Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tour de Luxor

West bank of Luxor, overlooking the Valley of the Kings

Thebes, once the greatest and richest city in the ancient world, capital of the New Kingdom, and religious cult center of the God Amun. It boasted some of the largest and grandest temples ever built. From the sprawling Temples of Karnak, with its 134 massive towering pillars in the great hypostyle hall, a 3km long avenue of Sphinxes linking it to the Luxor Temple on the east bank, to the treasured royal tombs of Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens on the west bank, present day Luxor has been hailed as the largest open air museum in the world!

If you are like me, and adverse to large tour groups and crowds, the best way to visit all of the sites around Luxor (in a very budget friendly way) is by bicycle! A bike will only set you back by E£10 (about US$2) per day, and you can take the public ferry across the Nile to reach both banks for E£1 each way. (DO NOT pay for a round-trip as round-trip tickets on the ferry do not exist, and it is a trick by the operator to cheat tourists of a few pounds!!!)

Taking in all there is to see in Luxor is best spread out over a few days. On day 1, I decided to stay on the east bank, visiting the Temples of Karnak, Luxor Temple, Luxor Museum and Mummification Museum. Day 2 was spent on the west bank visiting the Valley of the Kings, Temple of Hetshepsut, Ramesseum and the Colossi of Memmon. And on day 3, I went back to the west bank again to finish off visiting the Valley of the Queens and the Temple of Habu (Medinat Habu). All of the monuments open their doors at 6am, so I was up at the crack of dawn, rented a bike and peddling uphill towards the valley at first light! Not only was it much cooler to be riding at that time of the day (current mid-day temperatures in Luxor reach a high of 40ºC or about 100ºF), but I was able to time my visits to each of the monuments, arriving between the waves of tour buses, and was rewarded with a full 30 minutes in the tomb of Amunherkhepshef by myself, slowly admiring every detailed paintings on the richly decorated walls.

Pictures are not allowed in any of the tombs, but here are some pictures and a brief description of some of the sights around Luxor where pictures were permitted.

The Temples of Karnak site stretches for over 2 square kilometers. This is one of the side chapels within the Temples of Karnak complex.

Avenue of Ram headed Sphinxes in theTemples of Karnak.

Great Hypostyle Hall - Temples of Karnak. Covering 5500 sq meters, with 134 massive towering pillars, it is considered one of the greatest religious structures ever built. Notice the scale of the pillars relative to the people at the bottom of the picture.

Active archaeological sites can be found all over Luxor. Here, sphinxes are being dug out and reassembled to form a 3km long "Avenue of the Sphinxes" linking the Temples of Karnak with the Luxor Temple.

Part of the "Avenue of Sphinxes" laying haphazardly in ruins on people's front yard!

Backed by ruggard linestone cliffs, the Temple of Hatshepsut is dedicated to Hatshepsut, the first female Pharaoh in Egypt's history.

Temple of Hatshepsut

Temple of Hatshepsut

Ramesseum - Another one of Ramses II's great temples


Colossi of Memnon - All that remains of the Memorial Temple of Amenhotep III, which if standing would be the largest temple complex ever built in Egypt!

Medinat Habu - Memorial Temple for Ramses III

Beautiful carvings and hieroglyphics set among ruggard cliffs at the Medinat Habu

19th century graffiti left by tourists and treasure hunters at the Medinat Habu


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