Many people that holiday in Egypt think of Cairo when they think of sight-seeing, namely because of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids. But the city of Luxor, which lies south of Cairo on the banks of the River Nile, is home to the ancient sites of Thebes, the pharaoh’s capital during the height of their power, as well as the Valley of Kings and the Valley of the Queens, the sites of the royal tombs, and where the in-tact crypt of Tutankhamun was discovered.
From Hurgahda, where I was staying, it was around a 4.5 hour bus trip to Luxor, which included one stop at a bus station in Safaga to have an early rest-stop and await armed security forces to escort us most of the way to Luxor. There’s a small bazaar, and you can have your picture taken with exotic animals such as camels and baby crocodiles, for a small fee, while you wait for the many other tourist buses to arrive. Once all together, we continued our journey to Luxor in convoy, escorted by armed military vehicles, through the jagged, rocky and mountainous landscape on either side of Qena – Safaga Road, a dry and baron hell-on-earth with a bloody past.
Luxor as a modern-day City will not take your breath away, but amongst it and seeping into it’s outskirts is the monumental ancient city of Thebes that, while mainly in ruins, still stands tall today. The Karnak Temple Complex is an open-air museum made up of giant stone pylons, temples, chapels and many other buildings for any tourist to get completely lost in. Interestingly, it is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia. With three out of four of the surrounding precincts being closed to the public, the sheer size of the area that you are able to explore, gives you an indication on the monolithic size of the full complex. It is believed that thirty pharaohs contributed to the building of Karnak, enabling it to reach its overwhelming size, complexity and diversity which is incomparable to anywhere else from the Ancient world today.
My favourite part – and probably most tourists favourite – is the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re. A hall area of 50,000 sq ft (5,000 m2) with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters. Just the architraves on top of these columns alone are estimated to weigh around 70 tonnes! Standing at the foot of one of these columns, rows of Giants that you dwarf by comparison to, it is spine-tingling and awe-inspiring to imagine how these megaliths were constructed by the Ancient Egyptians, so long before modern-day construction practices, architecture and cranes!
It is one of the most humbling places I have ever set foot in, and (I feel) should be on any avid-travellers bucket list to see at least once in their lives!
The Valley of the Kings is is a complex underground network of (currently discovered) 63 tombs, ranging in size from a simple pit, to a complex tomb with over 120 chambers. Most of the tombs were sadly robbed a long time ago for their gold and jewels, though the walls remain decorated with Ancient hieroglyphics and some still contain the stone outer sarcophagus from the Pharaoh’s tombs. Tutankkhamun’s tomb was only shielded from the pillagers because of another – more important – Pharaoh’s tomb that had been built on top of it, preserving his history for thousands of years, which is now on display at the Egyptian museum in Cairo.
My trip to Luxor was one of my favourite adventures, and while I only managed to get one photo on my disposable camera before it ran out of memory (yes, I did say disposable camera.. this was 2007!), the memory of walking amongst in the footsteps of Pharaoh’s will stay with me forever.
Feature photo by voyager-en-egypte.com
Road to Luxor
Photo My Own
Hypostyle Hall, Kanark
Photo My Own
By Tizianok (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
The Valley of the Kings
Photo by worldgreatwonders.blogspot.com
Tutankhamun’s Tomb, Valley of the Kings
Photo by NBC Media