Thanks for all your messages so far, it's good to see that someone is reading. Sorry for lack of pictures but it seems "USB" is an alien concept to our hotel here in Luxor!
Please keep leaving us messages and even sign the guest book if you like!
Thursday, August 20
Today, we flew from Cairo to Luxor - we were both glad to be getting out of Cairo after all the hassles and such like and hoped Luxor would be better.
Our flight, from the new Cairo Terminal 3, was pretty uneventful except for the last 5 minutes when the brat behind us screamed constantly as his mother slammed his hand in the fold-down tray!
Landing in Luxor, the heat hits you immediately - Cairo had been mid-30s C most days (mid 80s-90s F) but Luxor was around 40 C (over 100F). We definitely felt it. Thankfully, our plan for here included early morning excursions out, late mornings sleeping and afternoons by the pool!
On our arrival, we both felt exhausted but had a short walk around the local bazaar and to get some lunch. Despite the heat, I tried an authentic Egyptian stew thing, which was lovely but not ideal in this weather!
At 5pm, we headed down the river bank to the Luxor Museum, hoping it would be better than Cairo's! Despite the hassling by taxi drivers and horse carriages, who couldn't believe we would want to walk anywhere, we got to the museum in good time and reasonably unscathed from hassles!
The museum itself was brilliant - everything the Egyptian Museum in Cairo was not. It was clean, well lit and all the exhibits were spaced out and excellently explained. The best thing for me was the items they showed restored, which included pictures of the original piece and information about the restoration project. Cairo could learn a lesson or two! They had a number of King Tut pieces, some Akenhaten statues and a couple of excellent mummies. One was particularly creepy as the bandages had been removed down to his chest, showing the shoulders, neck and skull, including hair, of the body. Not only that, there was no extra charge here like Cairo!
I feel bad banging on about Cairo, but it was probably the worst place I have ever been - maybe I've missed a trick there or something but there is not a single reason for me to ever go back, unlike just about every other city I've been to.
Friday, August 21
This morning, we planned to go to the Luxor Temple for opening time - 6am! Beat the crowds and beat the heat!
However, having hit snooze a few times and dragged Elizabeth out of our grouchy early morning state, we eventually arrived at the temple just before 7am. Or so we thought.
The ticket attendant said they would open in 5 minutes and Elizabeth snapped that they should be open at 6. The gentleman pointed to his watch which said 5.55am - the clocks had changed an hour last night and we didn't know! Either way, he let us in and we had the entire place to ourselves.
The Avenue of Sphinxes looked awesome and the temple itself included some amazing carvings and hieroglyphics. We'd seen the Temple yesterday, our hotel overlooks it with a nice view from the rooftop pool, but seeing the carvings up close and the huge statues was amazing. Being there with no-one else certainly made a difference and justified our early start.
Unfortunately, the Temple is not that big and in just over an hour, we were done and headed back to the hotel for breakfast. We still had the whole day spare and no idea what to do - so, after a long nap, some lunch and some shopping for the room (water, crisps, biscuits, the essentials - oh, and washing powder for our stinky clothes!), we headed up to the pool and lazed around until it was time for our afternoon nap before dinner.
Sleeping - very under-rated, I've recently found out. I blame the heat here!
For dinner, we went tourist - curry at the Bombay Restaurant. The food was lovely and the service was good, but I regretted the decision the next morning - I stank of curry as my pores had sweated it out overnight! Nice, huh? :)
Saturday, August 22
Repeating yesterday morning, but with less hitting of the snooze button and without the hour cock up, we left the hotel at 6am and walked towards the north of town and the Karnak Temple - a larger, more extravagent temple than the Luxor Temple. The two temples were originally joined by the Avenue of Sphinxes, which we had seen yesterday.
The walk today was a little longer, but still it felt good to stretch the legs. However, longer walk equals more time for hassling and we were constantly harrassed by carriage owners who would often stop right in front of us so we could not walk any further until they moved. They were so rude and so annoying, just refusing to accept my reasonably polite response of "no, thank you".
We were relieved to reach Karnak and the site was huge and poorly signposted, the ticket office being well tucked away around the back of a small museum housing a model of the site.
Like the Luxor Temple, Karnak was covered in amazing carvings and huge columns and statues of various pharaohs.
As the weather started heating up, Elizabeth and I started to lose a little interest, the decorations here seeming so similar to those we'd seen elsewhere. Despite the site being much bigger, we were again finished in around 90 minutes or so and were heading back to the hotel for just before 9am.
I'm not even sure where the rest of the day went - we bought stamps, had lunch, checked some stuff on the internet and had a sleep, along with getting some laundry done. Before we knew it, it was time to get showered and ready for dinner. Sticking with mostly Egyptian type food for lunches, we headed to La Mama at the Sheraton Hotel for dinner and got some lovely Italian food. The setting was nice and was just like a Little Italy. Despite the restaurant being outside, the surroundings were pleasant and not too warm.
As we were finishing our dinner, we noticed something flying around and swooping around the trees. As it got closer, we noticed it was a bat, flying around. Couldn't get a bloody picture though!
Sunday, August 23
We'd arranged with a taxi driver yesterday to take us to the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings. The drive from Luxor's East Bank is about 40 minutes. The journey takes you south out of Luxor, over a bridge and then back north to almost opposite where you started! The scenery here is surprisingly green given the climate, showing the effect the large Nile river has on the entire environment around here.
So, setting off just before 6am we were at the entrance to the Kings by about 6.30. Already, there were tour buses there but thankfully not too many. We bought our tickets, and a ticket for the small train to the top and headed on up the Valley.
We had three tombs we wanted to see and were already disappointed when we were notified at the ticket gate that one of those three was shut. Inside, we headed towards the other two, starting first with Horemheb. The walk down to the tomb was well lit, well pathed and not too steep, unlike those we'd been into at Giza, Sakkara et al. Inside, the carvings were amazing and the colours on them perfectly preserved over time, with the blues, reds and yellows still brightly decorating all the walls and ceilings. Like most of the tombs here, this one was not finished and it was cool to see one room where the wall was marked with black and red lines showing where the carvings should've been. Obviously Horemheb died a little too quickly!
From there, we headed to the tomb of Amenhotep III - and this was closed too! In fact, lots of tombs were. It would've been nice if they'd stated all of the closed tombs at the start rather than just one of them!
We headed a little further up the hill and went into the tombs of Taworset/Sethnakht and Seti II. Seti II had originally been buried alongside his wife, Taworset, but the Pharaoh Sethnakht had had Seti's body removed to a new site and buried himself in a chamber close to that of the other pharaoh's wife - it didn't explain why Sethnakht had done that but it seemed a strange thing to do. Both these tombs were like the first, each with slightly different symbols and gods and scenes depicted in them, but all equally amazing and much better, at least inside, than the Pyramids of Giza.
Outside, however, there was nothing much to see, just a rocky hillside into which all the tombs here had been carved.
From here, we went to Deir el-Bahri, a memorial temple to Queen Hatshepsut. The building, with large columns and statues, looked dwarfed by the surrounding hillside which it was cut into but up close, with the tour groups milling around for perspective, the temple was massive! Walking up the large staircase to the first area was a hot, sweaty effort and I could see Elizabeth was getting flustered in the heat. We headed to the side pillars first, trying to catch some shade while we looked at the carvings.
Even here, even by the tourist police, you were hassled and, in a vain attempt to gain tips, random locals would point at stuff and grunt some un-decipherable word. One policeman, in plain clothes but carrying a handy AK-47, kept walking up to tourists, grabbing their cameras, taking some snaps and then asking for a tip. We avoided him thankfully, but what do you say to a man holding your camera and an automatic weapon asking for a few pounds?!
We tried to buy some more drinks from the shop near the temple but again, the rip-off was in process, expecting 20 Egyptian pounds for a can of coke! Walking out of the temple, through a small bazaar, we managed to get a large bottle of water for 10 pounds - more than the shops in Luxor but cold and worthwhile nonetheless!
From here, we headed to our last stop - Medinat Habu, another large temple but this one had some amazing scenes depicted on the surrounding walls. The large walls were completely covered in scenes depicting the kings and the gods and these walls towered over anything we'd seen before. This place was described as a hidden gem of the West Bank and as we walked around almost alone, the paintings and stone carvings in each room seemed to be more and more elaborate. Most of the paintings looked amazingly detailed close up, but only from across the courtyards could you get a full perspective of the complete picture. This was amazing and probably the best temple, tomb, pyramid, whatever, that I've seen so far. Even with Temple overload, having seen Karnak and Luxor previously, it was hard not to be impressed. Each one we'd seen had got progressively better - if we'd seen Habu first the others would've seemed pitiful, I suspect!
After that, and a brief stop for photos at the Colossi of Memnon, we headed back to Luxor's East Bank.
On the way back, I was day-dreaming and an idea for a story popped into my head. I thought it was silly but Elizabeth encouraged me to try and write something to see how it sounds. I spent the whole afternoon writing stuff so maybe one day I'll let someone other than her read it (when it's finished, of course!).
In the evening, after more pool time and more laundry, we headed to the King's Head Pub. I'd planned on trying the roast beef but it was so hot I resorted back to an Egyptian meat feast and a couple of beers!
Monday, August 24
We had nothing planned today - a visit to the bakery for breakfast, some more laundry (we don't have much room to hang stuff so we do a bit each day until we can find a launderette!) and some more lazing around the pool. Early morning, the breeze felt nice but by lunchtime, the temperature had hit 42C (108F)!!! I'll stay in the shade, I think!
Tuesday, August 25
(I know this is tomorrow, but I'll be a fortune teller)
Nothing planned, evening flight to Sharm.
Hope it will be cooler.