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Getting around

Part 4: Luxor, Abydos, Dendera, West Bank

25.12: Munich -> Cairo -> Alexandria
26.12: Alexandria
27.12: Alexandria -> El Alamein -> Siwa
28.12: Siwa
29.12: Siwa -> Marsa Matrouh
30.12: Marsa Matrouh -> Luxor via Alexandria and Cairo
31.12: Luxor
01.01: West Bank -> Nile river -> Luxor
02.01: Abydos, Dendera, Luxor
03.01: Luxor -> Edfu -> Kom Ombo -> Assuan
04.01: Assuan
05.01: Assuan -> Abu Simbel
06.01: Abu Simbel -> Cairo
07.01: Cairo, Sakkara, Memphis
08.01: Cairo -> Munich

31.12: Luxor
Hotel Royal House, Luxor.
Weather: sunny, blue sky and fresh, but warmer than yesterday. Overcast in the late afternoon.

We are woken up at 8:30am by Alissia, who just woke up and can't wait to join us. After a breakfast in the hotel we take a taxi to the Luxor temple (25 EGP after bargaining a bit, perhaps too much given the short distance of 1.4km). Driver offers the West Bank tour for 130 EGP, 150 EGP for the whole day.

At 10:30am we are at the Luxor temple (adults 50 EGP, children 25 EGP). Until 12pm noon we are there. The Luxor temple is sort of a smaller version of the Karnak temple. Very impressive architecture, even if a lot of it is ruins and on many bas-reliefs the faces have been chiselled away.

We then take a horse carriage back to the hotel (30 EGP). There we have a lunch in the nearby Pizza Roma.it Italian restaurant. The cook is an Italian guy and the food is good.

After lunch we take another taxi to the Karnak temple. Again the driver offers to bring us to the West Bank for 150 EGP. He offers the day trip to Dendera and Abydos for 450 EGP and the (one way) trip to Aswan for 450 EGP. Hmmm.... eight years ago we paid 250 EGP for the trip to Aswan.

The entry ticket for the Karnak temple is 65 EGP for adults and 35 EGP for children. The Karnak temple covers a huge area and its architecture, bas-reliefs and structures are impressive. We spend 1 1/2 hours there, from 2:15pm to 3:45pm. It would be easily possible to spend much more time there, but after a while you get tired by all that ancient Egyptian stuff.

At 4 something pm we get into a taxi back to the hotel. I get out at the Luxor temple, waiting for the sunset (it's 4:30pm in the meantime). While I walk towards the temple, a number of people approach me, offering felucca boat trips. Prices from from 100 EGP for one hour down to 30 EGP/hour, quite interesting. I also receive different offers for the West Bank trip. The cheapest is 130 EGP, the most expensive is 300 EGP (but also here the person drops the price to 150 EGP, after I tell him about the other offers). 130-150 EGP seems to be the price if you go with a taxi.

After that I shoot some 'blue hour' photos of the Luxor temple. Again I'm approached by other people offering horse carriage trips and felucca boat trips. After a while it gets tiring to discuss the same details again and again with different people. And people are quite pushy: you tell them 'no' and they still keep on insisting.

I understand that people need to support their families and need the business, but I only need one car+driver for tomorrow, not five different ones. And it's really tiring having to repeat no, no and no again.

At 6 something pm I'm back in the hotel. Natasha is still sleeping. We have a dinner in the nearby Indian restaurant between 7:30 and 8:30pm, then go back into town for some shopping. We are back in the hotel at 10pm.

01.01: West Bank -> Nile river -> Luxor
Hotel Royal House, Luxor.
Weather: same weather as yesterday: sunny, blue sky and fresh, overcast in the late afternoon.

After breakfast, at 10am we jump into the car of Mohammed, the taxi driver with whom we agreed the trip to the West Bank. For 150 EGP he'll bring us to the Valley of Kings, Valley of Queens, Temple of Hatshepsut and Memnon colossi.

We initially drive a few km to the south and cross the Nile river on the bridge, then drive north again. It appears that all west bank sites we are visiting are quite close to Luxor. The point to point distances are just a few km.

We reach the parking of the Valley of Kings at 10:45am. There we are immediately approached by very sticky and stubborn local people who try to sell us every possible nonsense.

Some of the stuff is even nice and some of the prices ridiculously low (one EGP for a statue of a cat??), but the whole setup is so crazy that you can't even have a look at the items, because if you have a look you are identified as a 'buyer' by all other local people and can no longer get rid of them. If these people simply let the tourists alone, they'd probably sell more.

Anyway, we walk through some kind of souvenir bazaar, then reach the ticket counter. The tickets cost 80 EGP for an adult and 40 EGP for a child older than 5 years. Quite expensive indeed and the tickets only allow you to visit three tombs. For special tombs, such as for instance the Nr 62 Tutankhamun one, you must purchase an extra ticket for 100 EGP.

The tombs are - simply put -  overwhelming. Without knowing which one to choose, we simply walk into the first one, and wow, corridors and chambers with walls covered by colourful carvings and frescoes or hieroglyphs and ancient Egyptian gods and pharaohs. All this stuff is 3000-4000 years old, highly impressive.

A pity that photography is not allowed. In fact you must leave the camera at a special repository, before being allowed to walk into the tomb area.

There are 60 tombs but apparently only nine are open for tourists today. We spend two hours there, but it's easily possible to spend the entire day visiting the tombs (if more than nine tombs were open). In any case two hours are by no means sufficient to properly experience this place.

After visiting two additional tombs, Nr 11 and 14, we get back to the area entrance point and wait for Sara who bought the ticket for the Tutankhamun tomb. When she is back she says that this tomb also contains mummies.

So we then drive to the second place, the temple of Hatshepsut, arriving at 1pm. This is also nice, impressively setup with that cliffs background. The entry ticket costs 30 EGP (check) for adults, 15 for children..... We spend 40 minutes there, then get to the next place, the Valley of the Queens, where we arrive at 2:15pm.

The Valley of the Queens is again a tomb area in the mountains of the Nile's west bank, which contains a number of tombs. It's sort of a smaller and less interesting version of the Valley of Kings: fewer tombs and less impressive ones. Interestingly in spite of the name of this valley, we visit two tombs of princes. These tombs are small, but one or two have very well preserved carvings and paintings. Hard to believe that these are almost 4000 years old.

While entering into one of the tombs I manage to twist my foot. I can continue walking, but hours later, while sitting at the restaurant, the foot swells up and I can barely walk.

When we finish the Valley of Queens it's not yet 3pm. So we are still on time to do a felucca trip. We tell the driver, who calls a friend. After a stop at the Memnon colossi at 3:15pm, we meet this guy. Turns out it's Nubi, one of the guys with whom I spoke yesterday.

Some discussion and we settle on 60 EGP/hour (I don't recognise him immediately, and initially he asks for 250 EGP, even if yesterday he offered 60 EGP/hour). After crossing the Nile river in a ferry (2 EGP/person, apparently because we are the only people in the boat), we start the trip at 3:20pm.

Felucca trips on the Nile in the late afternoon before sunset are cool. Nice light, setup, atmosphere. We make it to Banana island, which in reality is not an island, it's an area on the west bank of the Nile with some banana plantations. We stop there and pay 35 EGP for the privilege of visiting the plantation and eating some of the bananas.

The plantation is interesting for the children (I can show them banana trees, which do not grow in Germany) and behind there is a sugarcane plantation. The Aladdin restaurant (that's the name of the place) also offers drinks, but apparently the only food are bananas.

It's almost 5pm and the sun is about to set. So we get back on the felucca and cross the Nile river again. We then take a taxi and have a dinner in the Fortune Cookie Chinese restaurant near the hotel. I'm almost out of Egyptian cash when the bill arrives.

After the dinner at 7pm, my foot is swollen and I can barely walk. While looking for an ATM a taxi driver picks me up and brings me to a nearby ATM. I arrange that the driver picks us up tomorrow at 9am for the trip to Dendera and Abydos, using a minivan. Later in the evening as my foot gets worse I cancel the trip.

02.01: Abydos, Dendera, Luxor
Hotel Royal House, Luxor.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, but fresh the whole day.

In the morning since I can half-way walk I call the driver and tell him we do the trip, leaving at 9:40am. In practice we'll only manage to start at 9:55am. There is a new driver, Joseph, who apparently is the uncle of the driver who picked me up yesterday evening. The car is a Hyundai minivan, spacious and comfortable. We'll drive first to Abydos, then on the way back visit Dendera.

The road until Qena (regional capital with 3 million inhabitants according to Joseph) is a mess. There are many police roadblocks and in addition, almost every km or so speed bumps on the road which slow down the traffic considerably. One and a half hours to reach Qena (only 66km from Luxor).

After Qena we drive on the west bank of the Nile river and catch the desert road. This is finally a fast road with little traffic and no roadblocks. The problem is that we can only use this road for about 50km, then it's again that stupid "village" road full of speed bumps and roadblocks.

Finally, after over three hours of driving we reach Abydos (at 1:15 pm). Had I known it takes so long to get to Abydos, I probably would have planned something else.

The temple of Sethos in Abydos is rather unimpressive from the outside, but the interiors are really impressive. Impressive bas-reliefs on the walls in the chambers, cool colonnade with bas-reliefs. Nearby there is a temple of Ramesses which we skip.

We end up spending 1:20 hours in the temple, then at 2:35pm we finally leave for Dendera. Lots of driving and at 4:28pm we are at the temple of Dendera. But the ticket office has already closed early (normally it closes at 4:30pm). Some discussion with the guards who agree to let me in for some quick photos in exchange for a small tip.

So I walk into this temple, which is not that overwhelming from the outside, but still somewhat interesting. A pity I have almost no time, because there are lots of details here and there which are quite interesting. Curious bas-relief of a naked pharaoh or male god and of the goddess Isis breastfeeding a naked boy 8-9 years old. All penises cut off, probably by the embarrassed Muslims, one of the breasts of the Isis is removed in one case.

So we drive back at 4:50pm. We should have left Luxor at least an hour earlier, or perhaps not travelled so far away to Abydos. Driving so much is not just tiring for the driver, but also for the passengers. Luckily I didn't rent a car.

We're back in Luxor at 6:20pm. I pay the driver 480 EGP, 80 more than we agreed yesterday because the trip was so long.

We agree with the driver that he will pick us up tomorrow at 10am for the trip to Aswan (500 EGP). In the evening we have a dinner in the Italian restaurant.

Copyright 2012 Alfred Molon