Luxor, Egypt

After the incessant traffic and dust and cold of Cairo and Alexandria, Luxor was something near to Heaven.

We spent a night in the Sonesta St George Luxor Hotel before transferring to the Sonesta St George Luxor Cruise Boat for a further 4 nights cruising on the Nile.

We were up early, again.  This time for a balloon ride on the West Bank to see the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at dawn.  The landing gave us an opportunity to see Egyptian farming (sugar cane) at close range.

After breakfast we set off again, to see the famous temples of Karnak and Luxor on the east side of the Nile.  Both magnificent structures oozing with stories of Kings or Pharaohs who proclaimed themselves Gods and outdid their predecessors in glory and construction.

That afternoon Bruce & I escaped the boat and took a taxi down to Luxor souk.  Of course the local souk was far more interesting than the tourist souk, where Bruce was constantly hailed as Mr Moustache.

The sound and light show at Karnak Temple enhanced the stories of glory and construction.  You have to wonder why so many Pharaohs died in their 30s and 40s – it wasn’t old age.

The afterlife was far more important than the current life for the ancient Egyptians, so they built themselves tombs and filled them with the necessities of the afterlife as well as instructions on how to pass through the seven levels to reach the afterlife (sounds like an electronic game to me).

Although photos were not allowed in the Valley of the Kings, the journey through four of the ancient tombs was mind boggling.  Long, square carved corridors, displaying beautiful hieroglyphics and carvings, often richly coloured.  Cavernous rooms to hold the sarcophagus, food, belongings and the coptic jars of the viscera (stomach, intestines, lungs and liver) of their owner which they believed were needed in the afterlife.

Preparation for the afterlife was done during the pharaoh’s reign, and left unfinished if he died prematurely.

Next stop was the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the most successful female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt.   It is a magnificent, three layered, pillared construction with a massive ramp connecting the layeres. Queen Hatshepsut brought peace and trade to Ancient Egypt, and the story of her successes, although faded, adorn the walls of her temple.

Last stop was The Colossi of Memnon (known to locals as el-Colossat, or es-Salamat), two massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, towering 18m and constructed 3400 years ago.

After two days of temples and tombs, we left Luxor behind and commenced our cruise south, to the Upper Nile.