We’ve left Cairo and are now on board the Sonesta Star Goddess, an all-suite ship, for a four-night Nile River cruise. When we left our hotel in Cairo at 5:30am on Monday, the streets were empty due to the curfew that is in effect from midnight to 6am.
The Cairo airport is not the hectic scene it usually is with thousands of tourists flying home or to other parts of Egypt. Instead, there are mostly business travelers and few tourists. Our flight to Luxor was mostly full but again with few tourists and mostly business travelers. Those business travelers are happy to see us here; many have thanked us for coming and asked that we spread the word that it is safe to come to Egypt.
Upon arrival in Luxor we immediately notice the change in pace. Luxor is usually a much slower pace than Cairo but this time it is even more so. While there are markedly more tourist here there aren’t nearly as many as there would normally be. Luxor is located in Upper Egypt and is considered the countryside. You’ll see many farmers and donkey drawn carts with produce, men dressed in Galabeya’s with turban wrapped heads. The roads are lined with palm trees and the traffic is reduced to two lanes. This small unassuming place is the home to some of the most impressive ancient sites. The Arabic word Luxor means “The Palaces” and it was the capital of Ancient Egypt.
We head straight to the Karnak Temple, the largest complex in the world. This open-air museum makes ancient Egypt come to life with statues of Ramsey II, Tutankhamen, Amenhotep III and the road of Sphinx. Walking through Karnak gives you the sense of the life then. We’re talking about an area covering over 100 acres. Immediately following the Karnak temple we head to the Luxor Temple. Smaller in size, the Luxor Temple is the ancient city of Thebes.
On our second day in Luxor before the ship sets sail we visit the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Valley of the Kings and Valley of Queens.
I am fascinated with Hatshepsut’s story and her temple is a site to see. Hatshepsut was the most powerful female Pharaoh that ever ruled. She ruled with finesse but make no mistake about it she was tough. Her temples architecture surpassed any that had been built before it. Hatshepsut’s husband was sickly and died at an early age giving her cause to reign. She was succeeded by her step and it is unclear how she died or if he overthrew her. He did however erase her name from her temple keeping the statues but replacing the cartouches with his name. One odd thing that was discovered was the tomb of her architect, which was near Hatshepsut’s Temple and is very uncommon. Even more surprising was a connection from her tomb to his and some graffiti that depicted a love affair with Hatshepsut and her architect. Finally, her sarcophagus was found in the nannies tomb. Was this a sign of disrespect? Was she hidden for protection or was it simply misplaced by archeologists?
The Valley of the Kings is a place where kings and other royals were buried. Numerous chambers are underground and used to house the sarcophagi and worldly possessions of the kings. Cameras are no longer allowed. The Valley of the Queens is where the queens and others were buried. Most of the tombs found here are in poor condition and cannot be seen by tourists. Nefertari’s tomb is here and is one that can be seen. It’s small but boasts brilliant colors. Hatshepsut’s tomb is not here. He tomb is near her temple. You can also find tombs of prince’s in The Valley of the Queens.
I know most people come to Egypt for the Pyramids of Giza, but the most impressive for me is Luxor and it’s temples and tombs. The walls, temples and tombs tell a much greater story for me.
I prefer the four-night Nile River cruise that starts in Luxor and sails to Aswan rather than the three-night Nile Rive cruise that starts in Aswan and sails to Luxor. On the four-night cruise you can break up the tours of Luxor into two half-day tours instead of cramming them into one full day tour before heading to the airport.
We’re finished touring for the day and our ship has set sail.
Tune in for our next adventure as we sail along the Nile River.