On the 11th May (Brent’s Birthday) we took horse carriages from the docked boat (which we were still staying on) to Karnack temple in Luxor. This is the largest temple in Egypt and is the largest man made temple in the whole world – so as you can imagine it was pretty impressive, we only got to see a small portion of the temple. One of the most interesting pieces in the temple was Queen Hatshepsuts obelisk which is carved out of one piece of granite which was carted to Luxor from Aswan. The obelisk had her cartouches scraped out by her son who felt that she had stolen the throne from him by taking on the role of Queen because she thought he was too young for the responsibility. As the temple was built over 300 years (during the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties) many kings and queens had contributed and added their own impressions to please the gods.
After dinner that night Khaled our tour guide had organized a cake for Brent’s birthday it was great all the crew came out dancing and singing with bongo drums and tambourines and grabbed me and Brent up to dance with them all, it was a really special experience to see how excited the Egyptians get about birthdays (most of us try to pretend they aren’t happening). After tea we headed to the markets which I think were worse than at Aswan – it took us like and hour and a half to walk 500m because we had to keep dodging the vendors, its so annoying because if they weren’t so in your face you would probably go in and shop but they hassle you so much you just get frustrated and give up. Then it was back to the hotel because we had an early wake up call (4am) the next day for our balloon ride over Luxor’s necropolis. The necropolis encompasses the valley of the queens the Ramseum and the two 18m tall statues of Amenhotep III; it was a fantastic was to overview the necropolis. Then it was on our donkeys to the Valley of the Kings.
The Valley of the Kings is the burial ground for the kings and queens of the New Kingdom, (dynasties 18, 19 and 20), including Tutankhamen (whose tomb isn’t included in the ticket so we didn’t get to see it). So far 63 tombs have been discovered but given the number of kings in the new kingdom it is estimated that there are over 60 yet to be uncovered. Entry allows you to see three tombs so we started with Tomb 2 of Ramses IV which is the biggest tomb in the burial ground, then we saw Tomb 11 of Ramses II who ruled for 34 years – his tomb was significant because it contains two burial chambers one for him and one for his father unfortunately the tomb robbers trashed both burial chambers so there were no heiros on the walls etc. Then last up we saw Tomb 16 of Ramses I this tomb was chosen because of the vibrant colours of the hieroglyphics, all three tombs hieroglyphics were very well preserved and very colourful given that they are over 3500 years old! Unfortunately we couldn’t take any photos once inside – damn!! After that we moved from the boat to the hotel and headed out for lunch and then a stroll through the market in the 40 degree heat. The night before I had met Mohammed (yes anther one) who was going to organize some shoes for me – he remembered my name but hadn’t got me the shoes I wanted but I bought them anyway - you cant go wrong for $3, the only problem was that he kept hitting on me, Brent was standing right next to me and he was asking me for my phone number or email address and I was like ‘this is my boyfriend’ and he just looked Brent up and down then said ‘so can I have your number?’ I shook his hand goodbye and which point he pulled me in and tried to kiss me – he got me a little on the lip ewwe! The arvo was filled with poolside antics with McDelivery Sundays as it was steaming, then after tea the group headed out to a sheesha bar on the banks of the Nile. As our group was now split, the majority of the people heading into the western desert, we joined the Habibi group which Hassan was the tour leader for. After the sheesha bar everyone headed to the train station for the 10-14 hour trip back to Cairo – except for a few of us smart ones who organized flights for 10am the next day instead.
We arrived at the Pharaohs hotel in Cairo at about 12 and headed to Felfela for lunch yummo. Then it was off to Egypt’s biggest bazaar Khan El Khalili for some shopping. Me and Brent had run out of cash and there were no banks near by which was probably a good thing cos I could have spent a fortune in there.
After the bazaar Hassan took us to the Ahmad Ibn Tulum Mosque which was beautiful (although designed by a Christian on death row) and he taught us about the religion of Islam. Basically there are 5 rules to live by: 1) pray 2) fast (during Ramadan) 3) give to the needy 4) head to Mecca if you can 5) believe in no god but Allah. It was quite interesting. The it was out for a final dinner with the Habibi group who were finishing their tour the next morning when we (me, Brent, Henri, Dani & Hassan) headed to Mt Sinai and Dahab.