A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Luxor with a friend of mine. It was a nice diversion from classes at AUC and very much welcomed. We took the cheapest option for getting to Luxor, an 11 hour train ride in second class. We left Cairo around 1 AM and arrived in Luxor around 11 AM the next morning and went right to our hostel to get cleaned up. The hostel we had booked online was the Bob Marley Hostel and the hilarious wall decorations made up for the functional but rather beat up facilities. After an hour or so of resting we walked to the Corniche and took a 1 LE ferry ride across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings. The taxi fare was a bit steep at 25 LE (including a return trip), but we didn’t know the way there yet so we accepted. The Valley of the Kings was 40 LE to enter but it was absolutely amazing and well worth it. The tickets allowed us to see three tombs (we spoke Arabic to one of the tomb guards and actually got to see a fourth one). We weren’t permitted to take pictures (my friend almost got ejected from the tombs for taking one surreptitiously) but I wish that we had been. The tombs were full of amazing colors and images that were on the most part well-preserved along with interesting sarcophagi and other fun things. After a couple of hours of enjoying the valley we headed back to the other side of the river and ate dinner at an over-priced, not particularly tasty (despite being recommended by our travel book) restaurant along the main drag. Finally, we headed back to our hostel for an early bedtime as we didn’t sleep too restfully on the train ride to Luxor.
Saturday morning we woke up early and breakfasted on the hostel’s complimentary breakfast – a better-than-average meal including tea, coffee, eggs, bread, yogurt, fruit and jam. Afterward we once again decided to cross the river, but this time we headed to the Valley of the Queens. Recalling the price and return trip of the taxi (the driver picked up 6 extra young male passengers without consulting us in the slightest and then demanded baksheesh and was incredibly rude overall) we decided to forgo the taxi and instead walk the few miles to the valley. Along the way we passed the Colossi of Memnon and stopped to take some pictures as well as an archaeological dig and some small villages. The Valley of the Queens was much cheaper than the Valley of the Kings only 20 LE, but the tombs weren’t as well-preserved and honestly at that point they were all beginning to blur together anyway. Considering that we were ridiculously overheated (or at least I was) from the walk there in the hot noon sun and a lack of water, we decided to head back to the river at a slower pace. Once we got back to our hostel we found a cheap (4 LE!) delicious shwarma place right across the street and enjoyed a relaxing lunch before getting ourselves cleaned up and rested. Later that evening we headed back to the Corniche to take a felucca ride. Our friendly (heavy sarcasm for reasons to be explained later) felucca driver recruited one of his friends to go along with him and the four of us headed off to Banana Island. The boys were roughly our age and very friendly and solicitous on the journey, offering us food and drinks during the 2+ hour boat ride. We stopped off for a short time on Banana Island and examined the banana plantation, before heading back down the river. Once we got back we paid the boys 50 LE for the ride and then agreed to go to a cafe with them for a short time. We all had a good time snacking and chatting so we agreed to meet them the next morning for a tour of their village. On the way back to our hostel we took some gorgeous night shots of the Luxor Temple to complement the ones we had already taken during the day time, because honestly the entrance fee was overpriced and the best photos to be taken of the compound are from the outside, not the inside where everything is too large to photograph properly.
The next morning we woke up a bit early and after breakfasting at the hostel again we headed down to the Corniche to find our fine felucca friends. They took us across the river and we went by walking (my friend) or donkey (myself) to their house. The slow trip allowed us to get a tour of the village in which they lived which, like most of Egypt, was in borderline poverty despite being so close to a great tourism revenue site. We spent a few hours at their house chatting and drinking tea before heading back to the mainland where our guides surprised us by demanding payment for both the donkey ride and the riverboat trips across the river. This would not have been such an unpleasant surprise if they hadn’t told us the day before that we would be doing these things for free as a sign of friendship. My friend and I were rightfully annoyed and told them that we had not expected to have to pay them for these things and thus were not going to. After a few more minutes of attempting to get payment out of us, they permitted us to leave the boat without further incident. Feeling a bit out of sorts, my friend and I went to a perfumery we had seen the other day and spent the next two hours suffering through some thinly veiled sexual harassment before paying a small sum for our lovely perfume and perfume bottles. We went back to the hostel and ate at the cheap shwarma restaurant and devoured some authentic gelato from a small shop run by two very handsome young men. The rest of the day was spent walking (and getting ridiculously lost on the way) to the Karnak Temple. The temple was quite delightful (except for several groups of young boys asking to take pictures of us) and I greatly enjoyed it. That night we returned to the hostel early so we would be able to get enough sleep to wake up early for our train ride back to Cairo in the morning, a train ride which I am delighted to say was entirely uneventful. Despite the teeming hordes of young (and old) men making passes at us as young un-hijabed women, Luxor was quite a delightful city and I would definitely recommend stopping there for a visit if you’re ever in Egypt.