Luxurious time in Luxor

Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 04, 2008

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

I am so jealous.  I should have spared an extra day to take the felucca up to Luxor instead of taking the train.  I heard they had music and Egyptian food and endless hookah and bonfire and freshly ground coffee.  OH WELL.  I got to see Abu Simbel and can stay in Dahab for an extra day because I did Luxor in one day!  Fair trade, I say.

I arrived at the Luxor train station around 11:30pm last night and was immediately recognized by the representative Muhammed.  I was really cranky and somewhat rude due to fatigue.  I feel bad now because Muhammed turned out to be a really sweet, effeminate guy without the slightest bit of creepiness (I thought he might be gay- he was so soft-spoken and stylish!).  I am staying at Morris Hotel, a very impressive 4-star hotel.  Such an upgrade from the hostel in Cairo!  I enjoyed lying around in the clean, airconditioned room with gold interior. 

The sleep was short though.  I got up at 6:30am to join the West Bank tour.  Of course the mini-bus was running late, so the actual tour started around 8am.  The French guys from Aswan were there... we were not particularly fond of them, as they kept wandering off and making everyone wait, not to mention blocking people's view on the boat.  Anyway, we visited the Valley of Kings first.  And wow!  WOW.  I can totally see why Luxor is so famous.  There are 62 tombs embedded in dry, sandy valleys.  There was a transparent model of the valley at the entrance, so we could see how deep the tombs go and how complicated they are.  One of the tombs I went to actually ran into another tomb in the process and had to change the direction.  With a regular ticket, you can visit 3 tombs (and more for extra $$).  I believe the tombs close in rotation.  My group on this particular day went to the tombs of Ramses I, Ramses III, and Ramses IV.  One of them still had vivid colors; I almost thought Egyptians just took paint brushes and dabbed some colors on the wall.  They were all stifling hot, but one of them was so incredibly hot that the guards handed out pieces of cardboard at the entrance so people could use them as fans.  We could only visit a small section of the tomb, but it gave me a general idea of how grand and intricate they were. 

Then everyone in the group met by the exit.  Except for the French guys.  We waited for another half an hour.  No sign.  Our guide went out to look for them while we sat in the van.  No success.  After more waiting and complaining, we decided to go to an alabaster factory where people demonstrated the process of making vases out of alabaster rocks (to kill time) while the guide went back to find the French guys.  We then went to Temple of Hatshetsu.  She was a great, strong queen, and her temple reflected just that.  It must have been over 100 degrees; it felt like the hottest day in Atlanta plus 10 degrees.  A lot of people were wearing shorts and tank tops, but I think I would have been better off wearing a light long-sleeved shirt.  It protects your skin from the scorching sun, and you don't have to re-apply sunscreen every hour.  I chatted with a British guy actually cracked open an egg to see if it would cook on a rock.  It unfortunately didn't.  Mythbuster!

Our group once again met by the exit of the temple.  Our West Bank guide was such a nice, down-to-earth Egyptian guy.  Worried and confused, he tried so hard to find those French guys while explaining the history to the rest of us.  He was the one Egyptian in the tourism business who seemed like a good, honest guy.  He told us like it was and gave us good advice (i.e. King Tut's tomb is useless, the touts who were big time scammers, etc).  While the group was waiting around in the lounge area by the temple, the guide finally came back with the French guys.  Apparently they were taken away by the police for trying to climb the mountains at the Valley of Kings.  Idiots!  Not to mention they claimed they were Egyptian and got the Egyptian tickets (2EGP or something) when they clearly are not, so they got in trouble when they tried to enter the tombs.  Despite all this, they were impudent and accused the guide of just ditching them.  One girl in our group angrily confronted them, and they got in a screaming match in front of the temple and a crowd of tourists.  Drama!

I had a lunch break then was off to the East Bank tour.  The Frenchies were unfortunately there AGAIN, opening the windows in the van while the a/c was on and doing their usual asshole.  If they know so well, why not do a self-guided tour instead of hindering others?  Anyway, anyway, I did not let them ruin my trip.  I was talking to a Colombian guy next to me when the girl in front of me turned around... it was the girl I had shared a taxi with from the Cairo airport!!!  I was so excited to see her again!  We caught up on what we have been up to and reminisced our first night in Cairo.  When we got to Karnak Temple, Jennie and Lee from Aswan joined us as well.  Oh, the small world of backpackers (or rather, backpackers on a tour package).  I guess the itinerary is pretty limited.  Anyway, Karnak temple was MASSIVE.  Once again, I could definitely see why Luxor is so famous!  The temple just kept going and going and going.  I had a different guide this time, and he was very nice and knowledgeable too.  He kept trying to make us "think" by throwing out questions, but of course we were all braindead to even comprehend his questions, much less make an educational guess.  Luxor Temple was close to all the hotels and restaurants, and I did not bother to go in because you could basically see the place from outside.  I took a stroll around, saved my bucks and went back to my hotel for a rest.

People say Luxor is the hassle/tout central of Egypt.  I did not really feel that way.  The people who guided me seemed like really nice country people who were working hard to earn honest money.  The representatives and guides need to learn history and English, so they are relatively well-educated and have the desire to learn about foreign culture.  The atmosphere was more comfortable because people in Luxor are used to tourists and therefore more understanding about them wearing skimpy clothes and not wanting to be harrassed.  Muhammed even said he will not smoked if I don't like the second hand smoke.  I was like, WHAT!?  That was so incredibly considerate by Egyptian standards.  Of course touts roam the streets and shops, but they were not any more aggressive than the ones in Cairo or Aswan.  When I came back to the hotel, the receptionist asked me what my room number was, and immediately sketched out, I flashed him my room key and summoned the elevator.  It turned out that someone had left a message for me.  Sometimes I could let my guard down a little bit...

Muhammed and I went to an internet cafe to print out my e-ticket that I forgot back in Cairo.  The access to internet and printout only cost 1EGP!  Having an Egyptian guy helps, I guess.  Then we rode a micro-bus over to Jennie and Lee's hotel.  Micro-bus is like a ghetto van that drives around the city.  You hop on and pay like .5EGP and hop off accordingly.  It takes skills and an adventurous mind to successfully complete the trip.  Again, having an Egyptian guy helped.  The three of us went to the roof of their hotel that overlooked the city.  It had a small pool and several tables and chairs.  We drank the bottle of wine Lee brought from Venice and had a great time chatting.  My trip in Egypt is coming to an end, with one more destination to go.  I am so ready to chill in Dahab and drink fresh mango juice, without a care in the world.
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