I thought the Pyramids would the main ancient Egypt attraction during my
two three week trip.
Thanks to a day trip with an Egyptologist, I learned that there’s actually more important ancient Egypt tombs and temples to be explored in Luxor.
We had a well-paced day visiting four highlights, Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple, Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple and I even heard some interesting stories. For example, Queen/Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s main architect might have also been her lover, and that Alexander the Great was actually a pharaoh in Egypt at one point.
Here’s the best of my day trip to the west and east bank in Luxor.
First, my tour guide
My Egyptologist and archeologist tour guide actually helped excavate Luxor Temple and he even had magazine photos of himself and the excavation crew to prove it. Needless to say, he really knew his ancient Egypt history.
1. Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings houses the tombs of over 60 ancient Egypt pharaohs, including the famous King Tutankhamen. According to my guide, the site was chosen for the mountains’ “natural” pyramid shapes, the dry conditions and for being relatively far from the Nile in case of a flood.
Unfortunately no cameras were allowed inside the valley or the tombs, and while I normally sneak in an iPhone photo regardless (like in the Sistine Chapel), I was with my Egyptologist tour guide so I didn’t want to get yelled at ;)
Considering the tombs were thousands of years old, the vibrance of the colours in the paintings inside the tombs were extremely impressive, ranging from reds, to blues to golds.
See National Geographic’s Valley of the Kings article for more details on this necropolis.
2. Queen Hatshepsut Temple
Queen Hatshepsut was the Egypt’s only female pharaoh, ruling around 1,500 BC and seized power after her husband died. She’s known as a great “builder” from the number of construction projects she started, including the Temple of Karnak (see below).
There is also speculation that her main architect also became her lover.
Although Hatshepsut was female, her body is depicted as male in statues, where she wears a false beard, and has broad shoulders and no breasts. However, her face is distinctly feminine compared to the faces on the statues of other pharaohs (see head sculpture below).
3. Luxor Temple
The Luxor Temple is on the east bank of Nile and was built over the reign of several pharaohs, including Queen Hatshepsut and Alexander the Great of Macedonia who became pharaoh after liberating Egypt from Persia.
This temple is walking distance from the center of Luxor (and in case you’re craving familiar food, there’s also a McDonald’s nearby with a great view of the temple).
4. Karnak Temple
Karnak Temple is the second most visited ancient Egypt site after the Pyramids and its main feature is the “Hypostyle Hall” with 134 columns that are each 10 to 21 metres tall and up to 3 metres in diameter. I’ve included a person in the photos below to give a sense of scale.
The construction of the Temple started in 1,300 BC and was also constructed over the reigns of multiple pharaohs. See Karnak Temple on Wikipedia for more history.
For more details on what I did on this day tour, see the full itinerary at GetYourGuide.com. At the time of writing, this tour was 82 euros and includes transportation and admission. They also have excursions to other parts of Egypt.
After the end of this full day tour, it was great to come back to a hot shower and a comfortable bed at the charming Little Garden Hotel, introduced to me by Hostelbookers. I’d definitely like to stay here again if I came back to Luxor.
>> Have you been been to Luxor before? Is this somewhere you’d like to visit if you were traveling in Egypt?
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