Egypt: Temples and Tombs between Aswan and Luxor

Posted on March 9, 2010

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I was actually surprised by the amount of tourists in the area around Aswan and Luxor, none more so than when we visited Karnak temple in Luxor. It really made me appreciate the fact that someone was waking me up at the crack of dawn to visit the temples. I think that’s why I have the memories that I do. Here are some of the temples along the way:

Abu Simbel is south of Aswan and we missed it but that was a mistake… reports were good and the photos look great.

Kom Ombo – This was the first temple we saw so it really made an impression. It was much more intact that I expected and the hieroglyphics were fantastic. It would be a shame to miss this if you visited the area.

Luxor Temple – Again I felt particularly attached to this temple. Perhaps it was the lack of tourists or maybe it was that we say the ‘other’ obelisk to the one that is at Concorde in Paris. It was fascinating that effectively they are moving huge parts of the city as they are excavating and keep finding a huge amount. When we were there a number of sphinxes that led up to the temple were being uncovered. Quite amazing when you think that much of this was 1500-2000BC.

Karnak – the temple here is quite impressive in size and quality but the whole experience was overtaken by the sheer number of tourists making us feel like we were at a theme park! The thing that really left an impression is the ‘graffiti’ left by the discoverers of the temple – there are engravings from the 1800s from Polish, English and other nationalities. There is a sound and light show which is meant to be pretty impressive but we discovered that too late. , vast, graffiti from future generations such as Polish, English and German in 1800’s.

We spent half a day visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut, Valley of  Kings, Valley of the Queens. I have also heard that the Valley of the Nobles is worth visiting as it is less known and therefore less busy but the tombs aren’t as elaborate. The Temple of Hatshepsut is on the face of a cliff and looks like it has just been built. It is on three storey’s and has beautiful paintings that Egyptologists have learnt a great deal from (such how they moved the obelisks). The tombs in the valleys are quite spectacular with the walls decorated with paintings. A good guide will explain what to look for before you go in (guide’s aren’t allowed but you will find people touting themselves as guides, commentary can be comical so I would discourage them). Another thing to note is that King Tut died when he was only 19 (the thinking now is that he may have been murdered rather than falling off his chariot as formerly believed), so he didn’t have time to prepare his tomb. You are better to miss this tomb and visit the Cairo museum to see everything that was discovered in his tomb.

Last but not least we visited Colossi of Memnon which are two statues 18metres high that are carved from individual pieces of stone. They date back to 1350 BC and have to be seen to be appreciated fully. Apparently as one of them cracked, the wind made whistling  noises and the stories have been engraved on the foot of one of the statues.

If you travel to this area yourself then I would check out Wanderlust article on hidden sites to avoid the crowds .

We had a good guide, who trained as an Egyptologist at Cairo University and has managed excavations. There are many guides and it’s worth getting a recommendation so that you make the most of the trip. All the guides take you to various shop, factories and musuems (papyrus, perfumeries and alabaster makers seem to be the favourite). You are encourgaed to buy things but don’t get conned into paying European prices. One perfumerie we went to was selling bottles for 5-10euros that we later found for 2euros in an airport shop.

Amazing. Loads of treasures But after 3 days on a boat and everyone wanting to take you for a ride or squeeze as much as they can from you, it’s nice to head back to a big city.

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Posted in: Destinations, Egypt