EG - A tour in Luxor, Egypt
In the darkness of the day, before Nut has birthed the flaming orb to create dawn, we crawl out of our beds each morning. Our intention is to avoid the 115 degree heat that will engulf the Sahara desert by the afternoon.
My heart flutters as we watch the sun burst across the horizon, filling the sky with colour. This is what we came for. This very moment has filled my thoughts for months.. and now here we are. It was the pictures online that made me want this so badly. Other balloons dot the sky around us and before I know it we are heading towards a field of sugar cane to land.
Now it is time to explore tombs and temples. We are expertly guided from place to place by Amel, an Egyptologist. She is herding us like a mother bear with cubs, always careful that we are in tow behind her lest we wander too far.
Before releasing us to meander on our own, she warns us of how to say no and that if we are worried she is nearby. The men are like vultures and as soon as she leaves they swoop in for a meal. At first I am intimidated and fearful, but over the coming days I become irritated more than anything else. This is a culture that does not shun this behaviour, and I reflect on that as I walk through temples.
After all I am only a visitor here trying to get to know who Egypt really is. If I judge her first then I am closing myself to all of her possibilities. Between each moment of reflection we are scurrying to another location with Amel.
Amel manages to convince the person guarding the replica of King Tut's tomb that we should be able to have a photo, and Say takes the best photo she can within a few moments.
It is truly stunning and as we wander from temple to tomb and tomb to temple, I flood my camera with images before it begins overheating from the desert sun. I can not fully appreciate the moment while I am in it so I take as many photos as I can to savour it later.
By the end of the tour each day I am exhausted and ready for a nap. It is both a luxury and a comfort to rinse off the sand and drape across my bed like a lazy lioness. Despite my exhaustion I imagine anyone could hear this lioness purring during the cat nap.
The next morning is another early rise. I drink my hot tea in the dark and savour the fresh goat cheese and pita bread while I mentally prepare myself for another day full of adventure.
I can hardly fathom how long it took to build such momentous structures. The light always seems to be strategically placed as if the entire place was built with lighting in mind. I muse this outloud and Amel confirms that the ancient royal architects were masters.
Between the touring of ancients, we take air conditioned breaks inside select shops. An alabaster shop gives us a tour of the workers actively cutting the blocks down to size and hand carving them into various figurines.
I have my first chance to haggle as I select 3 figurines that I know my family will love. Amel guides me in this learning process and we settle on a price that I can afford without breaking my budget for this trip.
Later we are guided through the process of how papyrus is made from the beginning. We watch as the plant is expertly cut into pieces and then woven amongst itself before being pressed and left to form a sheet. Per the usual Egyptian hospitality, we are offered Hibiscus tea to enjoy. Say ends up purchasing a custom papyrus painting for her family and we get to watch as the ornate and delicate lines are traced into hieroglyphs.
For a budget tour I am satisfied with the many things we have seen and the experiences and care that Amel has offered us. If you are thinking of traveling to Luxor on a budget I recommend looking at temple/tomb tour packages. There are several options available running from a half day to 2 or 3 days. Budget can run from 50$ (half day), 110$ (budget 2 days), to even 300$ for a two night stay full of touring. All of the touring options are easily found by doing a search for the city you're interested in and "temple tour package" or something to that effect at the end. I change the words around and usually research several before deciding. Ours was 160$ for the hot air balloon ride and two days of temples, tombs, and museums as well as the stops at alabaster and papyrus shops.
Here is a list of places that we went as well as the entry fees in Egyptian pounds (LE)
Carters House – 60le
Hatshepsut Temple – 80le
Colossi of Memnon – Free
Habu Temple – 60le
Stone Factory – Free
Valley of the Queens – 150le
Nobles Tombs – 80le
Workers Tombs – 80le
Karnak Temple – 100le
Avenue of Sphinxes – Free
Luxor Museum – 100le
Luxor Temple – 100le
Mummification Museum – 100le