Luxor and the West Bank

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
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Trip End Jun 19, 2006


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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, April 10, 2006

Luxor - once mighty Thebes, now Touristopolis, where hustle meets bustle, and cruise ships are stacked along the banks of the Nile life so many Lego blocks. There's a McDonalds here with free delivery, a Club Med, and touristicles by the thousands.
10,000 tourists a day tread the paths of the Valley of the Kings alone, with 100 tour buses making a daily 10-hour round trip from Hurghada, on the Red Sea coast, to the sites at Luxor.
Inevitably, the sheer touristic value of the archaeological wonders of Thebes draws the touts, like flies to honey, and the inescapable price dualities and rip-offs that Egypt seems to specialise in.

But not even the relentless cries of "Papyrus?", "See my shop!", or "Water? 10 pounds", can distract from the incredible sights on offer here, in the West Bank. The Valley of the Kings needs no introduction, of course. Here, the tombs of dozens of pharaohs have been discovered in the last 200 years, with the most recent being found only last year. the most famous, without doubt, is the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, this small tomb of a mere minor pharaoh, a boy king who only ruled for 9 years and died at the age of 19, was the only tomb ever to be found intact and unspoiled. The wealth and stunning artifacts discovered within are now the stuff of legend, and Tutankhamun is easily the most well-known of Egypt's rulers. However, his tomb, now mostly emptied and on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, is far from the most impressive on display.
Many of the tombs are closed to the public unfortunately, for restoration work, so my choice was limited. In the end, I was able to explore the tombs of Ramses IV, Ramses III, and Ramses I, all of which contain exquisite and delicate frescoes depicting their respective pharaoh's passage to the afterlife, and the wealth he took with him to the realm of the gods. Alas, photography was not allowed inside, with the ever vigilant guards more than willing to drag offenders outside by their camera straps, so I have nought but memories to take with me, and no photos to share. You'll just have to come here yourselves!
Of the many other highlights on offer, we managed to get around the imposing edifice of the Temple of Hapshupset (built by one of Egypt's greatest female pharaohs) and wander casually through several of the vividly decorated Tombs of the Nobles. The best of these was the Tomb of Ramose, where I was able (for a little baksheesh, of course) to clamber into the bowels of the earth, 50 feet below the main chamber, to where the sarcophagus used to lie and there discover, amid the Stygian gloom, the skull of poor departed Ramose. My second mummy's skull in 2 weeks - not bad going really!

After that, though, it was time to call it quit. Two consecutive days of exploring old stone was enough for this traveller for a while, and I was starting to think wistfully of the deep blue waters of the Sinai, and Dahab - my next destination. All that stood in my way was a 17 hour bus journey. I can't say I was looking forward to that, but I knew it was time to see Luxor, and it's amazing reminder of what once was, in the rear-view mirror. For this trip, at least.
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