They also offered a one-day 14 hour excursion the next day, but when this overnight option came up we jumped on it.
The drive from the port of Safaga to Luxor is a 3-1/2 hour drive on mixed roads with lots of check points with armed guards in towers, speed bumps, ditches and any which way traffic.
We were assigned to bus number 7 with our guide Bahgad. He was excellent! He was educated in Egyptian history and man did he know his stuff. Sometimes all the names of the pharaohs got all jumbled in your head, but what you needed to focus on was how old the sites that we were going to visit were and actually how clever they were in building what they did.
During our ride he also provided his audience opportunities to purchase cartouches from a catalog that would be delivered to them that evening. Egyptian cotton t-shirts and polo shirts were also available to order with custom cartouches embroidered to order. Also delivered this evening. Credit cards happily accepted.
He went over the photography restrictions in the Valley of the Kings. It seems really odd but photography was strictly forbidden both inside the tombs as well as all outside areas! Don’t ask the reason why, he couldn’t explain it. But surprise, surprise 2 weeks prior they started offering (read: selling) photography tickets. One needed to purchase a ticket for each tomb that you wanted to take photographs inside, as well as a ticket if you wanted to take pictures outside. He explained that they enforced this policy very strictly to the point of confiscating your device if caught photographing without a ticket! He was not kidding, while we were in one of the tombs a guy had his iPhone taken away for photographing without a ticket. Each ticket cost 20 US$. He offered us an alternative of a “friend” of his that produced full color photographs, a little booklet, a CD with a couple of thousand images, and a DVD with contained a documentary of the Valley of the Kings all for (what a surprise) 20 US$! We bit (placed our order) figuring that it would be difficult to film inside the tombs in such narrow areas with all the people and the size of the rooms themselves. We’ll have to wait until we get home to see what’s on the CD and DVD.
Upon our arrival in Luxor (@1:30pm), we went straight to the Temple of Luxor. The entrance here had two obelisks, one on either side of the entrance. There is only one now as the other is in Place de la Concorde in Paris. Bahgad explained all the hieroglyphics and friezes which really helped us get more out of the visit. We were struck by the enormity of these Temples that were almost 3,500 years old.
Be sure to study the size of the people in these photos against the columns and statues. It’s the only way to accurately appreciate their enormity.
The Avenue of sphinxes lined with massive sphinxes on either side runs about 5kms and connects the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Karnak. To think about the challenge to source the tons and tons of stone to construct these places simply amazed us. Again, these photos don’t give one the ability to comprehend the size of each of the sphinxes…
Note: be prepared for lots of tacky souvenir sellers, as well as robed people that you think are staff workers in the sites wanting to direct you to one photo site or point to some hieroglyphics to find that they’re busking for a bit of change or a$. The Egyptian economy has suffered terribly in the past 10 years you can understand their aggressiveness but a little goes a long way. Have $1 bills easily reachable in your pocket if you feel like giving them something. Don’t take out a wad of bills to give them a $. If you feel comfortable giving your iPhone to one of them to take your photo which many will, then certainly a$ is deserved.
We were finally brought to the Sonesta St. George’s for a very late (@3:30pm) buffet lunch. We went to our rooms to rest for a couple of hours. Joe had started to feel a pretty heavy cold coming on and I was worried about his being able to complete this tour. While he rested, I enjoyed the sunset and the view from our balcony across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings.
I captured the sounds of the city and a call to prayers in the attached video.
Call to prayers
At 7:15pm we were transferred to the Temple of Karnak for the Sound and Light Show at 8pm. We were expecting a pretty cool laser light and music show set inside the temple grounds. Instead it was kind of schmoltzy of a performance. We were led in the dark to the various parts of the temple where loud speakers would blare out almost inaudible stories of the pharaohs while lighting up one column or another in the area. Then we’d walk to another area and hear more until we were led up to some seating overlooking the pond. Now we thought was when the show was going to get good. Nope, more of the same. After an hour or so we were led back through the temple in the dark to where we began. Friends recognized our sound and light show photos as the same venue where The Spy who Loved Me was filled. Giant yawn.
Especially since we got back to the hotel for our buffet dinner at like 9:30pm and Joe was feeling even more poorly. Probably would have been a better idea for him to stay in the room and rest vs going to the sound and light show, as tomorrow was going to be an even longer day!