Situated on the Rive Nile in Egypt, Luxor has been called the greatest open-air museum in the world. It is barely possible to wander the streets without stumbling across an ancient edifice (or, more accurately, a street vendor trying to sell you a miniature version of an ancient edifice). With temple ruins within the city and the Valley of the Kings across the river, Luxor is a history buff’s heaven. The Tomb of Tutankhamen is located here, but beware the Curse of the Pharaohs…
Visit the huge mortuary temple of Ramesseum, or walk through the desert to soak up the history, or hire a horse, donkey or even camel to take in the sights. Yes, Luxor is crowded and noisy (name a large city that isn’t!), but that’s all part of an adventure that will keep you buzzing from dawn to long past dusk.
Luxor’s Top 10
10. Karnak Open-Air Museum Come and see how things would have looked thousands of years ago thanks to the magic of reconstructions (and a fair bit of guesswork).
5. Colossi of Memnon These lazy statues have been sitting here for nearly 3,500 years.
9. Avenue of the Sphinxes You’ll think you’re seeing double, triple and quadruple as the sphinxes just keep coming!
4. Valley of the Queens Where the Pharaohs’ wives were laid to rest.
8. Luxor Museum Quality is more important than quantity in this museum.
3. Deir el-Bahari A complex of mortuary temples, some of which are impressively built into a mountain.
7. Deir el-Medina This ancient village was home to the talented artists who worked on the famous tombs.
2. Karnak Temple Complex Built over 2,000 years ago, this is more like a city of temples than a mere complex.
6. Luxor Temple Over 3,000 years old, this temple is filled with mammoth statues.
1. Valley of the Kings One of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Jaw-droppingly extraordinary
- Karnak – An archaeological site featuring a variety of sanctuaries, pylons and obelisks dedicated to pharaohs and Theban gods.
- Valley of the Kings – This area contains 63 tombs of royalty from 1550 to 1069 BC.
- Temple of Hatshepsut – A manmade monument dedicated to the female Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut.
- Luxor Museum – This museum contains collections of items from the end of the Old Kingdom to the Mamluk period.
- Temple of Seti I – This temple was started by the pharaoh Seti I but finished by his son Ramses II and serves as his memorial.
Luxor Art & Culture
- Sound and Light Show – A 90-minute show in Karnak that details the history of Thebes in an extravagant style.
- Pharaonic Wedding Festival – A semi-yearly festival where couples get married in the Temple of Karnak in the style of those in ancient Egypt.
- Opet Festival – During the second month of the Nile flood, this festival celebrates the ties between Amen-Ra and the king.
- Abu Elhagag Festival – A two-day festival held before Ramadan that includes horse racing, parades and dancing.
- Nubian Cultural Centre – Learn about the rich culture and heritage of the Nubian citizens in Luxor.
- Habiba – A small shop that sells exotic Egyptian jewellery and accessories including Bedouin embroidery, Siwan scarves and mirrors.
- Caravanserai – A small shop that sell handicrafts made by local women.
- Fair Trade Centre Luxor Outlet – This non-profit store sells pottery and carved wood from Hejaza and Garagos, blown glass and beading made by poor locals.
- Duty Free Shop Luxor – A duty-free store that sell a variety of goods including cigarettes, alcohol and other times.
- Winter Akhmeem Gallery – A great place to get handwoven cotton and other textiles.
Gay & Lesbian Luxor
Homosexuality is against Islamic law in Egypt and you could be arrested if seen participating in homosexual behaviour.
- Hermes Tours – A tour operator who specializes in working with the GLBT community to organize travel in Luxor.
- Sinouhe Discotheque – A gay-friendly nightclub favoured by locals.
- Arabesque Hotel – A possibly gay-friendly, three-star hotel.
- Jackie’s Joint – Not a strictly gay bar, but gay friendly if you are discreet.
- Pub 28 – Resembling a traditional British pub, gays are discreetly welcomed.
- Magic Horizons – See Luxor from the sky with a hot-air balloon ride.
- Legend of the Nile – See the temples and Upper Egypt from overhead in a seaplane.
- Footpaths – Follow in the steps of ancient craftsmen who travelled to the temples to work. Routes go over the Theban Hills and into the Nile Valley.
- Hantours – Tour the city in a horse-drawn carriage.
- Cruises – A variety of companies will take you on a relaxing cruise along the Nile.
- Rent horses for horseback riding at Nobi’s Arabian Horse Stables.
- Go bowling at the Luxor Metropolitan Bowling centre.
- Play golf at the Royal Valley Golf Club.
- Go on a safari like the ancients used to by touring the city on camels.
- Go diving in the Red Sea.
February’s Luxor Marathon sends runners past many ancient sites. Some of the participants look pretty ancient by the time they’ve finished, too.
Evacuation Day is celebrated Egypt-wide in June, which marks the mass departure of foreign troops from the country.
During July, Revolution Day celebrates the Egyptian revolution (the 1952 one, not the 2011 one) and the end of the monarchy.
Join the celebratory street festivals in August for the Festival of Moulid of Abu el-Haggag.
Forty fortunate couples are married in traditional Egyptian style at Karnak during the Pharaonic Wedding Festival in October.
When To Go
You don’t have to worry about the rain in Luxor. The city only receives 2mm of the wet stuff a year, so you can leave the umbrella at home.
Actually, you may want to take that brolly as a sun shield in summer. With temperatures topping 40ºC (104ºF), any shade you can find is a good thing.
The best time to visit is between October and March, when the temperatures average a more bearable 25ºC (77ºF).
Take a ferry or a more expensive motorboat to the west bank of the Nile to visit the ancient tombs.
Explore the east bank by horse-drawn carriage.
To travel in air-conditioned comfort, there are plenty of taxis throughout the city. The extra cost is worth it!
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