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I’ve been lucky enough to visit Egypt twice, and on both trips, Luxor was the standout highlight. While the pyramids are a must-see for anyone visiting Egypt, I’m more than happy to trade the hustle and bustle of Cairo for the world’s “greatest open-air museum.” Surrounded by truly stunning scenery on the banks of the River Nile, there’s so much to see that you’ll be hard pushed to squeeze it into 48 hours but, if that’s all you have, then here’s some definite must-dos that I’d recommend.
The First 24 Hours
VISIT: First stop, Karnak Temple, a vast complex of temples, chapels, pylons, sanctuaries, and other buildings. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll need at least a couple of hours to soak up the history and the stories that surround this stunning site. Stroll past the last remaining sphinxes towards the massive carved columns in the Hypostyle Hall – the ceiling has long since been destroyed, leaving blue skies and sunbeams to shine down on the carvings that cover the columns and keep you and your camera occupied for hours.
DRINK: Refresh yourself with a glass of sugar cane juice, available from almost every fruit juice vendors along the road. Be warned: as the name suggests, it’s outrageously sweet!
VISIT: There’s only one time to see Luxor Temple, and that’s at sunset, staying through into the evening when the temple is beautifully lit up. From the outside you can view the remains of the original 3km (1.9 mi) “Avenue of the Sphinxes” that linked Luxor Temple with Karnak. As the sun sets on the temple, the stone glows with a golden hue against the backdrop of the evening sky. A stroll between the imposing obelisk at the entrance into the heart of the temple and the hypostyle hall is a truly magical experience.
EAT: As a semi-vegetarian, I watched my travelling companions devour everything from pigeon to beef during our trip – all of which was declared delicious. I, on the other hand, stuck with some of Egypt’s famous vegetarian delicacies. Must-haves include delectable babaganoush (a paste of aubergines mashed with tahini), kushari (a mixture of noodles, lentils, and rice topped with fried onions and a spicy tomato sauce), falafel (balls of deep-fried mashed chickpeas and spices), and tahini (sesame-seed paste mixed with garlic, spices, and lemon, served with pita bread).
The vegetarian treat of Kushari. Photo by Leandroid.
The Next 24 Hours
DO: Start early and reach the Valley of the Kings on the west bank, the resting place of 63 royal tombs. Standard-entry tickets grant access to the site and to three of the tombs of your choosing – although not all tombs are open all the time and the ticket does not permit entry to a select few, including the famous tomb of Tutankhamun. I would recommend buying a guide to hieroglyphics before you go; visually, the scenes are stunning, but they mean so much more if you understand their stories.
From the intricate hieroglyphics of the tombs, head for the monumental and dazzling Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut, that sits at the foot of 300m-high (984 ft) limestone cliffs. Cut into the cliff face, this man-made monument features delicate relief work throughout the walls on the lower and middle terraces that tell stories of early expeditions and journeys.
Heading back towards town, you’ll pass the faceless Colossi of Memnon that quite literally sit alongside the road. 18m (59 ft) in height, these figures keep vigil over the west bank, the last remaining pieces of what was once a vast temple complex, larger even than Karnak.
DO: No trip to Egypt would be complete without a sunset cruise on a felucca along the Nile. Jump on one of the feluccas at Luxor harbour and float downstream as the sun sets over the west bank, enjoying a cup of mint tea as you watch the world slip by from your own little piece of paradise.
EAT: If you get the chance, enjoy lunch with a local family. Invited to dine with one family, my friends and I spent an idyllic hour in their home, enjoying what was quite simply the best babaganoush I have ever had. Three generations entertained us as we ate, later giving us a tour of their home and introducing us to their chickens.
Egypt’s landscape offers a unique travel experience. Go now to go back into the storied histories it has to offer. G Adventures runs a number of departures to Egypt encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater for different tastes. Check out our roster of small group trips to this mesmerizing land. Check out Egypt with us today!