks. They proclaimed their everlasting love to me and if I did not respond the banter would turn ugly into sexual remarks and suggestions. I tried all sorts of things to prevent this: dress conservatively, wear a false wedding ring, avoid eye-contact and keep Eon very close by. Nothing seemed to work, but I found that when I wore shorts (my idea of shorts is only just above the knee) the harassment was a bit less. We think they might be embarrassed to be looking at a woman who exposes her knees, thinking: “how embarrassing!”
Besides the harassment, there were the relentless horse carts! They would just not take no for an answer. After following us for about 200 meters, one horse cart driver said he’ll drive us around for free as long as we go to the market with him (the whole commission thing again!). They just do not seem to understand that sometimes we really just want to walk.
Luxor has two main attractions: the Karnak temple on the East Bank and the Valleys of the Kings and Queens on the West Bank. Due to the extreme heat we decided to cover the sights over a number of days, starting with the Karnak temple before sunrise. We took a minibus to the temple, and on arrival, we thought that maybe the driver dropped us a t the wrong place. The temple was deserted…we were the only ones there! We had a great time walking around this massive and extraordinary complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks. Karnak use to be the most important place of worship during the New Kingdom. In total, the sight covers over 2 square km and was built by more than 81 000 workers nearly 2000 BC. Inside is a hypostyle hall, covering 5500sq metres – Enough space to contain both Rome’s St Peter’s and London’s St Paul’s.
It was a mystical experience walking around the deserted temple while the sun rose over the ruins, casting reddish light on the hieroglyphics on the pillars and walls. The tourist busses only arrived by 9:00, when we made our way to the exit. It was a relaxing morning – no heat, no tourists, and no touts.
The sights on the West Bank were more scattered and we needed to either rent a taxi for the day or go with a group. We settled on the latter as it was cheaper than a private taxi and also included an English speaking guide. We arrived at the Valley of the Kings – a landscape with barren hills where the ancient pharaohs and their treasures were buried in spectacular tombs cut from the rock.
We reached the Valley of the Kings around 9:00 and the temperature was already searing. Our guide gave us a quick background to the tombs and we set off to investigate the inside of the first tomb, that of Ramses IV. Although this tomb was a small one (due to the pharaoh’s early untimely death) it was truly impressive. The walls were decorated with coloured carvings and hieroglyphics depicting pieces from the ‘book of death’ to guide the king in his afterlife. The colours are still bright and well preserved after 3500 years – Dulux can learn a thing or two from them!
The next tomb was that of Ramses III and lastly Ramses I. Before entering the tombs, our guide made it very clear that we were not to take any pictures inside the tombs. I tried to sneak in a photo in the last tomb on Eon’s convincing request and as luck would have it, we got aught out. The guard took my camera and told us that if he took it to the police we would have to pay a big fine. I told Eon in Afrikaans to pay the guy some money – bribing is quite a popular source of income in Egypt. But then the guard told us to go get our guide…I nearly had a heart attack – I felt like a scholar walking towards the headmaster’s office. Embarrassed, I told our guide what happened, but she smiled and said not to worry – we just need to pay the guy a little bit of money, about 20 Egyptian Pounds would do. I was so relieved, because I was on the point of paying him 10 times that amount. So I guess he shot himself in the foot by demanding to speak to our guide. And I learnt my lesson – ‘hoofmeisie’ will never attempt a stunt like that again :)
Only 63 Royal tombs have been excavated. No one is sure how many more there are but it’s quite a large number. Sadly all the expensive entrance feed goes to the government and not to any excavation projects. These are funded purely through donations – shame on you Egyptian government!
Next up was the Temple of Hatshepsut – one of the hottest places on earth, and we were there around noon. INSANE!! The temple was quite remarkable with its steep ramp leading to the main building. We tried to dodge the sun as best we could, but when we could no longer stand the heat, we fled to the aircon minibus.
Before heading back to Luxor, we stopped at the Valley of the Queens where we checked out three more tombs. By this time everyone was exhausted – I now know how a wilted flower must feel; well, I certainly looked like one :)
We spent another day or two in Luxor, just leisurely strolling around some of the other temples and watching the sunset over the Nile. It would have been perfect, maybe even romantic, if we could just ignore the countless annoying men!
gallery for Luxor:
|Chantell and the Sheesha|
|Statue of Ramses II – Karnak|
|Great hypostyle hall – Karnak|
|C and the obelisk|
|Great court of Karnak temple|
|Obelisks – Karnak|
|Pharaoh – Karnak|
|Temple of Ptah – Karnak|
|Walk like an Egyptian|
|Tuthmosis III – Karnak|
|Papyrus shaped pillairs|
|Valley of the Kings|
|Hieroglyphics at temple of Hatshepsut|
|Staring at the desert – Hatshepsut|
|3000 year old paint|
|Hatshepsut – one of the hottest places on earth|
|Temple of Hatshepsut|
|Osirid statue – Hatshepsut|
|Eternal life symbol – Hatshepsut|