December 2009
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Luxor in Egypt

Egypt has a specific tourist route, which starts from Cairo and goes all the way to Abu Simbel – covering essentially a path along the Nile, going from Cairo to Luxor to Aswan to Abu Simbel. Luxor forms an integral part of such a tourist route, with many monuments located nearby. Luxor is also the base of the Nile cruise that can be taken from Luxor to Aswan or the reverse route. Luxor is also one of Egypt’s most visited tourist locations, and it is quite possible that you will not have enough time to visit all the attractions that Luxor has to show you. Luxor is also known as a large open museum, and has been built on the ancient city of Thebes. This long history as a tourist location is also the reason why many people come away with an impression that tourists are constantly being heckled, or asked to step inside shops for some souvenir, or some other similar way of extracting money from tourists. You should learn to ignore such hassles, and enjoy the very thought of visiting ancient history.
Luxor is not a very city by itself, being around 415 square kilometers in size, with a population of less than half-a-million people. Luxor gets pretty hot in summer, between the months of April and August when the maximum temperature can vary between 35(95) °C (°F) to 41(107) °C (°F) – definitely for the faint hearted. This heat can be pure torture for those who are not used to such hot weather. The months of December to March are better in terms of maximum temperature, with the temp measuring between 23 (73) to 27.4 (81) °C (°F), but it can get cold, with the minimum temperature varying from 5.4 (42) to 10.4 (51) °C (°F). You would need to carry some warm clothes in these months.

History of Luxor: Luxor was a very famous part of Egyptian history, being earlier known as Thebes, the capital of the New Kingdom. The city started becoming more important in the time of the 11th dynasty, when the town became a big town with important people living in it. It also became a center for religion, art, and the wise. As the Pharaohs who were based here became more powerful militarily, the city became famous even outside Egypt. However, as things rise, they also fall, and it was during the time of the Late Period that Luxor started losing its power, as the political center of Egypt shifted to cities in the north. But, since the city was the center of the powerful god Amon-Ra, Thebes never lost its religious influence, even upto the time of the Greeks when Egypt became less powerful.

Location of Luxor, Egypt on Google Maps:

View Larger Map

Places to visit in Luxor: When you have a location that is so full of history, it is good to know more about the places to see, so that you can draw up your own list. Luxor primarily has 3 different regions for the purpose of tourism; temples and others inside the City of Luxor on the East side of the Nile; the famous town of Karnak just north of Luxor; and the old city of Thebes, (called Waset by the ancient Egyptians), which is on the west side of the Nile across from Luxor.

The City of Luxor:

The Luxor temple does not take very long to visit, and can be visited in a period of around 1 hour. The Temple is situated in the center of the town, and was built by the New Kingdom Pharaoh Amenophis III. It looks really spectacular. The hours are 9am – 6pm and admission is 20 Egyptian Pounds.

We talked about Luxor being a large museum by itself, but as for an actual museum, you have The Mummification Museum. It provides visitors with an understanding of the ancient art of mummification, and answers all the questions you could ever have on this topic. Who knew that reptiles, birds as well as humans were mummified?! (Wikipedia)

The Luxor Museum houses many of the relics found at the Theben temples and necropolis on the west bank. The museum comes highly recommended because it will enrich your experience when you visit the rest of the sites. (Wikipedia). The museum was inaugurated in 1975.

The city of Karnak:

As you move north of Luxor, you get to a view of the magnificent Temples of Karnak (Wikipedia). In ancient times, the area around Karnak was actually known as Ipet-isut, which means ‘The most select of places’. The temple complex of Karnak was built over a time period of 1500 years and was the most important place of worship in ancient Egypt. The site is huge, measuring 1500 x 800 meters, and is a spectacular complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks, all dedicated to the Theban gods. The most spectacular view of this entire complex is the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re, a hall area of 50,000 sq ft (5,000 m2) with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. The main deity was the god Amun, head of the Theban Triad; with the name of the complex being derived from the nearby modern village of el-Karnak, some 2.5 km north of Luxor.

Ancient Thebes (West Bank):

Crossing the Nile to the West of the city of Luxor lies the necropolis of ancient Thebes. Because there is so much to see and so much ground to cover, guided tours usually enter 3 tombs at the major archaelogical sites.

The Valley of the Kings: Names so because of Kings (Pharaohs) being buried here. This is where the pharaoh’s were buried and hoped to meet their Gods in the afterlife. Most famous because of the tomb of the boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in the 1920’s and had remained almost untouched when it was found. However, King Tut was a minor Pharaoh, having lived for only a few years (he dies when he was around 18-19), and his history was also almost eradicated by the second pharaoh who came after him. These tombs have all suffered looting over the ages, and hence when King Tut’s tomb was found untouched, it was a marvellous find. These tombs contained those of the 18th to the 20th Dynasties, and were not like the earlier pyramids, but were cut into the rock and were more difficult to find and rob.

The Valley of the Queens: The Valley of the Queens lies at the southern end of the necropolis. This is where the queens and their children were interred. Only four tombs are open to the public in the Valley of the Queens and if you had to choose just one, it would have to be Queen Nefertari’s tomb, which is the most decorated ones, apparently because she was the favorite queen of the powerful Ramesses II. Tickets are limited to just 150 a day and you are only allowed in for 10 minutes, but it is worth the effort.

The Colossi of Memnon: Two giant statues make up the Colossi of Memnon. Most visitors get a glimpse of them on their way to the Valley of the Kings but it is worth a stop to see them up close.

How to get to Luxor: Since Luxor is so much on the tourist map, it is very well connected through flights, trains and taxis from most places, including from Cairo. Inside Luxor, you can even take a hot-air balloon ride (link)

Blogs / external articles:

1. Which monuments (Tombs / Temples) in Luxor are available when (link)

2. UCLA project related to Karnak (link)

3. Virtual Tourist (link). Detailed overview of the temples and other places in Luxor.

4. A detailed description of Luxor (link)

Even in ancient times, during the late Dynasties of the Greek and Roman periods, the area drew tourists, and has been doing so ever since. Today Luxor is well equipped to accommodate tourists with many hotels and in general a tourist industry ready and willing to serve the people from many countries that descend on this area of the Nile Valley every year.

5. Details of the Valley of the Kings, including the pharaohs buried there (link)

The Egyptian belief that “To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again” is certainly carried out in the building of the tombs. The king’s formal names and titles are inscribed in his tomb along with his images and statues. Beginning with the 18th Dynasty and ending with the 20th, the kings abandoned the Memphis area and built their tombs in Thebes. Also abandoned were the pyramid style tombs. Most of the tombs were cut into the limestone following a similar pattern: three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber.

6. Valley of the Queens (link)

The Tomb of Queent Titi (Tomb 52): She is probably the queen of a 20th Dynasty. She is depicted with the sidelocks common to the Egyptian young of the period and in the presence of the gods Thoth, Atum, Isis and Nephthys. In the next chamber the queen is shown making offerings to Hathor the cow, and in the last chamber the gods Neith, Osiris, Selquit, Nephthys and Thoth.

7. Description of the Colossi of Memmon (link)

Due to an earthquake in 27 BC, these statues became known for a bell like tone that usually occurred in the morning due to rising temperatures and humidity. Thus they were equated by the early Greek travelers with the figure of Memnon, the son of Aurora who’s mother, Eos, was the goddess of dawn. To be granted a song meant that you were very much in favor of the gods. Visitors came from miles around to hear the music, including Emperor Hadrian, in 130 A.D. The Roman emperor Septimius Severus, seeking to repair the statues in 199 AD, inadvertently silenced them forever.

8. Guide to Luxor (link)

9. Wikipedia link of Luxor (link)

ater, the city was attacked by Assyrian emperor Assurbanipal who installed the Libyan prince on the throne, Psammetichus. The city of Thebes was in ruins and fell in significance. However, Alexander the Great did arrive at the temple of Amun, where the statue of the god was transferred from Karnak during the Opet Festival, the great religious feast. The grandeur of Thebes would still remain a site of spirituality, and attracted numerous Christian monks in the Roman Empire who established monasteries amidst several ancient monuments including the temple of Hatshepsut, now called Deir el-Bahri (“the northern monastery”).

Videos of Luxor on Youtube:

Luxor at night – Karnak – Hatshepsut

Egypt 2007 – Luxor King and Queen valley, Hatshepsut, Karnak

Temples in Luxor Egypt 2003

Karnak Temple Luxor Egypt

The Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt

Colossi Of Memnon & Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple

Shopping Market Bazaar In Luxor Egypt

Valley of the Queens, Luxor, Egypt

Hot air ballooning over Luxor in Egypt

Luxor at night

Egypt (Eyewitness Travel Guides) (Paperback)

The Rough Guide to Egypt 7 (Rough Guide Travel Guides) (Paperback)

Global Treasures LUXOR Egypt – DVD

Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, 3rd (Cadogan Guides Cairo, Luxor, Aswan) (Paperback)

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