The South Egyptian city of Luxor has been nicknamed by some enterprising locals as ‘the world’s greatest open air museum’ and while that may be emphasizing the point a little too much, this particular Egyptian town does far surpass the pyramids in terms of quantity, if not quality. Lovers of Egyptology are going to find it extremely hard to leave, even with the famous triangles a mere few hours away.
The city dates back 4,000 years, to when it was known as the ancient Egyptian capital Thebes, a city later sacked by Alexander who fortunately spared many of its glorious temples. The Temple of Luxor itself is perhaps the most spectacular. Once the site of numerous festivals, the temple is now little more than an impressive selection of towering walls and up-lit pillars on the banks of the Nile, stretching out regally through the pylons and the courts.
There are roads lined with sphinxes, burnt brick chapels and an exceptional museum delving into the depths of Luxor’s history to explore, then there’s the Temple of Karnak, actually a vast complex housing three temples that stuns with aging architecture round nearly every corner. The site is home to dozens of smaller temples, as well as its own museum, a sacred lake, light shows and towering pillars that common sense dictates should long since have joined the dusts of the desert.
Tourism has been a source of income for the people of Luxor since way back in Roman times, and as you might expect, they’re suitably used to it, and there’s plenty in the way of luxurious servitude and stunning properties to be enjoyed along with your dose of history. The city, of course, revolves almost entirely around the Nile, and taking a cruise along the river is an essential experience, as is diving into the city’s bazaars, experiencing the shambolic, fast-paced trading and then ducking out of the dust again quick with a bargain souvenir in hand.
The modern side of the city is typically simple and tourist-driven, but nothing can subtract from a startling, unique and overpowering city that’s still home to everything you think of as Egyptian. Except the Pyramids, of course.