Writing: Heba El-Sherif
Travel Experience & Photography: Hoda El-Sherif
Luxor. An archaeological treasure trove ballooning with tombs and temples. Time and time again, travellers who set foot in ancient Thebes have hailed it as one of the world’s most grandiose open-air museums. The way the modern city has mushroomed among the ruins of ancient Egypt lends it a particular charm, and maneuvering between its sights makes you wonder about the different types of people who, thousands of years ago, occupied the streets that now lay in between.
As you walk through the city’s streets and marvel at the spectacular ancient temples, it’s easy to feel a certain connection to the past, and a solemn connection to the gods and deities that once looked over this enchanting civilization.
The Nile river, in its purest, bluest form, cuts the city in half. The Karnak and Luxor temples stand tall on the east side, like beacons of culture from a past life that have persisted amid the city’s contemporary landscape. Key sights on the east side also include the Luxor and the mummification museums, the latter a modern day iteration of the ancient ritual. Meanwhile, the west bank is home to Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, The Ramesseum and Tombs of the Nobles, among several other notable attractions.
Last year, Luxor was named the capital of international tourism for 2016 by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, a much-needed recognition that we hope alleviates Egypt’s bruised tourism industry, and an ode to the city’s grandeur.
Here are our favorite activities to do while in Luxor:
A banana plantation situated off the coast of Luxor. The island itself is home to a few hundred people and around 90 percent of its land bears bananas.
Like their ancestors before them, contemporary craftsmen use hammerstones to morph the light-colored stone into small statues, obelisks, vases and ashtrays. Ancient Egyptians used the slightly translucent stones to create household items, objects used in religious rituals as well as the canopic jars that they buried with their dead. This stop makes for a great moment to buy souvenirs
Catch the gentle waves of the Nile as they lap up against the thin, ubiquitous boats. It’s perfect for a sunset excursion, as hues of orange and purple mark the end of the day. In ancient Egypt, the Nile was the main artery that connected different cities together. Boat rides were used to mark the end of life and the beginning of a new, exciting journey -- the afterlife.
VALLEY OF THE KINGS
Ancient Egypt’s royal figures are said to be buried in this stretch of land, known to contain a total of 63 tombs and chambers. It’s a world heritage sight and is home to Tutankhamun's tomb.
The memorial temple of Ramses II, with its wide gateways, vast courtyards and calm chambers. Despite restoration efforts, much of the temple is in ruins today. Still, it’s mesmerizing to stand among such spectacular ruins.
MARSAM, A BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Situated on the west side of the Nile, this historical lodge is more famous as Sheikh Ali's Hotel. Artists, archeologists and researchers are said to have spent time here in the 1920s and 30s, and the hotel still prides itself as a meeting point for anyone passing through the city. The charming composite of rooms overlooks a small courtyard where you can come to have a quiet meal away from the hustle and bustle of Luxor’s center, even if you are not staying overnight. The hotel operates more than thirty rooms, some of which have air conditioners.
LUXOR SPICE MARKET
The alleys that make up Luxor’s old market are loaded with different types of goodies. The spices section will woo you instantly with its colorful aromas, and although it’s not a place for solitude, it makes for an enjoyable evening stroll.
Whether or not you are the organized-trip type traveler, spending a few hours at the market should make it on your list of things to do while in Luxor. You will likely be hassled by souvenir-sellers eager to weather their own economic woes, due to a steep decline in tourism. Be ready to bargain, because past their pleas you are guaranteed to find colorful scarves, miniature statues, papyrus illustrations and a vast collection of modern costume jewelry.
The best time to visit Luxor is between October and April, when temperatures hover around the mid-twenties throughout the hours of day. So if you’re feeling adventurous or have a penchant for ancient civilizations, pack your bags and take a short trip to explore Egypt’s south. You can get there by either plane or train. Egypt’s railway authorities recently launched a revamped sleeper train, promising comfort and two meals throughout the journey, so be sure to check it out.