Temples, Donkeys and the tyranny of the Sun
7/7/08 - 7/10/08 110 °F
At Luxor we had a marvelous view of the Nile River from our room on the 4th floor. We stayed at a hotel near Luxor temple, which is located just inland from the banks of the Nile.
Like many of Egypts ancient monuments, Luxor Temple was a site to behold. While partly in ruins, reconstruction efforts over the last century have helped restore some the temple's former glory.
Temples of Karnak
The temple complex of Karnak was once the religious center of Egyptian society. At one point, 80,000 people worked in or for the temples. The scale of the complex of the Temples of Karnak is difficult to comprehend without being there in person. Each of the giant columns seems large enough to swallow a house, and the sheer number of columns is mind boggling.
All of the temples we visited were filled with beautiful hieroglyphics. We were awestruck by the detail and range of subjects.
Donkey trip to the Valley of the Kings
One of the highlights of our time in Egypt was the donkey trip to the Valley of the Kings. While not as sexy as camels or horses, these creatures were very impressive nonetheless. I still do not understand how such a small animal can carry such a heavy load on its back.
We occasionally suffered from envy of the hoards of tourists traveling in air-conditioned buses, but at the end of the day, wouldn't have done it any other way. The comic aspect of it alone was worth the blistering heat. We were simultaneously appalled and amused to see our 170 lb guide ride a tiny donkey and, early on, noticed our donkeys competing with each other for the lead.
We got up at 6 am for the donkey trip to beat the afternoon heat. On our way to the Valley of the Kings, we passed the Colossi of Memnon, two 60 foot giants, which are the only remains of what was once the largest complex on the West Bank.
As we passed the Colossi, we could see hot air balloons in the horizon. Hot air ballooning is a popular and inexpensive attraction in Luxor.
After climbing the hillside to reach the Valley of the Kings, we had to climb down to the burial chambers on foot while guide and beasts waited above.
After visiting 3 of the 62 tombs, including King Tuts, we made our way back up to the donkeys and around the desert landscape to visit Queen Hatshepsut's temple. The Temple of Hatshepsut is built with the cliffs rising behind it, making for an impressive and intimidating monument.
Our guide finished the trip with a visit to his village and home. Unfortunately we let our guard down and our nephew got kicked by a donkey while we drank tea. Fortunately, the damage was only superficial. Crisis averted! It was only noon, but with the temperature at 110 Fahrenheit, we were ready to call it quits.
Our felucca experience
During our final full day in Luxor, we decided to take a ride on an Egyptian felucca. The wind was not blowing, but it was a soothing end to our heat-filled, temple-packed days.