Temples of Karnak and Luxor
Trip Start Jan 05, 2011
56Trip End Apr 26, 2011
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We are the first cruise ship to visit Egypt since the "Revolution." Our arrival at the wharf in Safaga at 6:30 AM was without fanfare. The scene on the dock resembled chaos. Men were moving about haphazardly pushing carts loaded with heavy bundles covered with plastic or tarps. Burlap bags and bicycles were piled on top. There must have been several hundred people participating.
A man from Spain standing next to me on the bow as we watched the drama below us said that it appeared to be people leaving Egypt. It turned out this process is the way they bring their goods, consisting mainly of crafts, to the port so they can be transferred to ships that will take them to other Red Sea ports where they will be distributed for sale
I also noticed there was no security. That's the first time since the cruise began that we didn’t have security. It was somewhat unsettling.However, we later learned there was more than adequate security but it wasn't visible.
Eighteen busses were lined up to take us to Luxor, about 125 miles away from the port. Two burly men confiscated the front seats on each bus. The bulges under their suit coats gave us the comfort we needed to drive inland.
Safaga was not impressive. It was littered with trash, and ramshackled. Thoughts of Mumbai, India, came to mind. But it wasn’t nearly that bad.
Soon we were into the mountains. They were rugged and desolate. For nearly three hours we drove through a series of small villages. After not seeing vegetation at all in the mountains and desert, we welcomed seeing greenery and cultivated land
The villages consist of many small plots that are farmed by families. Tilling their plots is done by hand.
As we drew closer to Luxor sugarcane dominated. I saw a couple of tractors though most of the work was performed by men pushing plows , women weeding, and crops being placed into baskets. The produce was loaded onto donkey carts and taken to a central processing plant or to grain elevators. Donkey carts were the only means of transportation.
The donkey cart trail that paralleled the canal was the main street of each village. It was fascinating to see the row of houses side by side with cultivated land behind each house, see the people, see where they live, and understand how they survive. Soon we arrived in Luxor.
Luxor is one of the reasons to see Egypt. It is located on the Nile River and caters to tourists. The area was originally known as Thebes.There are three major attractions in addition to the Nile, the longest river in the world: The Temple of Karnak is the largest temple in the world
Karnak consists of four main sections of which only one, the Precinct of Amen-Re, is open to the public. Ornately decorated walls and massive columns are adorned with engraved images and hieroglyphs. Perhaps the most spectacular aspect is Hypostyle Hall. It is an area of 50,000 square feet with sixteen rows containing 134 large columns. With obelisks and statues the structure is an architectural phenomena. If I were to visit again I would study it ahead of time. Two days is required to appreciate it.
Luxor temple is a reason to stay another day in Luxor. It is perhaps more suble than Karnak. Not quite as large but equally interesting and not so overwhelming.
We didn’t visit the Valley of the Kings where King Tut and many other VIP’s sarcophaguses are located. There wasn't time; although one tour did do all three during our one day in Luxor
Our original itinerary would have also taken us to Alexandria and Cairo to see the pyramids. When the State Department issued its warning to stay away from Egypt, Holland America canceled both Safaga and Alexandria. Later the State Department informed us that Safaga and Luxor were safe, but Cairo and Alexandria are not. Instead of Alexandria, we substituted Ashdod, Israel. We will miss the pyramids. But we get to visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
We had lunch at the Sonesta Saint George Hotel. It is a five star hotel adjacent to the Nile River. At the large Marina near the hotel, we saw many deserted River Cruisers. These boats normally provide a five to ten day cruise along the river to Cairo from Luxor with stops in between, or vice versa. The small traditional sailboats, Dhows, with the large triangular sails were nearby. Except for one, which a couple from our ship chartered for a fifteen minute sail, they were deserted as well. The hotel had few guests . . . maybe two people in the pool. The “Revolution” has halted tourism in Egypt – understandably
In Luxor I counted three small tanks with their crews armed with AK 47s standing nearby, and various soldiers and police at other locations. We were only on a few main streets so there could have been many others out of sight on the side streets.
Luxor was clean, friendly, and service oriented. Despite what we had heard, the street vendors were not any more aggressive than anywhere else we’ve been.
Along the highway from Luxor to Safaga the military, or police, manned check points . . . again with AK 47s. By now I am so accustomed to seeing armed military and police that I don’t pay much attention. They apperared as happy to see us as we were thankful of their presence. Perhaps we have, by our uneventful presence, helped to bring tourists back to the country.
What we got in Egypt was merely a taste. It is not enough. I think if we planned another trip we would either start or end in Luxor, stay four or five days, and take one of the Nile boats then tackle the pyramids. Luxor I'd put up there on the list of important tourist sites with Petra and Ephesus. And before I left home, I would study all of them.
Our next port is Aqaba, Jordan, and Petra.