Our group arrived in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luxor late in the afternoon after two days of cruising the Nile. After we docked, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset over the Nile. We then walked through the town to an Irish pub where we had dinner and drinks to celebrate Sem Sem’s 30th birthday. We spent the night docked in Luxor (ancient city of Thebes).
The next morning, before our tour of the West Bank of the Nile, we checked out of our 5 Egyptian star riverboat and said goodbye to our other guide, Ramis. Sem Sem met us with a bus and transferred us to the West Bank where we started a very long and full day of sightseeing.
Our first stop was the Valley of the Kings, the famed burial ground of over 60 pharaohs, including legendary King Tut (Tutankhamon). Only 18 of the tombs are open to the public and they’re rarely all open at the same time. You’re only allowed to choose three tombs to enter with your admission ticket. Also, photography is not allowed anywhere in the complex. It’s best to leave your cameras in your bus or car.
Because he wasn’t allowed to lecture inside any of the tombs, Sem Sem recommended his favorite ones to visit and made himself available outside to answer any questions. The tombs of Ramses IX and Ramses III were the two I was most impressed with. They were very colorfully decorated and even contained ancient tourist graffiti from Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans, showing the Valley of the Kings has been a tourist site for over 2,000 years.
A visit to King Tut’s tomb is not included in the three tombs you’re able to visit. It costs extra to enter and there’s nothing inside but his mummy. The entire collection is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Our next stop was the Temple of Hatshepsut, beautifully situated at the bottom of tall cliffs. Built around 1465 BC by Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female ruler, it’s made up of three layered terraces reaching 30m high.
Behind one colonnade, there are wonderful reliefs of her expedition to Punt (located in modern day Somalia). What’s left of a tree brought back from the expedition is in the area in front of the temple. Behind another colonnade is propaganda of Hatshepsut’s divine birth as a male, giving her the right to the throne.
The Chapel of Hathor is on the middle level to the left. It contains colorful reliefs and columns topped with the head of the goddess Hathor.
To the right on the middle level is the Chapel of Anubis, which contains the most brilliant colored reliefs in the temple.
At the top level is the Shrine of Amon.
I had a lot of fun at this temple. Besides the temple being interesting, I got to spend some time visiting with Egyptian schoolchildren in the Chapel of Hathor.
Back on the bus we drove past the Ramesseum, built around 1275 BC for Ramses II. It was a huge temple that once held an 18m high statue of Ramses, but was destroyed by earthquakes and Nile floods and now lies in ruin.
Finally, we made a quick stop at the Colossi of Memnon. They are two giant statues that have a very interesting story. They belong to part of the temple of Amenhotep III, which was the largest temple ever built in ancient Egypt. They’re named after the Ethiopian king who came to the aid of Troy in the Trojan War. After Achilles killed Memnon, his mother went to the temple to mourn. When she heard the whistling sound of the wind coming through the temple, she believed it was her son’s voice calling out to her. The temple was badly damaged by an earthquake in 27 BC. Roman emperor Septimus Severus repaired the colossi in 199 and the “singing” stopped.
From there, we took a water taxi across to the town of Luxor on the East Bank of the Nile. It was a nice, quick look at the highlights of the West Bank. If I had more time, I would have visited the Valley of the Queens and Howard Carter’s House Museum, the discoverer of Tutankhamon’s tomb.