🇪🇬 Luxor / Enjoying the quiet life on the dead side
Updated: Apr 24, 2021
I just realized that I got ahead of myself in the last blogpost - Nubia, the magical place, was yet to come. First, we had to endure another place that is culturally and historically impressive but tests your ability to withstand harassment to the max.
From WiiWii’s farm we were headed towards Luxor which meant a 10-hour drive through the desert in 40-degree heat with no AC. Luckily, we brought along our spray bottle filled with cold water that proofed to be a lifesaver for the next 650 km on the lonesome desert highway. When we started to see fata morganas towards the end of the trip, we reached a police checkpoint that pulled us over to check the passports. And since the police obviously don’t have much to do on their sandy outpost, they decided to take our passports away and give us an escort for the rest of our trip. We had read about those escorts - apparently there is potential threat by smugglers that are crossing the desert (which we didn’t see any sign of) and therefore tourists are sometimes being accompanied by police. We couldn’t really appreciate the royal treatment since we were at the end of our strength already and it also didn’t help that the officers tool us on a 50 minute detour.
Since we’ve had enough of the city life we decided to stay on the west bank of the Luxor - the same side where the Valley of the Kings is located (in ancient Egypt, the west bank of the Nile was reserved for the dead in general). Having had some experiences with the heat by now, we were picked up very early the next morning by our driver we hired for the day and arrived at the valley around 7.30am. We had looked at maps before and had imagined the area to be way bigger than it actually was - basically all the tombs are within walking distance. When we purchased the tickets the guy at the counter generously offered us half price student tickets - a favor we then had to return in the form of money that went straight into his pocket, all accompanied by his words: “You help me, I help you”. That’s basically Egypt in a nutshell. Outside of the ticket office you find a ridiculous Disney-Land-like train to hop on which till take you up a hill for about 30 seconds. Feel free to skip on that.
" ..“You help me, I help you”. That’s basically Egypt in a nutshell."
Once again it was just us, some dead kings and a couple of sleepy guards who were surprised by our visit and had yet to open most of the graves (that always came with the presentation of some facts inside the grave, which of course included the expectation for money - we were pretty good about ignoring at that point). With the ticket you get to choose 3 graves - we did some research and came up with no. 14, 11 and 8. The condition on the inside is very impressive and you can spend quite some time looking at the colorful wall paintings and engravings. We did buy an extra ticket for the resting place of Ramses V+VI which was definitely worth the money since it is one of the biggest and most well-preserved tombs in the valley.
The heat was almost unbearable when we left the Valley of the kings around 11am but we still managed to squeeze in the temple of Hatschepsut. It’s a huge memorial, carved into the rocks for a queen who crowned herself - the foundations of feminism right there and then.
The following day we decided to dare a visit on the other side - the side of the living. We took a ferry with all the locals commuting to work and headed for the Karnak temples. They are considered the biggest religious site of the ancient world and walking amongst the endless rows of columns was a very humbling and impressive experience.
After strolling around for quite some time we took a quick detour into the city to send a letter to Germany (again, with the unasked-for help of a local who in return wanted money for his services) and also in search for more malaria medication which turned out to be unsuccessful. We were longing to get back to the dead zone where a dip into the pool and a rooftop sundowner awaited us.
With this very intense time travel to ancient Egypt and its emperors still on our mind, we packed our bags for the last stop in Egypt - which turned out to be surprisingly pleasant.