Train to Luxor
We boarded the train quickly in Aswan headed for Luxor. Our tickets were for second class seats in an air-conditioned cart. We had a three-hour journey ahead of us. We found our seats; the first two on the car, so we had a lot of leg room. Also, we did not have to worry about people leaning their seats back in to us. Unfortunately, we were right next to the toilets and the door. The door which was never shut for more than three minutes without someone walking through it. Every time it was opened it swung in to me. After we go going I moved to an empty seat on the other side of the aisle.
A few stops later, and a few more pages in to my book a large young man boarded the train. His seat was next to the seat I was now occupying on the other side of the aisle. Another point for kindness in Egypt! He insisted I take the window seat so that I was not having to worry about people passing through the door. I was keeping the door shut after most of the people who walked through it left it open. The reason I was trying to keep it shut is that not only were the toilets on the other side of the door, but there were also many smokers.
This Has to Be a Joke
My large new Egyptian friend (I never got his name) kept the door-shut game going for a while. Around an hour later I noticed that he seemed sleepy. I didn’t feel right to continue making him sit in the aisle seat when he’d given up his window seat for me. I moved back to my seat across the aisle next to Andrew. The door continued to be opened, and I continued to close it behind the lazy passengers. Andrew and I began making a game of it. Andrew and I had a good laugh and kept our spirits high.
We arrived in Luxor on time. Our heavy backpacks were strapped to us, and we headed in the direction of our hostel. I booked us in to The Venus Hotel. It was within walking distance of the train station, the Nile, and Luxor Temple. As I would later learn, everything in that area is within walking distance. The town is a big circle!
The Venus Hotel/Hostel
We made it to the hostel after being harassed by more than a couple horse and buggy operators offering us rides to our accommodation. Andrew successfully fended off their attempts to woo us in to their carriages. We got to a dark hotel where a large man smoking a cigarette sat in the lobby. His name was Mohammed. He called for a younger man to come and check us in. He showed us to our room on the third floor and told us to get settled in then come down for a welcome drink. We were suspicious.
The Venus Hotel Lobby and the Young Man
Our room was nice for a $12 hostel in Luxor, Egypt. There were three twin beds and an ensuite; the shower head didn’t work. We had air-conditioning though! The room could have been dirty and untidy and I wouldn’t have cared if it had air-conditioning at that point. We reluctantly headed downstairs for our welcome drink we weren’t totally sure we wouldn’t have to pay for.
Welcome to Luxor
Mohammed and the young man were in the lobby. There was also a new guy around our age. He was also named Mohammed. The young man asked us what we wanted to drink. I wasn’t sure if we could drink the water there so I asked for a soda. He said something about a sugar drink, and I replied sure. Instead of heading to a refrigerator he walked outside and we were left in an awkward silence with Mohammed #1. He asked us a few questions. I had a hard time deciphering what he was saying, but Andrew seemed to make something of it and answered back.
Andrew and Mohammed #2 had a few discussions about life and culture.
A few minutes later the younger man returned with sugar cane drinks. They were yellow in color, with no fizz, and they were a strange kind of sweetness. I drank mine because I didn’t want to be rude, and it wasn’t that bad. Mohammed #2 talked to us about our plans for the next day. He offered his services and said he would happily book us a tour guide and driver for the day. We just needed to let him know in the morning if we wanted it. We made a little small talk, and once our drinks were almost finished we headed upstairs to our quaint little room and air-conditioning. I think we fell asleep around 1:30 am.
Our Day Starts in Luxor
We woke up later than we wanted to, but sleeping in a bed that didn’t move, in a room that had air-conditioning, and after a full day of site seeing yesterday will do that to you. We headed to the restaurant to have breakfast. Breakfast was included when you booked. It was probably the worst part of our whole stay, but it was something to fill our stomachs.
We headed down to the lobby around 10 am to find Mohammed #2 in the same place we saw him the night before. We had discussed over breakfast that we’d like to have a tour and driver and see the site of Luxor. Mohammed and Andrew discussed the price. Andrew haggled him down to what we were willing to pay for a day tour, and we followed the young man from the night before down to the Nile River.
Crossing to the West Bank
We boarded a boat which took us across the Nile to the west bank. Our first stop would be the Valley of the Kings. We met our driver on the west bank, and drove a few minutes inland. He pulled over and a young man named Mohammed Ali jumped in the front seat of the car. He was our guide for the day. Mohammed Ali had a nice accent when he spoke English; he was easy to understand. We continued driving heading closer and closer to the large mountain we could see from the east bank where we were staying.
The Valley of the Kings
We pulled in to the entrance of the Valley of the Kings. A huge pointed mountain in the shape of a pyramid. Limestone rocks were the only site to be seen among the dust and sand. Our guide explained that this was the burial site for 32 pharaohs including King Tut. We bought our tickets and boarded a small tram for a short ride farther up the mountain. Cameras are not allowed in the Valley of the Kings. Instead the tram driver tried to sell everyone a stack of post cards that had photos from inside the tombs we were about to enter.
Entrance to Valley of the Kings
Our ticket included three of the thirty-two tombs. We did not spend the extra 100 EP to enter King Tut’s tomb. I had read about his tomb already, and while it would have been fascinating to enter it, his tomb is much smaller and plain compared to the others. We entered the first tomb of Ramses IV. The entrance was steep and colorful. They tomb was hot and humid inside. It was much larger than I thought it would be. I had imagined we would be crouching and crawling down steep passage ways. We walked upright very easily.
We continued our tour of Valley of the Kings visiting Ramses IX and sadly one other, but I cannot remember the name. I was dripping with sweat at this point and happy to see our air-conditioned car waiting for us in the parking lot. The Valley of the Kings was my number one “thing to see” in Luxor. It possibly, for me, did not live up to my expectations. However, it was interesting to see. I did not realize that the tombs would be so easily accessible and heavily decorated with paintings and hieroglyphics.
Next on the tour was Habu Temple. Habu Temple is still in good condition and much larger on the inside than what the exterior entrance allows you to see. I was stunned. The columns were beautiful and made me feel small. It had beautiful entry ways to each section of its rooms. It is amazing to see in person how the ancient people worshiped and sacrificed. Our guide, Mohammed, explained why they built the temple where they did and how they sacrificed the animals to the gods. I have to be honest, I barely listened. It was the first temple like that I have ever been inside. I could not believe what I was seeing. Andrew did a much better job of listening. I was busy taking photographs, and taking in the sheer wonder of how these ancient people built such an amazing place.
Before leaving the west bank, Muhammed Ali took us to a shop where they created vases and other trinkets for tourists to purchase on their travels. It was nice to hear how they shape and create the stones into such beautiful objects, but slightly annoying since we had already let Mohammed know that we were not able to purchase anything due to our backpacks being stuffed already. We politely looked around the shop. I assumed we would not be buying anything, but we found a little camel that reminded me of the one we had seen the day before. We shared some tea and coffee with the shop owners, took a few photos, and said our goodbyes.
Our driver dropped us all off at the Nile, and we cruised across the river back to the east bank where another driver picked us up. We stopped for a quick bite to eat. Guess what Andrew and I ate? Chicken Shawarma. Side note: we ate chicken shawarmas every single day we were in Egypt. They were affordable, delicious, and quick.
Karnak Temples on the East Bank
After lunch, we continued our tour to Karnak Temples. Words cannot express the absolute stunning beauty and holy feel of this place. The Egyptians call it Karnak Temples and not Temple since it is many temples in one location. Each new pharaoh and ruler would build and add on to its grandeur. I did not realize before going just how blown away I would be by it. The light and shadows, the ancientness off it, the size of it, all of that combined to remind you of just how small you are in the world, and how small a part you are in history.
I could have spent days inside of Karnak, and I teared up due to the beauty of this holy place. Imagine how many other people have walked on those stones before me, and the stories erased and told by each dynasty of kings and queens. Make sure this place is your number one stop if you visit Luxor, Egypt. It is huge and expansive. At times, it seemed as if there were a lot of people while we were there, but they did not detract from any of the experience. I only wish we could have spent much longer there.
Sadly, we left Karnak and our driver drove us past Luxor Temple. You can easily see most of Luxor temple by walking around the outside perimeter. One side of it is next to The Nile so it is a lovely walk to take, and it was only a few minutes from our hostel.
Luxor Temple is only partially still standing. It is easy to see the wonder it once was as a gateway to The Nile, but due to its dilapidation we did not pay the entrance fee to go inside on the advice of our guide. We took a few photos of Luxor Temple and our driver dropped us off at our hostel.
Our Day in Luxor Ends
We showered the dust of the day and sweat off ourselves and enjoyed an evening walk around Luxor in search for another chicken shawarma! We were hounded by horse and carriage drivers; many of who already knew where we were staying and had talked to us the day before. The east bank of Luxor (at least the center of it) is very small, and easy to walk around. There is one large street that makes a loop so you can walk around and you never need to turn down a side street.
The managers of the hostel warned us to not take the horse and carriages anywhere. They said that many of them will try and charge more than the price you agree upon before getting in, or they will possibly rob you. The horses do not look well taken care of either. Please, if you are planning a visit to Luxor, do not ride in one of these. Trust me though, it is hard to say no. They are the best salesmen I’ve ever seen, and they are tenacious.
Flight to Cairo
Mohammed from our hostel booked us flights back to Luxor and let us stay another night at The Venus for half price. We went to bed early by Egypt’s standards, and set our alarm for 3:45 am to catch our 4 am drive to the Luxor Airport. Our flight back to Cairo was just under an hour, much faster than the train, and on time! When we got to Cairo we made our way back to Yousef’s and slept all day.
I will post my final thoughts on Egypt in my next post and mention any thing I left out I feel is important. Please, ask me any questions you have, and feel free to comment. Thanks for reading! Also, I can’t get more photos to load, but please check out my Facebook page or my Instagram for more photos!