Trip Start Oct 20, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Sunday, March 15, 2009

We got to the Cairo train station, were slightly confused about where to go, but then figured it out and waited on the right track.  The train came and we took our overnight sleeping train from Cairo to Luxor. This was much classier and cleaner experience than (my) overnight train in Thailand and (his) overnight train in Greece. Bunk beds popped down from the wall!  There was a club car!  We got dinner and breakfast delivered to our room!  I slept great that night--the rocking motion of the train was wonderful.

We found our driver at the Luxor train station--he took us to Mara House.  We LOVED our room--it was more like an apartment.  Kitchen, bathroom, living room, and I think 3 bedrooms?  We clearly only needed 1, but 3 was nice :)  Mara's also had a nice lounge on the first floor and a nice roof top garden/patio.  The only peculiar thing about Mara's was that Mara herself was quite friendly to me, but for some reason behaved quite cooly toward Shaan.  When speaking, she would only look at me, smile at me, and so on.  We both noticed it and found it strange!  We noticed her acting quite normally with other male guests.  Also, we know she's European, she knew we were American, so it would be unlikely that it was cultural... it sort of made the experience a little flawed... but again, our room was quite nice.

We took a big day trip on our first day in Luxor (and our second day, actually).  Our first day took us to Karnak, Memnon, Hatshepsut temple, Valley of the Kings, Medinet Habu, and Valley of the Queens.

We saw the Great Hypostyle Hall, in Karnak--this huge ancient complex. I was trying to make sense of everything and read my Lonely Planet for dear life. This hall originally had 134columns.  In Karnak, we saw tons of obelisks and pylons... one of the coolest parts was seeing vivid paint on ceilings and high-up walls, still there from the original painting.

Shaan and I also saw both Colossi of Memnon--both are figures of Amenhotep III.The north one allegedly used to sing at dawn--possibly from a crack in the stone, resulting from an earthquake.

We also saw the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut--built into the rock formation.  This part was frustrating, because we bought the tickets to enter and then immediately lost them (my fault).  The guard let us in anyway.  We went in and it was cool and all--but the sun was really, really hot and it took a long time to walk from the parking lot to the actual temple.  It felt like miles.  We were only halfway through our day trip and already feeling a bit worn out.

THEN we also went to the Valley of the Kings, where a bunch of the royalty are entombed--including Tutankhamun.  We bought tickets to go into 3 of the tombs, so we did.  This entailed walking a long way to get to them and then climbing down tiny ladders into the dark tiny spaces.  Once we were in the tombs, we could walk around pretty freely.

There was one guard who manipulated us into giving him gum and money (baksheesh).  Never again!  We learned our lesson.  I believe that was in one of the Ramses tombs.

THEN we also went to Medinet Habu. We could still see some color in the paint there, too.  This is the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III.

At some point in this day, we stopped at a cafe and had lunch.  I think we chatted to the owner and we liked him.  We also some some important dignitary/figure roll up with lots of entourage and then take a personal tour of Medinet Habu.  Who was that?

We also had a quick stop at Valley of the Queens, but this was frustrating because it was full of kids who are vying to be your guides, and then you have to pay every single person there, and pay each guard to open up each "tomb" etc (but they were pretty small and very lackluster).  All the needing of our money just got frustrating.  Perhaps if we had known to expect all of this, it wouldn't have been so annoying?

We went back to Mara's and rested, and then tried to walk around for dinner.  We went to one place on the river, but disliked the menu.  We walked to another place called Sofra, but it took us three hours to find it.  Meanwhile, many of the Egyptian men keep staring at me and telling Shaan "Oh, lucky man, lucky man."  It got annoying after a while.  We tried this type of garlic/bean dish which I had been looking forward to--but it was kinda disappointing!  I did really like the hibiscus tea and Shaan liked our rose rice pudding dessert.  We had some Stella on the rooftop garden of Mara's and then went to bed!

Next day was a big traveling day as well: Abydos and Dendara.

OK, so in Abydos, this very sacred city with several temples and necropoli, there's some intriguing hieroglyphics that look like a helicopter, submarine, battle tank... millenia before any of these were invented. Aliens, perhaps?

There are Westerners who come and worship Isis at Abydos. Our guide:"They're wrong, but we let them stay because they're quiet." As we passed by them, I heard one lady ask another if there was a beauty salon anywhere nearby. True story.

Then we went to Dendara.  We climbed through passageways, up ladders, felt like we were on Legends of the Hidden Temple, and saw 19th century graffiti.

We were also at the Temple of Hathor, goddess of fertility, and saw all the statues whose faces were scratched off by the Christians ("idolatrous").  We took some funny squatting pictures here, mimicking a statue.

Oh, and also, on this day I threw up four times in the car.  I was taking motion sickness medicine, but it didn't work!  It was horrible and I felt horrible.  We made some French friends, though. 
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