Written by nofootprint on 09 Feb, 2010
This is high on our list of must sees and we have looked forward to our visit for many years. We soon discover the Valley of the Kings is high on many lists, so much so that cameras are not allowed in the site.…Read More
This is high on our list of must sees and we have looked forward to our visit for many years. We soon discover the Valley of the Kings is high on many lists, so much so that cameras are not allowed in the site. I think this is in an effort to keep the crowds moving more than to protect the ancient hieroglyphics.The very name evokes a sense of dark mystery. There are 63 temples discovered to date with work continuing to uncover more. As you would expect, all of the temples are of Kings with the exception of three. The walls of the temples are in unbelievable shape with the images of the Book of the Dead ,the Book of the Gates and the Book of the Underworld are clearly visible. It is easy to let your imagination run wild and be transported back in time . The Egyptian belief that "To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again" is certainly carried out in the building of the tombs. The king's formal names and titles are inscribed in his tomb along with his images and statues. Beginning with the 18th Dynasty the kings abandoned the Memphis area and the pyramid style tombs and built their tombs in Thebes. Most of the tombs were cut into the limestone .These catacombs were harder to rob and were more easily concealed. As soon as the reign began so did the construction of the tomb. I guess its best to be ready!! We visited only three temples in all . The first was temple 14 – Temple of King SetnakhtSetnakht was the first King of 2oth Dynasty,which was the last of the New Kingdom. Setnakhte's reign was short, perhaps only two or three years and he may have come to the throne fairly late in life. Upon his death, Setnakhte was buried with full royal honors. According to the Papyrus Harris I, "he was rowed in his king's barge upon the river (crossed the Nile to the west bank), and rested in his eternal house west of Thebes". He actually had a "used" tomb as it was originally excavated for Queen Tuosret.The next tomb we visited was Set 11.We believe that Seti may have only reigned for about six years, from about 1199 until 1193 BC. This is an interesting tomb as it is where we first see some change in colour. Black and white are used to change the color hues. Color was obtained by crushing jewels to dust. We also notice many servants in the tomb , all to be used in the afterlife.How I miss my camera. I try my best to content myself with some postcards. Close
Written by jemery on 24 Jun, 2001
It was late. I was tired. I’d spent nearly an hour getting my visa and clearing customs/immigration at the Cairo airport and was looking forward to a quiet night and soothing drink at the Hilton that I’d reserved for a few nights before heading to…Read More
It was late. I was tired. I’d spent nearly an hour getting my visa and clearing customs/immigration at the Cairo airport and was looking forward to a quiet night and soothing drink at the Hilton that I’d reserved for a few nights before heading to Luxor.
Instead, I blundered into the middle of the Egyptian equivalent of a Shriner’s convention --- except that these were real Arabs. Thursday night in Cairo is like Saturday night in the U.S., and this Thursday was apparently an extra-special one. Half the Arab world, it seemed, had gathered in the hotel lobby. Being Muslims, they didn’t drink alcohol but they did smoke hookahs, elaborate pipes filled with water and other substances. (It wasn’t a ‘recreational’ smoke I could recognize.) Whatever they smoked, like America’s pseudo-Arab Shriners, they PARTIED.
The Arab equivalent of a small marching band climbed halfway up the lobby’s grand staircase and launched an impromptu concert. At first I resented the noise, and retreated into an off-lobby cocktail lounge where I could at least partially escape it. But then the band tore into something that --- despite the strange instrumentation --- strongly resembled a New Orleans jazz group doing ‘The Saints.’ I asked the bartender to open the doors, so I could hear better, and decided this was a party I could actually enjoy. After all, I’d done the same sort of ‘barnstorming’ myself years ago in a drum and bugle corps.
By Saturday, they’d all gone back home and I almost missed them. And, I kinda wished I’d asked one of them to let me try his hookah.
It was my first time in a predominately Muslim country, and there were a few other cultural differences to get used to:
- The carpet spread on the floor of the main railstation is not for welcoming visitors: It’s where the faithful kneel to face Mecca for daily prayers. Walking over it while wearing shoes is a serious offense. Luckily I only did it once -- and was forgiven --- before catching on.
-The ‘Metro’ --- or subway --- is clean, convenient and fast. However, according to Muslim law, the front car is reserved for women travelling alone or with small children. Blunder into it, if you’re a male, and you’ll be shooed out --- sometimes forcibly.
Cairo has many private athletic and social clubs that look like public parks but are not. They may not be identified as private property in English-language signs, but if you get hostile looks that say, ‘You don’t belong here,’ give a gesture of apology and leave.
Though taxi drivers may rip you off for petty change, Cairo is actually very friendly to Westerners. But the friendliest receptions go to visitors who learn and respect Muslim customs.
Written by wanderluster on 15 Mar, 2002
Located across the Nile from Luxor, this ancient City of the Dead contains temples and tombs of past pharaohs. During the New Kingdom, a large population lived here as artisians, laborers, priests, and guards devoting their lives to the secrecy of the tombs, hidden…Read More
Located across the Nile from Luxor, this ancient City of the Dead contains temples and tombs of past pharaohs. During the New Kingdom, a large population lived here as artisians, laborers, priests, and guards devoting their lives to the secrecy of the tombs, hidden in the hills. Each unique tomb contained the mummified remains of the pharaoh and his worldly possessions. Despite the secrecy, most tombs were vandalized by grave robbers. Only the discovery of finding King Tut's tomb, still intact, gave the world any idea what kind of treasures were accumulated. These treasures, which we saw in the Cairo museum, truly are spectacular!
The Valley of the Kings contains 64 tombs of pharaohs, while the Valley of the Queens contains burial sites for female royalty and the children. It is still being excavated today. Not all of the tombs are open, as they are rotated every few years. Others, like Ramses II, are permanently closed to tourists because of extensive damage.
We began our tour at 5:30 am. Our guide picked us up from our hotel and drove us over to the West Bank. The landscape looked like eroded mountains of the American west. Nothing appeared to grow in the severe harsh environment.
We passed a group of tourists riding donkeys en route to the Valley of the Kings, and were the first in line to buy our tickets. Admission to Valley of the Kings allows you to see three tombs for 20 pounds ($6 US). Valley of the Queens tombs cost 12 pounds ($4 US), except Queen Nerfertari's tomb costs an extra 100 pounds ($33 US) to visit for ten minutes. Worth it!! Only 150 people are allowed in per day to see "the finest tomb in all of Egypt."
Visiting the decorated, unique tombs was incredible and indescribable. Absolutely fascinating to enter a hole in the limestone mountain, and follow the maze-like passage into the interior of the tomb. Each was decorated differently with hieroglyphics, vivid colors, images, art and designed with hidden doorways, deep shafts and fake sarcophagi to fool the cunning robbers. As soon as you enter, you are wowed by the visual array of images. Such detail all along the passage. And then you get to the burial chamber and see the original sarcophagus. Amazing! (No, the mummy has been removed.)
The only thing I wasn't impressed with was our guide. We paid $100 US for a "guided tour" plus admission. Our Egyptologist was in poor physical shape. He mostly sat in the shade while we explored on our own. He indifferently recited a litany obviously memorized and couldn't answer any questions. And instead of going inside Hatshepsut's Temple, (which we had paid for), he retold the story of her reign while sitting in the comfort of his air-conditioned car. "Changing our program" he then brought us to the Ramesseum to view the ruined temple of Ramses II for a quick ten minute walk on flat surface.
Written by MichaelJM on 15 Nov, 2008
This was never going to be straight forward as we were embarking on a couple of new experiences.Firstly we were hoping to arrange a long and tourist packed holiday with a tour operator who must ensure guided excursions, decent quality accommodation at competitive prices. Secondly…Read More
This was never going to be straight forward as we were embarking on a couple of new experiences.Firstly we were hoping to arrange a long and tourist packed holiday with a tour operator who must ensure guided excursions, decent quality accommodation at competitive prices. Secondly we were trying to co-ordinate the requirements of four people (we were intending to make this visit with two friends) and although our interests and needs were very similar there was always the chance that we’d have to consider some compromises on route.So we started with the well-tested format to plan any joint venture. An evening at home with the four of us enjoying a take-away and a glass or two of a fine Shiraz. We consumed the meal, chatted over the virtues of a Shiraz and a spicy curry, cracked open a bottle of whiskey and then decided we need to spread out the holiday brochures. Now this is where the fun, or do I mean confusion started. Although there were many similar features with each of the tour operators there were also significant differences and it was these that prompted us to draw up a preferred itinerary with the intention to discuss this with specialist operators.Of course the fact that we’d decided to open it up to specialist tour companies was bound to introduce further problems and the following weeks resulted in our trip to Egypt progressing into a grand tour of the region. I’d begun to entertain the possibility of a short extension to take in Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum and once I’d proposed that option to our friends they suggested a visit to Abu Simbel seemed to be a good idea alongside an extension, at the end of the holiday, for some Rest and Recreation (R&R).The original 10 day sketch of a holiday was growing into a three week excursion packed adventure pulling in the neighbouring country of Jordan. Unperturbed we set about speaking with three specialists and asking that they let us have an itinerary taking full account of our requirements. One company was unable to oblige and only Audley Travel and Longwood Travel were taking our requirements seriously. After further discussions it transpired that Audley Travel was less flexible that Longwood who were patiently obliging in both email exchanges and telephone discussions. They filled us with confidence that they would deliver to our requirements. The "die was cast" and we decided to commit to Longwood reassured by a local travel agent that they were indeed Egyptian specialists who ensure tailor made holiday packages work to the advantage of the traveller.Having committed it soon became clear that we looking at a holiday packed with excursions and we decided to pre-book as many of these as we could. This would remove the hassle of sorting them out when we arrived at each hotel and ensure that we had a personalised guided tour for just the four of us. Only one small problem ensued and that was that Longwood had less strong links with Jordan and so it was unlikely that we’d be able to pre-arrange those trips prior to the holiday. "No problem" the agent reassured us "it’s perfectly usual for trips to be sorted on arrival. The local reps are geared up for this!" Close
Written by Roger Bruton on 26 Aug, 2004
Friday night in Aswan is like a madhouse. Everyone seemed to be getting married. This involves even more hooting than usual from the taxis.
Getting a drink at the Old Cataract Hotel is as easy as breaking into Fort Knox. It is possible, but…Read More
Friday night in Aswan is like a madhouse. Everyone seemed to be getting married. This involves even more hooting than usual from the taxis.
Getting a drink at the Old Cataract Hotel is as easy as breaking into Fort Knox. It is possible, but I'm not going to go into details of how, as it may result in some of the hotel employees being on the receiving end of some pharaonic smiting!
Just put this on your "to do" list for Aswan and take it as a challenge!
The hotel’s "repel boarders" policy is so successful that there were virtually no patrons in the public rooms and bars. We had originally wanted to stay there for one night (room rate GBP 120), but in retrospect, I'm glad we didn't. A very uncharacteristically unfriendly and intimidating mausoleum. I was told by a member of staff that the reason for this new "regime" is the tours which used to blight the place and left without spending a piastre.
M/S Royale - Aswan-Luxor
There is a fridge in the cabin, which is one redeeming fact on the MS Royale. We were very disappointed about the food. Efforts were made to improve it after comments were made to the management.
At the tour "kick-off" meeting with Waleed, our guide/tour manager, we were told which excursions we would be taken on. This did not match the published itinerary, a copy of which I luckily had with me, so that I could "correct" him. He apparently had a subsequent FAX "duel" with head office.
Trip to Philae and the High Dam (no videos).
Everything about the Aswan High Dam is awesome, and it is easy to see why it is guarded so carefully. One estimate says that the entire country would be wiped out in eighteen hours, under an unimaginable wall of water, should it fail. But then it is said that nothing short of a nuclear device could achieve this. (If it were my dam I would have a lot more troops there!)
The Russian/Egyptian (lotus shaped) friendship monument is in the 1960s Russian "heroic" style. (You will not always be allowed to visit the top - it depends on the crowds.)
It is very high, and I found it very scary at the top -- only four passengers can be accommodated in the lift to the viewing platform -- no photos are allowed at the top -- and don't tip the lift attendant - he will already have had a "consideration". The concrete is starting to crumble in places, which adds to the feeling of insecurity.
One of the major factors in the history of the development of Egypt, is the fact that shipping can sail upriver, because of the prevailing wind, and float back down again on the current. The first thing you notice on leaving Aswan is the wind. All those beach towels reserving the sun-loungers don't stay for long!
The bridge at Edfu should be billed as an entertainment in its own right. It can be frighteningly close to the ship. On the sun deck, when the river is high, one needs to be sitting (quite low) for the bridge to miss you as it sweeps overhead at about 15 knots. Failing to sit down would almost certainly be fatal. This also serves to explain the lack of umbrellas (or any other type of shade) on the top deck.
An unavoidable feature of Nile cruising is that when you are moored in Luxor your cabin will almost certainly never see daylight. The reason for this is that you will almost certainly be alongside another boat. I don't think that upper or lower cabins make ay difference here. On arrival at Luxor, we were the outside of six cruisers. Bear this in mind when debating the need for a balcony. During a ship's stay it may be moved backwards and forwards a number of times. You may have to walk through five other vessels to get to the quayside. Use a shore landmark to return to. If you are not agile, stay at home.
When out walking (which is safer than you might imagine), face the oncoming traffic. It makes it more difficult for the taxis to stop and hassle you!
When you use a horse-drawn taxi, to be on the safe side, start with the assumption that the driver is intent on obtaining the entire contents of your wallet. No fare in Luxor is more than three Egyptian pounds. Agree the price before you get in, and have that exact amount in your hand until you pay. At your destination, count the notes into his hand. (There are "slight of hand" tricks you would not believe!) Do not agree to any detours to "see the market".
At your destination, the driver will probably offer to wait for you and bring you back for the same amount. Unless this is part of a "con", it's a good idea.
One of the most amazing things about the (motor) taxis in Egypt is that they are nearly all Peugeot 504s. Twenty-five years ago when I was living in South Africa, this model was billed as the most reliable car in Africa. Seems like the advertising in this case was absolutely true!
The shops at the end of the gangplank sell bottled water at a fraction of the onboard price. Watch for broken seals.
There is a cash machine at the Bank Misr, just off the Corniche - a ten-minute walk north from the Winter Palace Hotel. It is almost totally concealed by an awning. Strange thing … The Egyptian keypads are "upside-down" – zero is at the top.
The light and sound show at Karnak is good. There is an additional GBP6 charge to use a video camera - worth it. You will find lots of people willing to show you where to stand - ignore them - they will want paying! Just watch where they put everyone else. Try and go to the later of the two showings, as the part where the silence of Luxor is mentioned is almost drowned out by the calls to prayer from the many mosques in the area - still, it gets a laugh.
There are three ways to get to the west bank for the tombs. You can take the public ferry, you can hire a boat to take you, or you can now, as we did, cross on the new bridge, in your air-conditioned coach. The bridge is another military installation, so NO VIDEOS again.
The best time to see the west bank is early morning, due to the heat. The tombs in the Valley of Kings and the valley of Queens are not all open at the same time. There are reasons ranging from good to whim. In fact, some have been so badly damaged by tourism, they may never open again. Suffice it to say that you probably will not be able to plan the tombs you visit. You can however count on temple guards fanning you with bits of cardboard - for a fee!
Video is not permitted. Video cameras must be left at the VALLEY entrance – SCAM alert! - there is NO "cloakroom" charge. You will however, be given a numbered plastic "ticket" - that is NOT the price!
Vendors have packs of postcards for sale which, at GBP1, are fairly good value. They will take less - but watch for torn cards. There are a number of different "sets".
There is a small "Disney" type "train" that takes you from the entrance, to the start of the tombs.
There is an extra GBP8 charge to see the interior of Tutankhamen's tomb -- this proved to be the biggest disappointment of the holiday. Decide in advance if you want that experience.
The interior of Queen Hatshepsut's temple was closed in August 1999. The whole place was a disappointment, as well as being rather eerie after the1997 shootings.
Monarch Airlines - Airbus A330 - Luxor-Gatwick - Premium class
Luxor airport was not designed to handle 360 passengers on one plane. The "gate" area cannot accommodate that number of people and is not a no-smoking area. The flight was slightly late, which suited us. The printed entertainment guide did not match what was actually on offer. (There was no guide on the outward flight, so the problem did not arise then.)
Monarch...are you listening? It is really annoying when a large number of the best seats in Premium class (i.e. window seats) are occupied by crewmembers, especially when they are getting noticeably more and better attention and service.
Written by the Xplorer on 11 Dec, 2000
Luxor sits on the edge of the Nile River, a wide, but shallow river that separates Luxor from the Valley of the Kings and Queens. We had rented bicycles and had wandered way off the typical path when we decided we wanted to cross…Read More
Luxor sits on the edge of the Nile River, a wide, but shallow river that separates Luxor from the Valley of the Kings and Queens. We had rented bicycles and had wandered way off the typical path when we decided we wanted to cross over to the other side of the river. We had no idea how to accomplish this but we knew there was more stuff to see on the other side. As the four of us sat on the side of the road pondering this problem, an Egyptian man walked up to us and asked us if we needed any help. He spoke a very broken English but enough for us to communicate.
We told him we wanted to cross the river. He told us he could help us and he led us down river a few yards to a spot where he could scream out to another man on a little boat out on the Nile. The man came to shore and they talked for a moment. We negotiated a price to cross, mounted our bikes into the little boat and waited to see what was next. We barely fit on this boat and as I sat on the edge, I noticed that the edge of the water was about 6" below the edge of the boat. The owner of the boat was a man that had to be at least 90 years old. Even though the boat had a tall sail, there was no wind whatsoever that day. The old man pulled out a long pole and started pushing us across the Nile.
It took almost an hour to cross and we thought the old man was going to pass out on us, but he proved to be a hardy old man. We thanked him, paid him the set price and unloaded our bikes at the bottom of a muddy bank that was at least 10 feet tall. We struggled to the top, dragging our bikes to a nearby road. Later on we discovered that about a mile further down the road there was a ferry that could cross us for half the price and only took 5 minutes to cross! The experience was well worth it.
Written by nofootprint on 10 Feb, 2010
Driving Across the Western Desert to the Red SeaWe start our trip by driving along the Nile through little towns and content ourselves watching life along the Nile. We see people carrying supplies with donkey carts and washing their clothes in the river. They lead…Read More
Driving Across the Western Desert to the Red SeaWe start our trip by driving along the Nile through little towns and content ourselves watching life along the Nile. We see people carrying supplies with donkey carts and washing their clothes in the river. They lead very simple lives in much the same as did their ancestors.It seems there are checks points every 10 minutes. It is a bit unnerving .Adding to our concern is the fact that our driver pulled over and a man unknown to us jumped in. Neither spoke English so we didn’t know what this surprise traveler was about and we hope all was well. Up until six months ago cars had to leave at scheduled times as part of a caravan . I think I would have preferred this.Eventually we find ourselves in the desert. This continues for two out of the three hours of our trip. We’re excited at first ,having never experienced the desert before. Our excitement soon turns to boredom however as there is little change in scenery.I plan to research why there is so much security in this area. For us it was an uneventful if somewhat boring trip. Close
Our trip to Luxor TownWe arranged our transportation from the ship and for 60 EL ( $12.00) return we take a trip to town. Our primary interest is to visit the Souk ( market) but the city is pretty interesting in itself. We see…Read More
Our trip to Luxor TownWe arranged our transportation from the ship and for 60 EL ( $12.00) return we take a trip to town. Our primary interest is to visit the Souk ( market) but the city is pretty interesting in itself. We see the White Palace a pretty impresive place to stay where you would feel like royality. There are touches of the western world here with both MacDonalds’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken on the main street. You can’t enter Luxor without seeing Karnak Temple , the city seems to be built around it.Luxor is so very old ,with many old dusty homes and shops built along lanes that are really just alleys.I’m a sucker for old market places , so I was happy to arrive at the Souk. Souk Street runs parallel to Karnak Temple Street with its entrance close to the side of Luxor Temple. Here the bargaining is fierce and no rules apply. A scarf that will sell for 15 or 20 EL is offered for 220EL. It is outrageous and not for the shy or timid. With that aside however it’s a fun place to spend an afternoon.We were shopping for a silver medallion and couldn’t seem to find one we liked. We evenutally accepted an offer to go to a small place where the locals go, with a shop clerk . This is breaking all the rules in the "safe travel for Tourists Handbook" but we were cautious. It turned out to be a backshop in a nearby narrow alley. They were actually making jewellery there and we came away with exactly what we wanted at a very good price.Our time passed so quickly here. We came away with lots of scarves, jewellery and traditional Egyptian garmets. Close
Written by nofootprint on 08 Feb, 2010
Temple of Queen HatshepsutWe wake up this morning in Luxor. We’re anxious to get exploring. Some keeners in our group were off the boat before breakfast and tell us there is a coffee shop nearby.We set out at 7AM . Our destination is the West…Read More
Temple of Queen HatshepsutWe wake up this morning in Luxor. We’re anxious to get exploring. Some keeners in our group were off the boat before breakfast and tell us there is a coffee shop nearby.We set out at 7AM . Our destination is the West Bank . Tradionally the west side of the Nile is reserved for the dead. Our first stop is the Temple of the Queen Hatshepsut. To reach the site we drive through a small ancient village strewn with "alabaster factories". This is a clue to our second stop. The temple is massive a huge plaza in front. We really had to push ourselves to cross the wide expanse of the plaza in the scorching heat. Ahead we can see the towering pillars. We climb the many steps to the galley at the top. We see Thebes standing with arms crossed in front. This is a stanch she took to represent power (a man’s pose) Smart lady!!As a side note, this is where the terrible massacre of innocent tourists occurred on November 17,1997. On that terrible morning armed terrorists disguised as security police greeted tourists. 62 people including children were killed. Today security is very tight and no one is permitted to enter the Temple. Close