Luxor's West Bank

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing

Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I woke up feeling awful, with what appeared to be a full-blown cold: a very sore throat, congestion, body aches, and a headache -- not exactly the perfect recipe for a holiday. Some drugs and a shower later, I was feeling somewhat better, so we went to the restaurant upstairs for breakfast overlooking the Nile. We filled up on carbs and made a game plan for the day, then set out towards the dreaded ferry. 

The ferry was annoying again and provided yet another reminder of my whorish appearance. Throughout the trip, I failed to comprehend the reason for all the attention I received. Whether I was wearing a long dress to my ankles that didn't cling in any of the right or wrong places, or a pair of pants with a long-sleeved shirt, the reception I received on the street, on the metro, or on the ferry was always overt -- and unwanted. All this despite the fact that I was clearly with Konrad. To be fair, they at least acknowledged him; nearly every single man who said something actually spoke to (at?) Konrad. The phrase that was repeated over and over again was "Lucky man!" And for all my efforts at dressing appropriately, t was always somehow way worse when I was dressed in long flowing black (quite similar to the way many Egyptian women were dressed, I would expect -- the only thing missing was my headscarf and/or niqab). 

The touts on the other side of the Nile were also annoying, but we quickly distanced ourselves from them as we walked further down the main drag. We had planned on walking the whole way (about 6 kilometers), but when a guy drove up offering us a ride to the ticket office for 3LE (about 50 cents), it seemed silly to say no. We were there in no time and bought our regular price tickets for Medinat Habu -- only the second time we'd been refused teacher discount tickets during our trip.

While there are a few things to see on Luxor's East Bank, where most of the accommodation and commodities are centered, the main attractions are located on the West Bank. They are spread out quite a bit, and there is no single ticket that will gain you entrance to all of them; you have to buy individual tickets for each thing you want to see. Unfortunately, apart from the Valley of the Kings and Deir al-Bahri, and the Valley of the Queens, there is only one office where you can buy tickets to all the other sites -- which are spread out over many, many kilometers. As such, you need to plan what you want to see and buy the tickets at the beginning -- or you'll be running back and forth all day long and not get to see much (did I also mention that you're in the desert?). 

We thought we'd first buy tickets to Medinat Habu, which was to the south, then walk back north and buy tickets to anything else we wanted to see. Tickets in hand, we began the short walk to the temple, being joined by a small band of 5-7 year olds who were very persistent and continued to demand money from us. After eventually shaking them by ignoring them, we rounded the last bend and suddenly were confronted by a load of tour buses. Despite being completely alone on the road (save Robin Hood's band of merry six year olds), we feared we wouldn't be by ourselves inside the temple because It looked like this site was on the tour bus circuit. Nevertheless, we were able to find corners to tuck ourselves away in, alone, and away from the groups. 

By the time we'd explored every nook and cranny, it was closing in on one. We still had eleven more sites to hit, so we began the walk back to the ticket office. This time we tried the other window and had better luck: for just 20LE backsheesh, we got the discounted tickets. From there, we walked the road to Deir el-Medina and the two artisan tombs nearby. This area was very quiet and eventually we had it all to ourselves. Unfortunately, you can't take photos in the tombs -- there was some incredibly beautiful stuff down there, very colorful and detailed. After we crawled back to the surface, we continued on the road and got to Deir el-Medina, where we were completely alone, save the temple's caretaker.

The quiet continued as we walked to the Tombs of the Nobles, of which we had purchased tickets to see seven. Some of these tombs were equally wonderful, but some of them were actually quite simple and didn't live up to our expectations. That said, it was still deliciously quiet and nearly deserted, and we were always alone in the tombs. It seemed as if the tour buses merely hit the big ticket items and left the smaller ones for the rest of it going our own way.

We'd ticked ten of the sites off our list, and just needed to cross the road to hit number eleven: The Ramesseum, Ramses II's temple. The Ramesseum was almost empty and was incredibly atmospheric because the sun had begun its descent, creating a wonderful, warm light that was perfect for taking pictures. After soaking it up and letting Konrad revere his favorite pharaoh, we began the walk back to the ferry. Along the way, we got a good offer and accepted a ride back to the jetty, which was especially helpful since I was still achy and whatnot. Surprisingly, the ferry was less irritating this time (a sign of things to come?): we only had a single harasser asking for money.

Back on the other side, we tried to take a dip in our hotel's rooftop pool, but the water was really cold, so we retreated to the warmth of our hotel room. I watched the (awful) movie Chain Reaction (I was looking for Madison, what can I say?) while Konrad dozed. How he was able to drown out the incredibly loud wedding celebrations from the street below, I have no idea. It would seem that Eid al-Adha is an auspicious time to get married as we saw countless wedding parties. Before it got too late, we got ourselves together and walked to Sofra for an amazing and unbelievably cheap dinner, before returning to the hotel and getting some shut-eye in before another day of exploring Luxor's West Bank.
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