Day 9, Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and Then Back Into Real Egypt

Our final morning on the ship began with another pre-6am wake up.  We were docked in Luxor and had toured the East Bank the previous day.  Today we were destined for the West Bank.  In ancient Egypt, the Egyptians buried their dead on the west side of the Nile, due to the setting sun which symbolized moving on to the next world, so all of the tombs, up and down the Nile, are found on the West Bank.

In Luxor, known as Thebes in ancient times, almost all of the pharaohs from the New Kingdom (the last major period of ancient Egypt before the Ptolemies) can be found buried in the Valley of the Kings.  It is important to remember that the Pyramids are mostly from the Old Kingdom, over 1000 years prior to the New Kingdom.  The pyramids were as much of a wonder to the people of the New Kingdom as they are today.

We took a ferry to the West Bank and toured three tombs in the Valley of the Kings.  One thing to remember about ancient Egypt is the extreme conservatism of the Egyptians.  With the exception of Akhenaten, they did not make much progress or take risks in their art for thousands of years.  Consequently, if you see one tomb, you've seen them all.  There is no real need to visit all of the tombs, including paying the extra pounds to see King Tut's.  We opted to visit the standard fare and were quite amazed by the handiwork inside.

What I found even more interesting was watching a current excavation taking place.  I have no idea what they were uncovering, but there were dozens of workers moving buckets of dirt from one area to another.

We also discovered why the Egyptian army seems to get its butt kicked by the Israelis from time to time.  Throughout Egypt there are armed guards posted at various strategic spots, I would guess, to deter terrorism.  One such guard was posted in front of one of the tombs at our next stop, the Valley of the Queens.  Except, he was asleep.  Imagine, if you will, a man sitting upright, between his legs rests his rifle, with the butt of the rifle on the ground between his feet and the rifle pointing straight up.  Lacking any comfortable place to rest his head, he decides to rest his head on the end of the barrel...of his rifle.  I happened to do a bit of weapons training during my time in the Navy and I can assure you that this is frowned upon.

Our final stop of the morning was the Temple of Hatshepsut.  This is incredibly beautiful from a distance, very grand and striking set against a mountainous backdrop.  However, upon close examination, it loses a bit of its luster when one realizes that it has mostly been rebuilt in modern times.  Still, one can imagine what it must have been like during ancient times with its carvings and statues intact.

We took the ferry back to the ship and I must admit, I was a bit sad to leave.  We had really grown to like our new friends, Bob, Paula, Eli, Alex and Maria.  We had also quickly adapted to the luxury of a 5-star cruise ship.  But alas, it was time to move on to our new hotel for our final night in Luxor.  Our tour guide mentioned that if we had time, we could grab one more meal in the dining room before we left, so we decided to have a nice lunch before we hit the road.  Screwed again, of course.  He forgot to mention that they would charge us for this meal, and it would be the most expensive meal we would eat in all of Egypt times two.  Oh well, we made up for it with our $17 hotel later that evening.

The rest of the day was spent napping in our new room, wandering the streets of Luxor and eating in an amazing open air restaurant, Sofra, that really gave us a feel for authentic Egyptian cuisine.

I will say that our hotel was one of the more 'interesting' ones I have ever stayed in.  We certainly got our $17 worth.  To start, the sheets on the bed did not quite actually cover the bed, so the mattress was ever so slightly visible on each side of the bottom sheet.  Luckily, the air conditioning worked, but we could not turn it too high because the top blanket also did not cover the bed, so you can imagine with both of us under it, there would be parts of us sticking out.  The bathroom was about four feet by four feet, with a sink, toilet and shower head.  It was situated such that while showering, you had to straddle the toilet (there was nothing to catch the water, save the hole in the floor).  To accommodate our European friends, they had fashioned a makeshift bidet, which was a small metal pipe coming up and around and extending over the  toilet bowl.  I stayed clear of this, however, having shot myself in the crotch with one on our night train from Cairo to Aswan.  I was fully clothed at the time, so that was a bit embarrassing.

Aside from the room, however, the hotel was a fun experience and the people were very nice.  We didn't come to Egypt to hang out in our room anyway.  Before bed, we arranged for a guided tour and private van to some of the lesser visited sites on the West Bank for the following morning.  We had one more day in Luxor and then it was time for hell on wheels:  an 18-hour bus ride across Egypt and the Sinai to the Red Sea...not a tour bus...not a chartered bus...the Egyptian Greyhound.  But that is for tomorrow.

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