After a bumpy night on the train, I finally arrived in Luxor! In keeping with things not being well-marked, or well-announced, I’m glad I’d seen a timetable online that aid we should arrive in Luxor around 6:30am. Because I was up, packed, and ready to go at that point, watching the stations go by.
I kept my eye out for Luxor, and it’s lucky I did – there was no announcement we were at Luxor, and there was certainly no one on the train who would have come to get me. I saw the name “Luxor” as we passed into the station, grabbed my bags, and hopped off the train. I was fairly pleased with myself for getting there, and I knew my tour company would be waiting. We’d had multiple emails arranging it – they even know my coach number and cabin number.
So I looked around the platform for my ride. And he wasn’t there. Sigh. I was like “this had better not be a repeat of New Delhi” in my head. I walked through the station and even outside, where I was basically attacked by cab drivers. On my way through the station, I had one guy come ask me where I was from and then attempt to sell me on his hotel. I’ve learned in Egypt that people never actually care where you’re from and will only ask to pretend to be interested and then gauge how much money to extort from you.
I have now just started making up countries. They don’t actually care, and they don’t need to know where I’m from.
And of course, my ride was not outside the station. Luckily, security is pretty lax at Egyptian train stations so I walked back to the platform thinking that either he might be there, or I’d wait there because it seemed a place I could be easily found.
There he was! The train was actually about three hours late pulling into Luxor, so he’d been in the cafeteria. In true Egyptian fashion, the train had not been announced, so he missed that it arrived.
I decided that one of the best ways to see Egypt was to take a four-night Nile cruise. They’re not incredibly expensive, and it’s nice to have one place for your belongings. It’s also much easier than trying to arrange tours and transport for all of the sites you see along the way on a cruise. And food is included. Win-win-win. My ride from the train station took me to the boat, and I was allowed to check into my room. I was so surprised! It was 9:30am, and the normal checkin wasn’t until 12:30.
But it was so nice to have the room, and I took a nap. The sleeper train did not really let me sleep so well.
That afternoon, I met my guide, Hassan, and the other person on my tour, Muhamed from Singapore. I booked a group tour, as did Muhamed, but we were the only two English speakers who signed up, so it ended up being more like a private tour!
We were set to tour Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple later that day. There was an option to add an evening city tour, sound and light show, or a few other options. But I opted to turn in early, because I had a hot air balloon ride scheduled for the morning!
Karnak temple was giant. You’re probably going to hear a lot about things being giant – it’s really shocking how big the things the ancient Egyptians were able to build are! Karnak temple is more of a temple complex – there’s a hall of pillars that’s supposedly the best and largest hall of pillars anywhere in the world.
Side note: it seems to be a Middle Eastern habit, but everything they have is the “biggest” and “best.” My tour guide in Jordan attempted to tell me that the houses in Jordan are all far larger than the ones in the States. I think Texas and the Middle East would get along well – they both think everything is bigger there.
Back to the pillars – I might actually believe this one was the biggest and best, because it was remarkable.
On the way into the temple, you pass through the avenue of Sphinxes. There are probably 20-30 sphinxes that are lining the road, and they’ve discovered that the avenue connected Karnak and Luxor temples, with Spinxes lining the whole route!
There were multiple other rooms, and a few cool obelisks to see. There was also a giant pool where the ritual baths were.
Hassan spent a lot of time explaining the layout of the temple, the hieroglyphics, and the interplay between the Egyptian gods and the temple.
We then went on to Luxor temple, where the obelisk outside was awesome! The second obelisk is apparently in Paris – we heard a lot from our guide about where other treasures went, and it’s interesting to hear thoughts on whether they should return to Egypt.
The temple at Luxor also has a hall of pillars, though not as big as the one at Karnak. Luxor, at different times, has been an Egyptian temple, a church, and currently even has a mosque on the grounds.
You can still even see many of the colors from the original paints the Egyptians used to decorate the hieroglyphics!
With these two temples, I was excited to see more on the cruise. These were a great introduction that made me excited for the next morning.