Day 15 (October 20, 2011)   Luxor: Karnak and Luxor temples


Mapa de Luxor

   This morning we’ll check out from boat, but we will be able of leaving the baggage there while dedicating the whole day to Luxor city.

   The highlights for this day are temples of Karnak and Luxor, which were not included on cruise’s program. We will have time enough for Luxor museum, the city, a ride in calash and even, perhaps, Medinat Habu.

   Once at night we will go to the airport where we will get the dinner and will board to our flight to Cairo, scheduled for 00:20. 1:30 AM we will arrive to Cairo where the transfer to our hotel will be waiting for us.

   Spots marked at map:

0- Boat
1- Colossi of Memnon and visitor’s center
2- Valley of the Kings
3- Temple of Luxor
4- Temple of Karnak
5- Medinat Habu
6- Ramesseum
7- Valley of the Queens 8- Airport


   After breakfast we check out and deliver our baggage to be kept while we’re out at our own. Three days of rest later, I’m the guide again.

   The first step is finding transport for temple of Karnak. At the moment we’re out of the quay people start offering calashes from the distance. But it’s mainly two children the ones at our side bargaining price. I reach 40 pounds for the trip, which I know is a higher rate but I agree to it because of the kids, who get very happy and bring their calash to us for helping my parents to get it up. The horse is quite healthier than the one in Edfu.

Calash in Luxor   In our way, the older boy – and “older” means about 10 years old – start asking me about our plans for today. I’ve discarded going to West riverside, so whatever we didn’t see yesterday, we won’t see it. So I comment we’re going to Karnak to spend the morning, if we find a good place to lunch there, we will lunch there, if not, maybe we will go to Luxor museum and lung around there, or maybe we’ll go directly to Temple of Luxor which, as it is close to our boat, will be our final spot to visit today. He assimilates this vague plan and proposes being our transport for the whole day. I’m shocked, so I try to make myself clearer about this first visit: “Maybe we’ll lunch there, so we can spend there 3, 4, 5 hours or even more! I can’t tell”. But it seems he understood in first place: “I’ll wait. No matter, 3, 4, 5 or more. I’ll wait”. ”How are you going to wait indefinitely for us until 6 hours!?” And then he makes me understand the reason: “No business. I’ll wait”.

   There is no tourism, therefore there is no business. It is worth waiting all day long for a sure trip than being around looking for new trips from non-existing customers. That breaks my thoughts, as I accepted a higher rate for a one way trip, but now this rise is going to be inherited for the whole day price, which is being set to 100 pounds. At least, I do a final move for including the tip on those 100 pounds, which is accepted.

   When we arrive to Karnak I try to pay the 40 pounds for this trip, but they don’t want to take the money. I state it is for my peace of mind and, if they’re still there when we go out we will keep with them, but they keep saying we will pay at the end of the day.

   Anyway, we’re at Temple of Karnak’s entrance, or better said, the entrance to the complex, as we cannot see the temple yet. There is a big open square with stores at every side previous to the ticket box where we buy our tickets in exchange of 50 pounds per person. We’re keeping these tickets as collectibles, so one more to add.

   Then, we turn right into a big avenue full of vendors offering the same items than everywhere else. This avenue loses its large width when reaching the avenue of sphinxes, just before the temple’s entrance.

Avenue of sphinxes in KarnakTemple of Karnak

   Then we get into a hall where the amazing row of sphinxes die and columns and colossi appear. Karnak is being the most crowded place we’ve visited in Egypt. Tourists were all here!

Temple of KarnakTemple of Karnak

   And then, after passing by the big stone walls, we arrive to the most impressive place of this temple: the great hypostyle hall. A big square shaped hall completely full of wide pillars. This is the place where fails the first attempt of murder of “Death on the Nile”, the movie about Agatha Christie’s novel. The second attempt succeeded indeed because, in case it didn’t, Poirot had kept on holydays.

   The concentration of columns in this room is spectacular. It is so dense that you can get your lonely pictures although the hall is full of people.

   This is a good place for seating and rest at shadow, looking this wonder around; and even getting your sight up to the ceiling and admire the original yellowish colors.

Karnak's Hipostyle HallKarnak's Hipostyle Hall

   Coming into this hall for its logical entrance we have two ways out here: the one opposite to the entrance or the one at right. We choose this last one because we want to look around the external places, such the sacred lake, turned into “swamp” now.

Pylon in KarnakSacred lake in Karnak

   This area was huge and pretty wonderful, with four pylons in a row, as the model at entrance showed, but it is the worst conserved one too. The pylons are those symmetric walls where the door is put, as you can see very clear on Philae or Edfu temples pictures. This is a typical structure for the “Greek” period of Egyptian history, after the Pharaonic times, when the country was conquered by Alexander the Great, who left his friend Ptolemy in charge of it and, subsequently, his descendants.

   We come back to the main way soon, after watching the famous beetle figure and the only of the three obelisks drawing a triangle here which is fallen.

Obelisks in KarnakBeetle in Karnak

   Only one of my highlights still to be visited here, which is just at the end of the way: the festival hall of Thutmose III. This is a unique hall, different than any other, full of columns too, but this time they’re simple and painted in bright colors. The hall is completely covered with a roof and it shows its original colorful, fading now, though.
In Karnak
Festival Hall in Karnak

   We start our return by following the main path, which has a part that we skipped before, when choosing the other exit from the hypostyle hall. This part is beautiful too, with the standing obelisks and some tall “bricked” columns. We cannot resist, again, to the hypostyle hall contemplation seated in there when seeing so few people this time. We have no rush with our plan for today. That makes us look for a place to take some drinks once out of the temple, but before leaving the complex. All are expensive bars, but we choose the cheaper one, identified by being the only one with people and the look of backpacker of some of the customers.

   We take a table outside, where is blowing a gentle breeze which makes us being so confortable that we don’t want to leave. When we finally do, we go to the exit, across the big square, with no shopping and wondering if the kids will be waiting for us after more than three hours. We indeed see them at distance and go closer to them declining all transport offers we’re getting in our way, until they see us too and bring the calash to us. The deal is definitively closed now by 100 pounds, including tip, for going to Luxor museum, where we look for a place to lunch around there, and then, going to Temple of Luxor where the service would finish.

   We chat with the boys in our way to museum. They leave us in an alley in works, along a big group of kids wearing their school uniform. I cannot see any restaurant; it doesn’t seem a very touristic area. We avoid the obstacles from the work in our way to the river and, just turning at right, we find the museum entrance. It is a very new building. Our idea is go in for a quick visit and go for lunch around temple of Luxor because I cannot see any places for eating something around here. This plan avoid too the situation of the boys waiting for us to finish our lunch. Somehow, when I can see the entrance fee is 80 pounds, I become indignant as it is almost the fee for Abu Simbel, so we turn back and avoid my parents crossing the works to get here. It isn’t worth it.Going to Temple of Luxor

   So we go for our last stage on this calash with the boys asking me why we didn’t go into the museum. I explain honestly the entrance fee seemed expensive to me for such a short visit when we couldn’t eat in there either.

   When we can see the temple of Luxor, which we could already see last night, the boy asks me about our following plans, looking for a chance to keep with us, but now is indeed the end of their service. I point to our boat in order of he can understand why we don’t need more transport today and say goodbye.

   Is a bit soon for lunching, so we go for a walk. This area is full of restaurants – even is a McDonald’s here – along this side off the road, while the last Egyptian temple we’re going to visit can be seen, omnipresent, across the street.

   Just when the plants appear as if it was the beginning of a park, a vendor in the street offers tobacco to me and, after some bargain, I buy a couple of packets of Marlboro. He offers too to go into the restaurant which entrance is just here. As we see a huge place full of tables between trees we go in. It is Restaurant Sindbad.

   In that table area we’re fantastic and it is really cheap. We’re surrounded by cats, though, and the tobacco man keeps coming every few minutes to ask if we’re well to all of us and if the cigarettes are good to me. It’s a bit strange all this, but we end by lunching pizza and chicken, with soft drinks, by 200 pounds for all four.

   We spend some time at table after lunching, once the tobacco man is gone, and when we’re ready we go across the street to visiting Luxor Temple.

   The entrance to the temple is more at North than we thought when seeing a queue of people in a circular square for going apparently into the side of the temple but when arriving there it is really the entrance to a mosque integrated to the ruins, a bit above them. It’s quite shocking.

   We go on our way to the real entrance and, after paying 50 pounds per person for our tickets, we can add more collectibles and check there is more people in that mosque than in the temple. Just from the entrance you can see the avenue of the sphinxes in front, a bar and some souvenirs stores at right, and the temple at left. We follow this last way .

Temple of Luxor

   The entrance to the temple shows, in front of a pylon, two Ramesses II colossus and one obelisk. There were two of them too, but they were a gift to France. The first one is sited on Concorde square in Paris, and the second one is this one, as the French government left it after knowing the cost of transport it after the first one.

   Once inside the temple, the first hall is a square area with columns and statues at sides. After other two colossi and the strange mosque sited here, we get the second part of the temple, where the columns are fluted, and reckoning vegetal shapes. The walls are full of grabbed images here. It is a small temple, compared to the others, but very beautiful, and the light of the dusk helps it to look even prettier .
 Temple of Luxor
Temple of Luxor

   When we’re leaving the temple, the sun is leaving too and our plans are ending, but we have still a lot of time to spend in front of us before even thinking about going to the airport. We come back to the boat and seat in its game room, which always looked empty. There are a lot of games there, but we play with our own cards.

   We wait until 20:00 to ask for a taxi to the airport. When it comes, we tip the men helping us bringing our baggage to it and go; leaving behind the boat has been our home for three days, but leaving behind Egypt too… almost, as we still have a quick visit in front of us. But it is now when we have the feeling of returning to home.

   We check in for the baggage and we’re in front of the boarding gates, which are only four of them, at 21:00. We have still three hours and a half to board our plane, four hours to taking off. A lot of time to spend in this hall, full of seats and with: a coffee shop with food in the way you can serve in a tray and paying at the end, a cheap souvenirs store, an expensive souvenir store and a smoking room. This is the whole airport. I’ve got all I need, at least. I buy a piece of pizza, a bottle of water, some sandwiches, one box of chocolates, one box of cookies stuffed with fig and another stuffed with date; by 160 pounds. The sweets are to take away.

   We make our dinner and watch tv, which is showing the goals of the premier league as unique option. In the meantime, the people for the last flight but one (ours) are boarding. It is going to Cairo too, but at 22:30. We are completely alone after that.

   And so it is until 30 minutes before the boarding time, when the rest of passengers for that flight appear. Flight is short and while waiting for out baggage in Cairo airport I’m going to check somebody is waiting for us there, which it is. We’re taken fast to the hotel due to the absence of traffic at this time and we’re delivered in front of a big building which would seem to be miraculously survived to a bombing: fašade is falling and there is not a single glass unbroken; but in this environment, between buildings in similar condition or worst, it is just fine.

   An elevator takes us to 15th floor, where an employee of Hotel Isis helps us to save another floor to the hotel desk.

   As I could read, interior is a lot better than the external look of this hotel. The views are amazing and the rooms are spacy and clean. Also, Archaeological museum is just one block from here. It is what we needed.

   We’re in bed a few minutes after 2:00, which is better than expected.