Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Nile River Valley ~Tombs, Temples and Tourists

At the end of that 3.5-hour bus ride from the port city of Safaga where our cruise ship was docked we found ourselves in Luxor, Egypt crossing the Nile River . . . surrounded by some of the Ancient World’s most famed sites.

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The Nile River at Luxor, Egypt

That visit to Luxor was one of the selling points of last spring's cruise - our Magic Carpet Ride - through the Middle East that departed Bangkok,Thailand and sailed to Istanbul, Turkey. Although, truth be told we didn’t know that much about Luxor before we’d boarded the ship, I can tell you now that a day was no where near long enough to explore the treasures of this extraordinary place.
Luxor came to importance nearly 4,000 mind-boggling years ago,during the Middle Kingdom period (2055 – 1650 BC) when the then Upper Kingdom and Lower Kingdoms were united into one. Luxor, or Thebes, as it was then known, became the capital. The city grew and the Arabs are said to have renamed it ‘Luxor’ or “City of Palaces” because of its palaces and huge edifices. It remained the seat of power from 2100 BC to 750 BC.
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Modern highrise hotels like this one line the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt
Today’s Luxor provides tourists a kaleidoscope of contrasting scenes. Modern tourist hotels along the Nile are only a few blocks from the remains of the temples of Karnak and Luxor. Cross the Nile and you’ll find yourself among so many west bank tombs and temples, it is difficult to keep them all straight.

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Colossi of Memnon near Luxor, Egypt
P1010065Because of the distance cruise ship tours must travel from the port to Luxor, one day tours don’t even begin until a hot afternoon sun is blistering the Valley of the Kings.  Even with tourism's downturn, awed visitors snake into and out of the tombs at such a measured, slow pace that long lines form under an unforgiving sun.

Cameras are not allowed (in fact, confiscated if used). That is a good thing because otherwise with the crush of people in those tiny little tomb entryways, we’d still be standing there while shutterbugs took aim at the ornately decorated walls.

A trip to this area requires both stamina to stand in the sun waiting a turn inside and an ability to walk some distances in the  intense heat.

To appease the camera-totting among us, we had brief ‘photo stops’ at Hatshpsut Temple and the Colossi of Memnon –  I can tell you that the afternoon heat was so intense that only the shutterbugs hopped off the bus. Many opted to stay inside its air-conditioned comfort.

Memnon was the legendary African king who was slain by Achilles during the Trojan War. The Colossi are in front of the main entrance to an enormous funerary temple, the remains of which are being brought to light, according to our trusty Lonely Planet’s guidebook.
Again, while we found the ‘sites’ to be fascinating, it was some of the ‘sights’ along the way that really caught our imaginations. Scenes along the Nile, where dozens of river boats sat idle had us wondering if it was because they didn’t come to life until evening or because tourism is at a record-low thanks to security concerns in the country.

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River boats docked along the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt
Another ‘sight’ we would not only have loved to explore, but to have stayed at is the famous Winter Palace Hotel, built in 1886. Agatha Christie wrote her 1937 novel, “Death on the Nile” while staying here. These historic hotels are among our favorites and one day we do hope to return to this one.
 
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The Winter Palace Hotel - Luxor, Egypt
The Winter Palace is quite near the Luxor Temple, where we ended our day-long whirlwind tour of the area. You may recall from last week’s post that we had to leave the city before 6 p.m. as we’d not be allowed out after that time for security reasons. We had an hour to wander among the temple’s wonders, so here’s an small sample of what we saw. . .

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Luxor Temple Egypt

We felt small and insignificant walking between these columns.

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For that matter, everything was so large, that we felt small and insignificant.

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One of the most amazing stretches of history in Luxor, to my way of thinking, was the avenue of sphinxes, a three-kilometer alleyway that connected Luxor and Karnak – the old street is lined on both sides with sphinxes, many of which are still being excavated.

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The Scribe and The Scout at the avenue of the Sphinxes 
(Note for travel fashionistas: Forget fashion! It is simply too hot.  I am wearing the loose cotton top I had purchased at a roadside stand in Thailand where we’d had our first introduction to the area’s intense heat. Cruise ship fashion went by the wayside in lieu of cool and billowing clothes. Sunglasses and hats are essential for travel in the Middle East – a heavy duty sunscreen and lots of bottles of water are far more important than extra photo cards and batteries).

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Avenue of the Sphinxes excavation continues between Luxor and Karnak, Egypt
The setting sun signaled it was time to begin our journey back to the ship.

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Luxor Temple 
But adventures were only beginning because -- move over Lawrence of Arabia and Indiana Jones – our next stop was Jordan and its famous Wadi Rum. . .a vast desert where we skipped the ship’s tour and did our own – we’ll tell you about that next week.

Hello to our new subscribers, thanks much for joining in the journey! Happy and safe travels to you all~
 
Linking up this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

40 comments:

  1. Jackie and Joel those columns are awe inspiring. What an amazing place to be at. And I'm pretty sure I've seen that hotel in the movies before no wonder you want to visit. I had to laugh at the line about the fashionistas. In the summer I wilt, it's practically impossible to get me out of the shade never mind dressing fashionably. Stay cool and hydrated.

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    1. Another friend did ask me Mary how the weather compared to Greece and I said it was far more intense than July in Greece (which is a time that we head for the cool indoors about 10 a.m. and don't venture outside until 7 p.m.). Thanks much for the visit.

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  2. love your photos. They really do capture the immensity of the statues.

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  3. Fascinating experience... And so interesting details, aspects; hotels near the valley! Wow, I think you're right feeling "small and insignificant" among those treasures of history!
    impressive travel!
    Best regards!

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    1. It was one of those 'never-to-be-forgotten' experiences - hope the world situation eases one day so others can experience it as well. Thanks for the visit -

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  4. Beautiful. So glad you stopped by to share your photos at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/02/old-san-juan-pigeon-park.html

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    1. Thanks! Always nice to link up with image-in-ing!

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  5. One of the places I dream to visit one day. I'm so jealous right now. I am looking forward to more photos.

    By the way, what cruise company are you using?

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    1. Oceania was the cruise line we were on. A number of cruise lines offer the repositioning cruises through that area but because of the Middle East conditions right now, they often skip a port or add a port. When we first booked the cruise, Luxor wasn't a stop, then it was a stop and we are most happy it got returned to the line up.

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  6. Wow - I would love to go to Egypt one day but I do not do heat ... is there ever a time when it is less hot? And that juxtaposition between the modern and the ancient must be so weird to see! #TPThursday

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    1. Well, there are times of less heat, but if you don't 'do heat' the Middle East any time of year, may not be the destination for you. The sun is intense! Thanks for stopping by today - most appreciated. #TPThursday

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  7. Jackie, I am rekindling my memories about Egypt thru your posts. Thanks for sharing! Feels so good.

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    1. Glad to bring back great memories Ruth. Love it when someone says a post and the memories it brings 'feels so good'!

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  8. A visit to Egypt is high on my list - I used to teach 6th grade history! But, it isn't even on Steve's list. Maybe I'll get one of my kids to go with me.

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    1. You would absolutely be blown away - it is such an amazing place and seeing all these things 'up close and personal' is such an overwhelming experience!

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  9. We spent four days in Luxor quite a few years ago - long before the downturn in tourism. We noticed that in the mornings we often had the place to ourselves but once the cruise ship tours started arriving it was bedlam. If you ever go back, stay for a few days and enjoy the solitude.

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    1. Lyn, we were the only cruise ship around when we visited (a number we heard had eliminated the stop for security concerns) but there were plenty of buses of land tourists at the Valley of the Kings. . .but nothing like they used to have on a daily basis. Yes, if we get back to Luxor we will be tucked away in that Winter Palace for a few days. Thanks for the visit and suggestion to enjoy the solitude.

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  10. Wow - 2016 could well be the year we visit Egypt thanks in large part to your posts igniting both our interest and imaginations. So much history to learn and absorb and your photos are amazing. The Avenue of sphinxes was especially interesting.

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    1. It is so incredibly amazing, Anita. Even in writing these posts I've been thinking how much more there is to see and do there; we've only scratched the surface.

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  11. Karnak is amazing! I loved our visit...Jackie and Joel, your photos bring me back to our amazing Egypt trip. And they are amazing, especially that sunburst...love it!

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    1. We must return to Luxor sometime Corinne and visit Kamak as well as make return visits (hopefully at a cooler time of day) to the places we barely touched this last trip. Glad the photos bring back memories!

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  12. WOW! Those columns are awesome, and I would feel exactly how you described, 'small and insignificant', next to their sheer strength, size and history! I feel like that when I'm visiting the Parthenon, as well, just unreal. No wonder they call such places the wonders of the world.

    Jackie, you and the Scout look so happy and excited...and of course cool, very cool, due to your dress code and your adventurous attitude, I'm sure!

    Hugs,
    Poppy

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  13. We may look cool Poppy but I can assure you we were soaked with sweat! Thanks much for your visit, hugs, Jackie

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  14. Hello, what an amazing trip! The sphinxes are so cool. Wonderful photos, nice to see you and the scout. Thanks for sharing your trip! Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Eileen, always nice to hear from you. Have a great week yourself! xx Jackie

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  15. Great tour of the sites across Nile river.

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    1. Thanks so much Rajesh - always nice to see that you've stopped by. Happy travels this week! Jackie

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  16. The Valley of the Kings is on my bucket list. Thanks for the tour, I enjoyed it.

    Lisa at Life Thru the Lens (www.lisakerner-slp.com)

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    1. Keep it on your list! It is an amazing place as is all of Egypt. So much to see - we must go back. Thanks for the comment; hope to see you back again! Jackie

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  17. A trip back down memory lane for me - lovely to be reminded. It's just the huge scale of things that's amazing isn't it? It's great to see the people in the photos to give that perspective. Enjoy the rest of your trip.
    Wren x

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    1. You can't help but marvel at how they got those columns and statues constructed without any 'modern day' equipment. I suppose they used the most 'modern' techniques of the time, but still. . .it is amazing. Thanks much for the visit - hope to see you back again.

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  18. Thanks for this post! Luxor has been on my bucket list forever...I'd love to stay in the Winter Palace Hotel too, and after your description of the afternoon heat at the tombs, will try to make that a priority as well. Someday!

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    1. There is 'something' about that Winter Palace Hotel isn't there? It just calls out to the nostalgia of days gone by as well as my current travel itch. Thanks for stopping by~

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  19. I was wondering how long it took to get from the cruise port to Luxor, so thank you for clarifying. I would love to visit there. The pictures that you were able to take are amazing. I guess I'll have to wait to see the inside of the Valley of the Kings tombs in person.

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  20. You are so right that a day is not enough!

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  21. I was simply fascinated by the sphinxes and columns of Luxor, this is so much fun seeing (most) of what you do through your camera.

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  22. Despite the intense heat, you managed to see a lot and take wonderful photos. Although it's frustrating to have to cram so much into a day, it's nice that you had this "taste" of Luxor!

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  23. It's always hard having to cram lots into a day, when there is So much to see, but it's great that you saw the sphinxes and columns of Luxor, which I'd loved to do one day too. Your pics took me on a nice couchy journey though!

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