AfricaEgyptLuxor

Luxor : "Hot Chicken Soup" and other points of historical interest.

Luxor Travel Blog

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Statue of Horace at Hatshepsut's Temple.

[Camera and Egypt photos have finally, safely made their way back to the UK & now Thailand to be updated on blog (13/02/09)]

Luxor and its surrounding areas probably contains the highest and most varied concentration of monuments and temples of ancient Egyptian civilization withint the country.  There is just soooo much to see that it's hard to know where to begin.  But it's 7.

00am.  I have my instructions for the day, so begin I must.  It will (mercifully I feel) be my last chauffeur-driven hyper-speed cultural tour of the country's treasures, today courtesy of the very bubbly and entertaining Ghada who is to be my guide.

We drive along the banks of the Nile to get to a bridge from the other side of the river.  Luxor's west bank is famed for its spectacular array of temples and tombs.  In the distance, a surreal spectacle unfolds and dozens of large hot air balloons take to the skies.  This for reasons beyond me is a tourism speciality that has developed in Luxor so whilst I head for the subterranean tombs of the Valley of the Kings beneath the desert rock and sand many people are shelling out to ascend high above the morning haze and stare down at the city and the Nile below.

Hatshepsut's temple

The Valley of the Kings I feel after consideration is one of the most effecting sights that I visit during my time in Egypt.  The place that whilst not anywhere near as grand and awe-inspiring as the Pyramids brings me closest to a sense of the life and theological thinking of Egyptian antiquity... at least the lives of the Pharaohs anyways.  Carved down into the sandstone rock structures of the desert landscape of the Nile's west bank the tombs of numerous Pharaohs are found.  The sand and sandstone cliffs reflecting the sunlight from all angles all the while make this an incredibly hot and sweaty place to visit, even at 7.30 in the morning and boy this place is busy!  Everyone being rushed in and out by their various tour guides presumable before it gets even more cooking later on.

  The ticket you purchase here bear in mind will only permit you entry to any three of the currently open tombs so either do your research and pick wisely to see some interesting ones or rely on your guide's hopefully well-informed decisions.  King Tutankhamun's tomb (still containing his mummy) is also here but an extra entry fee must be paid to enter this.  I visit the tombs of Ramses IV, Ramses IX and Ramses I.  Ramses clearly a popular name back in ancient Egypt... maybe it means Bob? :)

The first two tombs offer incredible examples of hieroglyphic carvings and paintings.  Every wall and ceiling is covered with these intricate iconographic displays and symbols of ritual prayer, records of the social and economic history of the nation at the time and incantations for protection in the afterlife for the Pharaoh.

Luxor Temple.
  It's hard to know where to put your eyes as you descend by the occasionally quite steep slopes down further into the tombs structures where at the end you will often find the large stone outer sarcophagi of the deceased, itself ornately carved.  Beautiful paintings of Egyptian cosmology adorn the ceilings.  Golden stars on the blue vault of the universe and the red orb of the sun in its transits.  There are other simpler tombs too, one of which I visit.  These are often sparser owing to the premature death of the Pharaoh in question.  The first task a Pharaoh undertook was to commence preparations for his (or her) burial however occasionally death arrived too swiftly for the vision to become fully formed.

After the Valley of the Kings Ghada and driver whisk me to the temple of Hatshepsut, or as Ghada keeps calling her in a bid to amuse me (again and again and again.

Luxor Temple.
..) Hot Chicken Soup.  Clearly a means of helping me to remember her name after a while this constant joke it getting a little wearing. I'd come across this formidable lady of antiquity several times already in my travels and was quite up to speed on her name... but now and forever more I "Hot Chicken Soup" is the name that will unfortunnately spring to mind.  Hewn into a high desert hillside this temple with its several grand terraces and central ascending ramp create an imposing architectural structure both up close and from afar.  A determined woman struggling in a world of male dominance, deification and power this temple is what remains of her grandest statement to justify her place amongst the Pharaohs, many of whom in later dynasties would conservatively reject her place in Egyptian history and deface her heritage in any ways possible. 

After taking my fill of Hot Chicken Soup we skip briefly to the two Colossi of Memnon, two 18 metre high and much degraded statues that once stood before the obliterated mortuary temple of Amenophis III.

Hatshepsut's temple complex
  They have suffered much over the centuries from weather errosion and earth quakes but remain a curiously stark statuary monument sat all alone in a rural field now a roadside running by them.

And moving on at a depressingly blistering pace, next is the grand finale of the stupendously large Karnak Temple.  The fourth destination of my tour today and it's barely even midday!  Well, I suppose we did start at 7.  This is a vast, vast complex of temples which spread and grew over the centuries throughout the various Pharaonic dynasties and is nominally the House of the Gods for this part of ancient Egypt.  It became firm tradition that each successive Pharaoh would make a significant addition of sorts to the temple complex and so it grew and grew in grandure and stylistic diversity.

  A new temple compound from one Pharaoh, a series of great statues from the next.  Two great big pink granite obelisks from my friend Hot Chicken Soup and a large scarab beetle statue that of walked around a number of times (7 I think?) is supposed to bring you good luck or some such guff.  I look on as a circle of happy tourists trudge in a bored manner around this sacred bit of statuary.

Ghada informatively, but breathlessly talks at me about the various points of interest but as with most of the day she's dealing with someone who frankly has still not yet woken up.  Most of the time it's the best I can do to keep walking straight, keep up with her, slap more sun cream on and crack cheesy jokes at the expense of her or Pharaonic history.  I'm not really taking things in today.

  Once more I'm hitting a wall.  A stone-carved temple wall of near indifference to all the splendour set before me.  It's hard work sometimes maintaining interest in the heat and the crowds that flood around all the principle sights of Luxor and Egypt in general.  Karnak though is a knock out example of the incredible might and architectural grandeur of ancient Egypt.   The gigantic forest of hieroglyphed columns within the Great Hypostyle Hall render the observer perfectly, starkly aware of their minuteness within the context of both the universe and History.

My tour with Ghada over, I am deposited back in a buffet-style restaurant right down on the waterside of Luxor's east bank corniche where I continue to doze my way through the day.

Hatshepsut... showing the boyz she could build cool sh*t too!
  The meal is covered for me excluding the drinks which as usual are a rediculous EGP15 (1 pound fifty!) for a can of pop! I'm extremely tired and spend the rest of the day doing not a lot else other than read and tackle a few practicalities like getting a loooong overdue haircut and preparing for the next phase of the journey.  In the evening I walk along the corniche by night, and deeper into and around the less touristy parts of the city.  There are numerous bazaars at various places, some more tourist targetted than others but I keep on walking, keep on walking until I'm fairly well off the beaten track in the Egyptian market areas.  A youngish lad Mohammed latches on to me and is friendly and conversational.  Recently engaged and looking to 'make it' in the tourist market (no surprises there are tourism can account for anything up to 85% or more of employement in Egypt's principle towns an cities) he's keen for my company to practice his english.
The Colossi of Memnon.
  We stroll around for some time through the backways and byways of the residential quarter of the city, small children staring goggle-eyed at this curious red-haired visitor practicing his atrociously pronounced five phrases in arabic and usually confusing his "morning" and "evening" greetings to their amusement.  Depressingly after an hour or more walking around Mohammed has actually managed to bring me to the confines of a large tourist mecca of a market building where it seems people have been flooding in their masses tonight owing to it being the 'bargain'day of the week.  A little narked that yet again Egypt has proven that almost no single person you meet, converse or interact with operates without some sort of economic motivation, I politely wonder around the 'mall' pretending to be impressed by crappy papyrus displays, alabaster pyramids and sphinxes and the usual tourist guff.
The approach to the Temple of Karnak.
  Whilst graciously declining to buy anything sticking to my line that I'm a long term traveller sticking to a "no carrying of souvenirs" policy I give EGP10 to Mohammed for his company and troubles anyhow.  Ah f**k it.  This is Egypt, and he was a good lad anyways with a wedding to his cousin to save up for. 

halilee says:
As much as I"m looking forward to our trip, with some trepidation due to the unrest, I'm not looking forward to the harassment that will follow, especially with tourism as low as it is, the harassment will be that much more intense. On a positive note, we shouldn't experience the crowds you experienced.
Posted on: Mar 04, 2013
alicegourmet says:
Well, seems that Egypt is not only the full of history and mistery, but also, the land of tourist scams and harrasement! LOL! Anyway, it's an interesting travel experience! =)
Posted on: Nov 17, 2008
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Statue of Horace at Hatshepsuts T…
Statue of Horace at Hatshepsut's …
Hatshepsuts temple
Hatshepsut's temple
Luxor Temple.
Luxor Temple.
Luxor Temple.
Luxor Temple.
Hatshepsuts temple complex
Hatshepsut's temple complex
Hatshepsut... showing the boyz she…
Hatshepsut... showing the boyz sh…
The Colossi of Memnon.
The Colossi of Memnon.
The approach to the Temple of Karn…
The approach to the Temple of Kar…
Obelisk inside Karnak Temple.
Obelisk inside Karnak Temple.
One of the many pylons at Karnak T…
One of the many pylons at Karnak …
Walking aroud the scarab statue fo…
Walking aroud the scarab statue f…
The many impressive papyrus colu…
The many impressive 'papyrus' col…
(Karnak) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
(Karnak) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
The many cartouches of executed po…
The many cartouches of executed p…
Luxor Nile sunset.
Luxor Nile sunset.
Luxor
photo by: LadyMaja