West Bank of Luxor, Egypt – July 6th

The train arrived in Luxor at about 6 o’clock this morning. We were told it would arrive at 5 o’clock, so we had been up since about 4 o’clock. It was a little difficult to sleep on the train because it bounced around, but overall, it was a neat way to travel. 

Sleeper train #86

When we arrived, we walked to our hostel which was only a short distance away. We met the owners and negotiated a couple of deals for sight-seeing tours. There are two banks in Luxor, the East Bank and the West Bank. Our plan was to do the West Bank today and the East Bank tomorrow. After dropping off our stuff in our room, we headed out at 8 o’clock with our tour guide, Peter. We crossed the Nile to the West Bank and headed out to the temples.

The Nile in Luxor

First we went to Habu Temple which is said to be the greatest outdoor temple of all time. Peter told us it was named after the architect Habu who was commissioned by Ramses III, the last of the Great Kings. The temple was impressive. It had huge stone columns with every inch of them covered in hieroglyphics. One of the guards opened up one of the gates for us to climb some stairs and get a “panoramic” view, for a small tip of course. 

Panoramic view of Habu Temple
Habu Temple

Next we visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. In order to help us pronounce the name, Peter told us to just say “Hot Chicken Soup” fast. Peter also have us a little history on the temple. He told us that this temple was unique in that it was 3 stories. However, he did say that there had been a 3 story building there 300 years prior which the idea was stolen from.

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
“Forbidden” picture taken by a temple worker of a closed off area, for a fee.

After the Queen’s Temple, we headed to the Valley of the Kings, but we made a pit stop at an Alabaster store which was the business of one of Peter’s friends. They showed us a demonstration of how the alabaster was made into pots and figurines and then showed us into a store to buy things. This part was a little strange and made us feel uncomfortable for not buying anything, but there was no way we were going to lug around alabaster pots in our backpacks for the next 2 months. 

Jay making alabaster

After this unusual stop, we headed to the Valley of the Kings. We had asked Peter that morning if we could do this one last to try to avoid the tour bus crowds. And it seemed to work. This is not the tourist high season because it’s so hot, but it’s still nice to not have to wrestle the crowds. At the Valley of the Kings, we got our tickets and hopped on a trolley to take us up to the entrance. On the way up the hill, Jay’s ticket flew out of his hand. He needed the ticket to get into any of the tombs, so he jumped off the trolly to get it. All the while, Peter was pounding on the side of the trolly trying to get the driver’s attention to stop. Jay grabbed his ticket and started running after the trolly. The driver finally heard Peter and stopped and Jay was able to hop back on. It was a funny start to the tour.  

Jay running after the trolly after losing his ticket.

Our tickets for the Valley of the Kings let us go into 3 of the tombs of our choosing. There were only about 7 tombs open, so we asked Peter which ones would be the best and he gave us his advice. 

Valley of the Kings

The first tomb we saw was Ramses IV. His tomb was the most colorful. It stated our with a long corridor covered in hieroglyphics and painted with blues, greens, and reds. It ended with a giant stone sarcophagus which was cool to see. Of course all of the riches had either been taken to a museum or pillaged by previous civilizations, but it was still ornate and impressive to see. 

The next tomb we saw was Ramses IX. His tomb was similar to the first one, but didn’t have the giant sarcophagus and the colors weren’t as bright. 

The last tomb was the most impressive. It was the tomb of Merenptah who was the son of Ramses II. This tomb was 160 meters down and had 3 different sarcophaguses. It was the most ornate of the 3 we saw. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in any of the tombs without paying extra money for a photo ticket, so unfortunately, I can’t show you those. 

You also had to pay extra to see King Tutankhamen’s tomb and Peter told us it was overrated. None of his riches or sarcophaguses remain in the tomb and it is otherwise very similar to the ones we saw. King Ramses II, the Great King’s tomb, had been closed for many years after the roof caved in and damaged many of the artifacts. 

After finishing our three tombs, we walked around the complex for a short time looking at the various other tomb entrances and the magnificent natural stone walls into which the Valley of the Kings was carved. 

We left the Valley of the Kings and headed to see the Colossi of Memnon which are two large stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. The statues were meant to stand guard over Amenhotep’s memorial temple complex which was the largest and most opulent in Egypt at the time, but is no longer standing. 

Colossi of Memnon

We ended our tour with lunch. We were supposed to go to a buffet which all the tourist go to, but Jay asked Peter to take us to a more local restaurant. We went to a place called Africa. It had a rooftop terrace that overlooked the Nile and was very nice. We chatted with Peter about the history of Luxor and then got dropped off back at the hostel. 

Lunch at Africa
View of the Nile from the restaurant

We took a break in the afternoon at the hostel, and in the evening we had the most ridiculous experience of the trip. I will tell you the story of how we got swindled by an Egyptian in the next post.

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