Luxor on the west bank of the Nile

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Motor Launch

Habu Temple

Luxor is a town of two halves. Today we visited the more rural west bank. The town has a bridge across the Nile but it was kilometres up steam from our ship so we crossed on motor launches. They were a little rustic but effective. They all had names. As we docked I saw one called Titanic! Getting on and off was dodgy. The gang planks were not particularly stable.

Habu Temple

A newish coach was waiting for us. It took us for a short ride to the Habu temple. This side of the river is much less affluent and more subsistence agriculture. This temple was built by Rameses III. It was one of the first places in Thebes (now Luxor) to be

Rameses II

associated with the local god, Amun. Not to be outdone, Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III also

constructed buildings here. These were subsequently altered by later rulers. This complex was the centre of the economic life of Thebes and also provided accommodation for priests and officials. It ceased to be inhabited after a plague in the 9th century AD.

From the temple we were taken to the Valley of Queens. Here we visited the workers village. It was essentially a ghetto of small flats. The workers were artisans and built their own tombs in their spare time.

Workers housing

There are at least 75 tombs here. We entered 3. Of course there was no photography and I was not

going to take a risk this time. The access was cramped and steep. The tombs were barely a few square metres and maybe 2 meters high in the middle. They were in remarkable condition. In one the guard gave us a full explanation of the decorations. He then asked for baksheesh. I had none or I would have kicked the tin.

Karnak

It was a scorchingly hot day. The temperature had already risen to the high 30’s so we were very glad that there was a shelter providing shade. From here we overlooked the ruins of the workers’ village. It was quite easy to visualise how the families lived. I hope they got on because the conditions we very high density.

After a good lunch on the ship including fresh dates we visited Karnak. This is

Let sleeping dogs lie

huge. The temperature was 37 and we had to walk a good distance in the sun. There were some beautiful small trees to see though. Of course there was a dog, completely oblivious to passers by.

Construction at the complex began during the reign of Senusret I in the Middle Kingdom and continued into the Ptolemaic period. The complex consists of four parts but only the Precinct of Amun-Ra is open to the public.

Hypostyle Hall

The beginning was the avenue of sphinxes we saw ending in Luxor temple the previous night. We were then taken through this lovely complex room by room. Colour still remains, especially on the underside of high objects. One famous aspect of Karnak is the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re, a hall area of 5,000 square metres with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 metres tall, and the other 12 are 21 metres tall with a diameter of over 3 metres.

We ended with the private swimming pool, the sacred lake where the priest used to bathe.

Sacred Lake

Our next stop was a papyrus shop. We were shown how to make it and that they use natural dyes to decorate them. We were even shown some that fluoresce with shapes unseen in daylight. Anna chose one for our house in Krakow. It had a nominal price. If we paid that amount we could have another with our cartouche on it. A cartouche is essentially hieroglyphics of a royal name enclosed in an oval. Anna and I have our cartouche embroidered on polo shirts. It took Anna saying she would walk out if the lady did not stop pushing and sell us just the one we wanted.

Luxor Bridge

About 5pm we set sail. This was no simple matter as three other ships were

Luxor Bridge

moored outboard of us. They had to move and sit in the river until we sailed off. It was initially very windy on the top deck beside the pool but this soon calmed. We passed under the bridge by only two or so metres. I guess this is what sets the height of the ships.

Later in the night we went through a lock. This was interesting. Lots of shouting as we manoeuvred. Then we slowly raised up through the structure. At the top locals were trying to sell us items through our balcony window. The nearby town was very noisy as the locals celebrated Ramadan.