Luxor: Egypt’s Second Star
Wherever We May Roam
By Leslie Patrick Moore
Egypt conjures exotic images of ancient pharaohs, mysterious pyramids, and dunes of sand punctuated by the palm-strewn Nile River. Visitors flock to the nation’s capital each year to see the Pyramids of Giza, the elusive Sphinx, and the dusty artifacts at the world-famous Egyptian Museum. But Luxor, Cairo’s little sister to the south, is brimming with impressive Egyptian relics of its own.
The ancient capital of the New Kingdom and previously called Thebes, Luxor is home to the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and Karnak Temple, among many others. There is so much to see. Luxor is dubbed the “world’s greatest open-air museum.” Today, Luxor’s sand blown streets are filled with horse drawn carriages and hawkers touting papyrus scrolls and silver ankhs. But amid the chaos you’ll find glimpses of a time when Pharaohs ruled, the sun was god, and people lived and died by the whims of the mercurial Nile.
The Temple of Karnak
Built and continuously improved by a string of pharaohs during a time-frame spanning nearly 2,000 years, the Karnak temple complex is a vast and dramatic sight. The entrance through an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes is impressive, but more so are the giant stone statues of pharaohs of old looming high above. Behind them, the pillars composing the Hypostyle Hall tower even higher. The temple is built on a massive scale, each pharaoh having tried to assert his power by outdoing his predecessor. What’s left is a mind-blowing collection of temples filled with monumental effigies to the once great rulers of this ancient empire.
Valley of the Kings
Cross the Nile to the West Bank to explore the infamous Valley of the Kings. Made famous by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, the Valley of the Kings is fraught with superstition and wonder. The rocky valley is the final resting place for 63 pharaohs of Egypt’s New Kingdom. You’ll wander through the crumbling doorways into chambers where the peeling remnants of colorful hieroglyphics still cling to the walls like decorations forgotten from a party long ago. You’ll see gods and goddesses mingling, the Nile flooding, animals being slaughtered, and myriad other scenes depicting the life of ancient royalty as you meander through the ancient burial chambers.
Five more things not to miss in Luxor:
Colossi of Memnon: Two massive statues, originally built in the likeness of the pharaoh Amenhotep, stand guard at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings.
Sunset felucca cruise: Travel like the ancients did on the Nile in a traditional Egyptian felucca; just watch out for crocs.
A drink at the Winter Palace Hotel: At this posh hotel frequented by dignitaries both foreign and domestic. A drink on the terrace at the Winter Palace overlooking the Nile is a must.
Luxor Temple: Wandering the crumbling ruins of this temple in downtown Luxor brings ancient Egypt to life better than any National Geographic special ever could.
Temple of Hatshepsut: Carved dramatically out of the surrounding limestone cliffs, this beautiful monument was built as the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
Leslie Patrick Moore and Steven Moore are writers and travelers who have visited nearly 99 countries combined. Visit their travel blogs at chicadventures.wordpress.com and twentyfirstcenturynomad.com.