Sightseeing in Luxor
Luxor Travel Blog› entry 1 of 8 › view all entries
Once on our buses the tour guides gave us group names so we could be gathered together among the crowds of tourists we would inevitably come across on our excursions... our lot were called the Pharaohs, or "my dear pharaohs", as our guide liked to use as a way of starting his comments on something.
There are a number of must-sees in and around the Luxor area, and, as we quickly realised, it would have been pretty bloody impossible to navigate them without the help of a tour group or guide. For starters there are the border patrols leading into each area of the city (heavily armed soldiers at the ready), and the fact that Egypt seems to work on a system of backhanders and palm greasing, the finer details of which are all carried out in Arabic.
At any rate, our first stop and introduction to ancient Egypt was the temple of Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut was Egypt's most famous and renowed queen and is regarded with great affection in history.
The rest of the day was taken up with visits to the Colossae of Memnon (two giant statues nearby), the Valley of the Queens (a little underwhelming), and the Valley of the Kings (stunning, although I can't imagine how hot and dusty it would have been later in the year). We were by then also getting used to the hawkers that would appear from nowhere to try to sell their wares whenever the bus stopped. Luckily our guide was on hand to let us know how much we should expect to pay for something and how to avoid being ripped off.
It was almost a relief to be back on the ship for dinner (all our meals were covered in the tour), not least because we had been told we could trust the food on the ship. The salad, for example, had been washed in spring water, and was therefore safe to eat. There was also sanitising liquid everywhere that we had to use everytime we washed our hands in water. This is obviously a very big deal as getting sick in Egypt is more likely to happen than not.
That night we also walked over to the temple of Luxor (right next to the Nile where the boat was moored). Seeing the impressive structure in the evening was visually a great experience, with it being all lit up, but a little disappointing from a photographer's point of view. The opportunity to properly snap the avenue of the sphinxes, for example, will never likely be mine now. Nevermind! There were plenty more temples and monuments to see in the days to come and it was lovely to be able to concentrate on the guide and his historical references to bring everything into context...
Arranging the details for the trip to Egypt with my friend Milton took some doing. We had specific timeframes to work with, a modest budget and a list of things we wanted to cram into that time (including a Nile cruise and a trip to the pyramids). I was also acutely aware that, while some places are easy to just do on the fly, Egypt wasn't going to be one of them. For starters, there was the problem of how I look. Unfortunately for me, the blonde hair/ample assets (nice way of putting it) combination acted as a sort of beacon for the local Egyptians, making me an easy target for grabbing, hassling and general staring. More on this later, but I vaguely knew when I was arranging the trip that this was going to be the case, so I wanted a tour that was fairly organised, but with no overt 'follow the clipboard' elements.
The answer to our problems was Discover Egypt, an excellent tour operator we went with because of their flexibility. From start to finish they were professional, accommodating and good value for money... an excellent all round choice. We were greeted with reps on arrival in Luxor, who organised the visa stamp we needed to enter the country with the minimum of fuss. Even though there were elements of herding in getting us onto our respective buses to be taken to the cruise ship, Milton and I were more than happy to have all the tricky arrival navigation taken out of our hands, Egypt being, quite frankly, the most foreign place I've been to and therefore more than a little daunting for first timers.
Once on board the Nile ship we were shown to our cabins (luggage was taken there by the porters for us), which were small but not ridiculous, and then gathered into the dining area for an introductory chat. There were quite a few people on the tour, but it was clearly never going to be one of those hardcore group experiences (the only thing we were worried about). After that it was a matter of splitting off into three smaller groups, each with our own guide, and heading off for the first round of sightseeing... the Temple of Hatshepsut...