Our initial itinerary proposed a 4 day cruise on the Nile River between Aswan and Luxor. At first this sounded like a classic storybook adventure but upon closer review we opted to skip the cruise and drive by private car between the two cities. We are glad we did. It took one day to drive and 4 days to complete the journey by boat. We traveled on our own schedule, we had more time to relax and explore Edfu and Kom Ombo, we had more comfortable accommodations in the hotel, more restaurant options, plus we saved money and time.

The other thing we did that we were happy about was flying between Cairo and the Upper Egypt rather than taking the sleeper train. We never heard any kind words about the sleeper train. Quite the contrary.

We arrived at the Luxor Temple in the late afternoon when the sun was getting low and the light was dramatic. It provided some great opportunities for photographs but also some real challenges. One thing in particular we wanted to see was the obelisk that is missing its twin at the entrance to the temple.


The twin of this obelisk in now in Place de la Concord in Paris.

Unfortunately it was located in the dull shadows and not very photogenic. A week and a half later we were in Paris to see where the missing obelisk now resides in the Place de la Concorde.

Like Abu Simbel the Egyptian government is taking on a huge task. They have decided to rebuild the ancient part the city once known as Thebes.

  This means that over the next many years they will be tearing down several square kilometers of buildings in Luxor and replacing them with structures from back-in-the day.

The Avenue of Sphinxes was a 2 kilometer long avenue lined with hundreds of sphinxes once connected Luxor and Karnack temples. I would love to see that if it is restored in my lifetime.


The Avenue of Sphinxes


Long ago people were just dying to get to the west side of the Nile. Okay, okay, that’s a bad joke but in ancient times people lived on the east side of the Nile and this is where the temples and towns were built. The west side of the Nile was basically one large cemetery. A person could spend days exploring the west side of the Nile.


There are hundreds if not thousands of tombs of pharaohs, queens, family, wealthy merchants, etc. that are available for viewing if you have the time. Hassen suggested that we only explore a few of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, plus Hatshepsut's temple and a few in the Valley of the Queens. We visited the tombs of Ramses IV, Amenhotep I, Siptah, Hatshepsut , Titi, and Kha-em Waset.

In the Valley of the Kings the tomb entrances all pretty much looked the same. They are simply a big concrete shaft like entrance but once inside they each take on their own unique character.


Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut is a remarkable sight. When we got home from our trip there to greet me in the big pile of mail was the latest issue of National Geographic magazine and on the front cover was an article about the “She King.” Only pharaohs could be buried in the Valley of the Kings but Queen Hatshepsut (who had ruled like a pharaoh) wanted to be buried in the Valley of the Kings.
  So she sorta did an-end-around by building her temple on the opposite side of the mountain and then tunneling through into the Valley of the Kings where she was laid to rest.
  Away from the other tombs is the mortuary temple of Ramesseum which a massive complex.

  The Karnak Temple complex is a huge potpourri of temples, chapels, obelisks and other structures that have evolved over thousands of years. At one point Hassen put his hand on one wall stretched his arms out to touch another wall and told us the two walls were over a thousands years apart in age. Often a predecessor ruler would modify an existing temple by adding new features and removing or modifying old features to flaunt his own existence. For this reason some of the later rulers had the artisans chisel the reliefs deeper into the walls to make it more difficult to be changed.

The beautiful Nile River creates a thin stripe of loveliness within the large vast deserts of Upper Egypt. The warm friendly people and the rich history made us both wish we had a few more days to explore and enjoy the area. But it was time to head back to Cairo and on to our next destination – Jordan.


Egypt, Jordan, and Paris 2009
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Revised April 09, 2009