Luxor Pictures Guide, Egypt

A view of the Luxor Temple (east bank) from the River Nile, Egypt

A view of the Luxor Temple (east bank) from the River Nile. Photo by Olaf Tausch.

Luxor Pictures – How Best to Visit

Luxor is one of Egypt’s two must-sees, fighting for top slot against the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and the lesser pyramids an hour or so up the Nile River.
Once known as Thebes, capital of ancient Egypt, Luxor is a town of two halves bisected by the grand old River Nile, though most of the urban activities – main transport, hotels, restaurants and shops – happen on the east bank, where the train station is.
Mass tourism and a desire to accelerate Egyptian tourist revenue made a Nile bridge essential to replace the time-consuming ferry service and one was duly completed in 2005, 10 miles (16kms) south of Luxor, allowing Red Sea day trippers (8, 000 a day at the last count) to spread themselves all over Luxor’s west bank

Stay on the calmer west bank if possible and/or travel around the temples before/ after the package tourist rush to try to absorb the majesty of the structures outside the tourist frenzy.
Taking a sailing boat, a felucca, onto the Nile (with an Egyptian skipper) is a delightful way to escape the crowds, especially for sunset, but – as with taxis – carefully negotiate a price beforehand – and take your own drink if you want a sundowner.
Luxor needs at least three days and is a few hundred miles south of Cairo so will require a flight or overnight train journey (recommended).

Luxor East Bank

Luxor town main street (east bank), Sharia al-Mahatta (Station Street), Egypt

Luxor town main street (east bank), Sharia al-Mahatta (Station Street). Photo by Marc Ryckaert.

Luxor’s governor has been running a clean up campaign including renovating the east bank’s rail station (the best budget way to get to/from Luxor from Cairo is by night train), demolishing unsightly and illegal shops and restaurants and best of all forcibly moving mooring points for the Nile’s floating hotels/cruise ships which have been stinking up the once-beautiful corniche for years with their 24/7 marine diesels.

Luxor

Luxor’s new (east bank) corniche, delightfully walkable and free of marine diesel fumes. Cruise ships can be seen parked further down the Nile. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.

Downsides

• Hustlers/touts are a daily hassle, a little Arabic helps a lot.

• Taxi meters don’t work so expect endless arguments if you don’t firmly negotiate beforehand.

• The big sights can get horrifically overcrowded in peak seasons at peak times. Luxor temple can see up to 15, 000 visitors a day though visitor numbers have been down in the last couple of years.

• Mass tourism and a desire to accelerate tourist revenue made a Nile bridge essential to replace the time-consuming ferry service and so it came to be, 10 miles (16kms) south of Luxor (upstream), allowing Red Sea resort day trippers to spread themselves all over Luxor’s west bank without lifting a lazy leg.
Inevitably this means a considerable loss of tranquility and rural vistas to Luxor’s quiet side as new hotels and apartment blocks pack in between the river and the rocks, replacing Egyptian peasants who have been living and working the ground all their lives with smartly suited concierges imported from Cairo.
Tutankhamen would be turning in his grave, if he still had one.

Luxor Weather

Luxor temple, Avenue of Rams, east bank.

Luxor temple, Avenue of Rams, Egypt

Best: October – May.
Worst: Christmas and Easter school holidays (hugely overpriced and overcrowded) June-September (heat).

Karnak Temple on Luxor

Karnak Temple on Luxor’s east bank. Photo by Olaf Tausch.

The famous Karnak Temple, just down the road from Luxor, was our next stop. This was yet another architectural wonder with its towering carved pillars that once supported a huge roof. You’ve probably seen pictures of it as it was featured in the Agatha Christie film “Death on the Nile”. We visited many other temples to various Gods and Goddesses in and around Luxor that were also truly magnificent. I could go on and on about them, but I won’t.

a hideous Luxor cruise ship passing Kings island on the Nile River, Luxor, Egypt

Reality check! Egypt is frequently a mess so be prepared or don’t go! Here’s a hideous Luxor cruise ship (they’re not all shaped like a breeze block) passing Kings island on the Nile River. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.

Nile Cruises

Most Egyptian cruise ships ply the Luxor-Aswan route which is safe, scenic and terminates at two of Egypt’s most important towns. A week long cruise is about average.
An alternative cruise is a few days from Aswan onto Lake Nasser to visit the magical Abu Simbel temple when all the day-trippers have gone home.
Avoid southern Egypt in summertime as it’s massively overheated then.

The cruise boats range from super-luxury to leaky, diesel-powered, style-free but easy plastic barges crammed with a couple of hundred overheated budget snappers. To be fair, there are some fine and beautifully designed Nile cruisers available, at a price.
Alternatively if you are long on time, short on funds and tough of body hire a felucca (with captain and crewman) for a more personal and adventurous trip ranging from an hour, to a few days.

We were going to get a Nile steamer up the Nile from Aswan to Luxor, but alas present day steamers are no longer like the ones in Agatha Christie’s time. Modern ones are huge 6 story high floating four star hotels with swimming pools and beach chairs. They are ugly and highly polluting. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle three days in one of these so we caught the bus instead and compensated ourselves with an afternoon sail in a felucca, which was very calm, relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable.

Luxor west bank

Luxor

Luxor’s west bank (where most of the monuments are) and a Nile ferry. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.

The west bank is still a quieter place in spite of the newish bridge connecting east and west, particularly after the tourist hordes have gone back to their fancy hotels, though holidaymakers who fancy a simpler, more rustic experience can find excellent places to stay and passable places to eat on the west bank.

Feluccas on the Nile River near Luxor, Egypt

Felucca-ing about on the Nile near Luxor. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.

Activities

Riding: camels or horses, around the west bank could be interesting.

Sailing: laze for an afternoon or voyage for a few days down the Nile in a felucca (open old sail boat) tho’ don’t bother if you’re going down to Aswan, that’s the primary activity there; a local captain is necessary.

Biking: tooling around Luxor – especially the more beautiful and tranquil west bank – on two wheels is a terrific way to see the sights.

See our Egypt Travel Guide for advice on health, safety and money.

Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon, Luxor, Egypt

The Colossi of Memnon in a typically calm and rural west bank environment. Photo by Olaf Tausch.

Luxor doesn’t do pyramids, the region speciality is a variety of magnificent temples, tombs and self-aggrandising monuments (and no one is grander than Ramases II), including the Valley of the Kings, Colossi of Memnon, Hatshepsut, (all on the west bank) Karnak and Luxor Temples (right bank).

Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut Temple, west bank, Luxor, Egypt

Hatshepsut Temple, west bank. Photo by Olaf Tausch.

On the west bank Hatshepsut temple is one of the great places of tourist worship, along with Medinet Habu, the Ramasseum and of course the externally dull Valley of the Kings.

Ramasseum

The Ramasseum

One of the three temples with some colour still remaining is the Ramasseum on the west bank. Medinat Habu and Hatshepsut also display remants of the original decor. Photo by Olaf Tausch.

Medinat Habu

Medinat Habu temple on the west bank of Luxor, Egypt

Medinat Habu temple on the west bank.

The Valley of the Kings

The East Valley of the Kings on Luxor

The East Valley of the Kings on Luxor’s west bank, where most of the royal tombs are. Photo by Olaf Tausch. Photography is not permitted in the tombs, nor is noise or guide lectures.

The Valley of the Kings is just one of many dry and barren valleys on Luxor’s west bank. It doesn’t look like much to a wandering eye but from the 16th to 11th century BC Pharoahs, their wives and other Egyptian nobles were buried in hidden tombs in the valley along with their valuables. Obviously these were needed to keep the royal folk comfortable in the afterlife but grave robbers were keen to relieve them of the burden of carrying huge mounts of gold and silver with them on their journey so the tombs had to be carefully hidden.

Sadly most were found nevertheless and emptied which is why the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb (a minor Pharoah) and its goodies stash in 1922 so delighted the world and ignited a fascination for Egypt’s history and Pharonic relics.

Most of the tombs are not open to the public and those that are, are costly to enter and need to be booked in advance.

If you have time and you’re up for some exercise consider hiking or mountain biking the trails visible in the photo above, a double whammy of panoramic views over Luxor’s West Bank and a definited feeling of superiority over the common herd.
On most days around five thousand tourists visit the valley, a number that can double on days when some of the largerer Nile Cruise ships dock in Luxor.

emails from Henry Warren:

From Luxor we went to see the Valley of the Kings where the many of the post- pyramid building pharaohs were laid up. They had wised up to the fact that the pyramids were a bit of a give a way to tomb robbers and thought their bodies would be safer in tombs buried deep in the ground. They were wrong of course because it was only the tomb of Tutankhamun’s that survived relatively intact.

We decided to walk from here (Valley of Kings) over the ridge to the temple of Hatshepsut: the only woman ever to become a Pharaoh. This was another very impressive temple. Unfortunately, it was also the scene of a terrorist attack in 1997 when 58 tourists and four guards were killed. Like all the archaeological sites we visited, it was well guarded and discretely surrounded by policeman on camel back placed 200 meters apart.

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