South Egypt is definitely the most touristic part of Egypt, where many archaelogical sites are gathered together. Many tours are possible and they seem unmissable as all these sites, build either in the New Empire or the Ptolemaic Period are remarkably well conserved. This part of the trip was easier for us as we booked everything with the King Tut Hotel in Cairo: Hotels, visits, guide, transports..
Second step, the arrival in Asswan, the visit of the city, the souk, the dam and the cruise over the Nil from Aswan to Louxor, 2/3 days cruise north of Aswan. And let’s for an amazing road (boat) trip discovering the great antic civilization. The comfortable cruise with the buffet and the traditional spectacles remind us Agatha Christie’s novel, Murder on the Nil. Hopefully, everything went fine although we didn’t feel comfortable with the artificial luxury we experienced aboard while the poor local population is suffering from the lack of elementary basic support, and every time we land to go and see beautiful temple, we are sorry not being able to help more than we can the local population, excepted making the touristic industry work, one of the first source of revenue for the country, a revenu that has been impacted severely since the beginning of the revolution in 2011.
A huge gap between the tourists enjoying luxury cruise and a very poor local population sometimes relying on the tourist industry to make a living
Our worst memory would be our visit to Edfou temple in Edfou where one of the horse, very tired and starving collapsed on our way to the temple. Tragic, Indeed, the poor owner did not hesitate to whip him to make him ride, until that happened…Who is to blame? The owner who treated really badly his horse? Or can he do something else, doesn’t he has enough to give some food to his wretched horse? We felt really bad and how incredible the Edfou temple was, more than 2,000 years old, we can’t forget what happen and in which conditions the local population have to live, very far from the “reasonable” standard of living in Cairo.Unfortunately, we don’t see how the situation is going to improve in the short-term, in a overpopulated, extremely dry country, where the benefits from the Nile are vital, more today than ever.
Absolutely stunning, temples are breathtaking
Discoveries from the Nile
Aboard this cruise, we make several stops to see many templs. the temple dedicated to Isis on the island of Philae (it was moved 3 decades ago in order to be prevented from being covered with the Nile), the temple for the crocodile god Sobek at Kom-Ombo, the temple for Horus at Edfou, and some visits to the Elephantine island, next to Aswan, where we saw the vestiges of the sanctuary dedicated to the ram god Khnoum.
And it is already the end of our cruise! Quick, it lasts for 3 days, from Aswan to Luxor, Now, last step of our trip, the Luxor city and the Ramses II temple, the Karnak site, ancient sanctuary dedicated to the king of gods Amon-Re, and of course the “cherry on the cake”, the valley of kings and queens. These are very touristic places gathering most of the temples which are still visible, as the one for the goddess Hathor buit by Hatchepsout, or the remote but magnificent temple built by Ramses III where we were lucky enough to watch an amazing sunset after a bike ride in the desert, not far from Luxor. This one is one of our best memories in the country, as we could appreciate being far from the touristic turmoil of Karnak, where we can feel the touristic flow prevent from feeling anything in this magical place, according to us. For us, with the elementary rules of safety, renting bikes by ourselves to see things as we wanted around Luxor is one of the best thing to do, instead always visiting temples with your guide.
Louxor, Karnak, Deir-El-Barahi
To begin by Luxor, we booked our hotel in the centre, in order to easily access the sites of Luxor, Karnak and the valley of kings and queens. The fact is Luxor is really really touristic and you can be hassled everywhere in the street to buy souvenirs or to have a horse-drawn carriage. We must say it is a bit tiring as sometimes you can’t have one step outside of your hotel without being seen as a mobile wallet. It does prevent us from visiting the temples, notably Luxor one, very well conserved.
After Luxor, we are heading to Karnak and the Amon-Re temple and then the valley of kings, with hundreds of graves of pharaohs from the New Empire (pyramides were already old-fashioned and too visible for pillagers, these graves were dig directly in the ground). The colors of the paintings inside are amazing. you can’t take any pictures inside not to damage thousand years old paintings, and the number of people entering the graves each day is very limited not to bring too much oxygen.
We were only authorized to see 2 graves on the hundred in the valley (2 per day per visitor). Graves can be visited easily with a cab+guide from Luxor. anyway if tourists are there, there is a reason!
Stop at the Memnon giants, well described by the antic author Herodote
Adventures in the desert
For our last days in Luxor, we chose to go on solo travelling renting bikes and go for adventures in the Egyptian countryside. And guess what it is our best memory! From Luxor city, after escaping the many sellers of anything, we arrive at the Nil bank where we notice a boat to go to the other side of the rive. The other side is much quieter, local population not involved in the tourist industry, it is perfect and what we were looking for from the beginning! We take the opportunity to rent bikes, and avoiding for once the mass tourism effect. How happy we are!
Go off the beaten tracks!
It was great and we could have seen more the quiet traditional Egypt from the countryside, a much more relaxed atmosphere, very very different from the buzzing and overwhelming Cairo, or from the tourist only orientation of many sites. And almost randomly, we discover Ramses III temple, far from tourist tours (not marketing enough?). Very few people inside, quite big and the sunset gives an extraordinary feeling, as we were back to the old times of Ancient Egypt.