On the 21st of August, we arrived in Luxor by ship at about 3am. Half an hour later, my Topdeck group and I were dressed and out on the streets, walking to another boat, filled with other
tourists, that would take us to the other side of the Nile. There, we were picked up by a van and driven to a plane on the edge of the desert.
After waiting around for a while and receiving some instructions, it was finally time to board the hot air balloon. Within minutes our pilot was filling the balloon with more heat and we were soon leaving the ground.
Our balloon was the first to take off of the bunch. We soared across different heights, gliding through the air and the sun rose above the Nile. One of the most striking things I saw was the line between sand and greenery: the desert simply stopped and was replaced by a huge patch of land where the ground wasn’t too dry for plants to grow. It was crazy to watch the world wake up as we flew above it – a few cars drove around, a few people were taking care of their fields, chickens were going fluttering around their pen, dogs barked.
To capture what it was like floating across Luxor, here is a video:
After a relatively smooth landing, we were met again by Ahmed and our tour guide for the day, and were driven straight to Valley of the Kings. The Valley is a, as you might suspect, large valley in the desert where over the years and dynasties a large number of pharaohs were buried in tombs. We visited numbers two, eight and eleven, which belonged to Ramesses IV, Merenptah and Ramesses III respectively. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures, but it was incredible to walk around those tombs! Much of the original colouring is still intact, and it is absurd to think people were walking down there thousands of years ago, dragging large stones into the depth of the tombs in preparation of their leader’s death (apparently, tombs were mainly built during a king’s lifetime – if the king died before its completion, the workers would have 70 more days to try and finish it as that was how long it took for the body to be mummified).
Following the Valley, we went straight to Hatshepsut’s Temple. Hatshepsut was a queen who, after her husband died, was regent of the country, guiding her son, Tuthmose III, who wasn’t yet old enough to rule.
Hatshepsut, however, decided that she didn’t see why she couldn’t be ruler, so she decided to be king.
Pretty epic, if you ask me. The statues – the ones that remain (because her son had many destroyed, or the face mutilated, because he didn’t want her to be remembered and he never considered her a rightful ruler) – of Hatshepsut are even ‘dressed’ like men. She’s got the beard, the attire, and the only way you can tell it’s a woman is because of the softer facial features.
Next up was a short stop at a shop where they hand-carved stones – once again, we were given some hibiscus tea.
We went on to visit Karnak Temple, which was very big and very hot: despite the time of day, the sun was shining incredibly brightly already. The most striking thing about this temple were the number of pillars – each decorated with hieroglyphs, of course. There were also some obelisks, though in some cases it were more remainders, really (with the other part being in the Louvre in Paris). One of the obelisks was built by Hatshepsut. Her son, however, couldn’t take it down, because obelisks represent rays of the sun (and the sun, in turn, represents the god Ra) – so instead, he built a wall all the way around it, which by now has
crumbled and reveals the obelisk once
Last on the itinerary was a visit to Luxor Temple, which we’d flown past earlier that day. The outside of the temple was unfortunately never finished, but there’s a carving inside the temple which shows how it was probably meant to have looked – this carving has then been drawn in colour on paper to show us how it might have looked in full glory!
By now, all of us were drained of energy, which perhaps didn’t give us the best experience of the temple. Our visit was rather short because of it, but it was an interesting sight nonetheless.
When we’d finished our sightseeing, we checked into the hotel. The boys went for a nap, while Meg, Ahmed and I had a late lunch in the rooftop restaurant, after which I went for a long dip in the rooftop pool. We gathered a bit later and just hung out, before going down to the hotel restaurant for a late dinner. Shortly after, we went to sleep, ready and excited for Hurghada the next day.