After finishing the hot air balloon ride (which finished right around 6:30am), Muhamed and I decided that we’d rather have Hassan continue with the tour so we could beat the heat rather than go back to the boat for breakfast.
It was an early start and an early day, but I’m so glad we made that choice. It really gets absurdly hot here!
We started the day of sightseeing at the Colossus of Memnon – these are two statues that had fallen but are put back together. They’re also doing some work at the site because they found more remnants of what they think are more Colossi.
Everyone in Luxor mentioned to us that there’s still so much to be found, many people dig beneath their homes. My driver from the train station to the boat said his neighbor dug, found a statue, and now drives a nice car and has an even nicer vacation villa. I’m not sure of the veracity of these claims – my driver also mentioned that digging (and certainly selling anything found) is quite illegal. One would think the authorities might notice such a sudden change in fortunes.
Luxor is also known as the world’s largest open-air museum. Even given the penchant for exaggeration, on this point, I would agree. There are temples and statues everywhere, and so much is still being discovered. Who knows how many more tombs there are to find in the Valley of the Kings?
After finishing at the Colossus of Memnon, we continued on to Hatshepsut Temple. This was definitely my favorite so far! I love the architecture of it – it’s very geometric, and in the past few decades, they’ve done a great job rebuilding it from the ruins it was in. It’s interesting how many temples the Egyptians have decided to rebuild. You might think they’d just leave the ruins, but it’s not their way. I quite like the rebuilt ones, too!
Hatshepsut is a multi-level temple built into the side of a mountain, and the different levels all provide different views. At one point, there was also an avenue of Sphinxes leading up to the temple, but only a few have been found.
The carvings here were, as so many are, outstanding. You can see the stories they’re depicting, and the detail is just incredible.
I also loved how open Hatshepsut feels – unlike many of the other temples, this one is set on a lot of land and modernity doesn’t encroach on it. It makes it feel more authentic! It’s hard to feel immersed in history at Luxor temple, for example, when cars are speeding by 10 meters away.
We then went on to the Valley of the Kings. They’re incredibly strict about no photography whatsoever in the entire Valley (let alone inside the tombs). I’m told some well-placed bribes/“tips” can have guards look the other way but honestly didn’t want to try. So I have no pictures.
On the standard ticket, you can go into three tombs. You don’t have to pick between the tombs, because generally only three of the standard temples are open on any given day. I’ve never been in anything quite like these tombs. For most of them, you walk down into the earth in a tunnel that’s large and airy, with the walls covered with hieroglyphics. The colors that are still remaining on them are vibrant, and it’s a wonder that the ancients were able to carve all of this so precisely.
There are a few tombs that you can pay extra and go into past the three with the ticket, and I decided to go into King Tut’s tomb. It was so awesome to be inside the tomb that you hear so much about! I walked in and spent the time imagining what it must have been like for Howard Carter when he discovered it.
It was also fun to think about the treasures I’d seen in the Egyptian Museum just piled around the tomb!
After that, we went back to the boat. After lunch, it set sail for the first time! I loved watching the world go by as we were sailing down the Nile. I spent the afternoon lounging on the top deck near the pool, where I met some new friends – Brad and Linda from New Zealand. They ended up being great cruise friends!
Along the way, we had to go through the locks at Esna. I’ve never been in a ship’s lock before, and it was fun to watch the process of raising the boat.
The vendors here are crazy, and almost as bad as the Pyramids. As we were sailing, there was a small boat that was rowing right in our path. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and it looked like we were about to hit them.
I went to the side of the boat where they were, and lo and behold – they’d put a rope onto the boat so that they were using the boat to drag them along! They then yelled out and showed goods they were trying to sell, and would throw them onto the boat. It was, to say the least, a most unique transaction to witness.
So that was the first full day of the cruise – I probably fell asleep at about 8:45 (or as soon as dinner was over!). I was worn out from the hot air balloon, the touring, and the sun!