Do you love ancient history? Ancient Egypt has more than its fair share of attractions for travellers who are keen to explore its mysteries. When in Egypt, wandering around a Luxor temple is definitely something to tick off your bucket list.
Mysteries of Karnak
Discovering ancient Egypt’s history while wandering past soaring columns and giant statues is awe-inspiring.
As I wander through the sprawling Luxor temple complex in Karnak, listening to the guide rattling off historic events, the names of Egyptian Pharaohs, kingdoms and dynasties are a tangle in my brain.
From the statues of the Pharaohs to an avenue of sphinxes, everything in Karnak is huge.
I’ve filled my notebook with squiggles that are almost as unreadable as the hieroglyphics etched on the soaring walls and pylons.
The ancient Egyptians were an amazing lot. It’s really amazing to hear about their incredible feats of engineering. And it’s even more surreal to be wandering through temples that the ancient Egyptians constructed over 4000 years ago.
Karnak temple is the most impressive Luxor temple for its structure and scale.
It was built by 30 pharaohs, from 1965BC and tool about 1500 years to complete.
The enormity of the Luxor temple structures and the beauty of the architecture makes me feel small and insignificant.
Sometimes, as I wander past mysterious-looking obelisks I feel like I’m in a science fiction movie and almost expect a god or a pharaoh or an SG1 team of time travellers to appear.
I can certainly see how these temples have inspired writers and movie makers.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the pharaohs were gods. According to my guide, they loved to eat lettuce and it was common for them to marry their sisters.
The most famous temple in Karnak is the Temple of Amun. This was where the ancient Egyptians believed God lived while on earth.
As a gaze at the soaring pillars of this Luxor temple, I decide the Egyptian gods must have been giants.
Two days of exploring Luxor’s temples, before a cruise, offers a sample of Egypt’s delights.
Next time, I’ll be sure to set aside a few more days to explore Luxor as there’s plenty to see.
Valley of the Kings
Across the Nile River on the West Bank, another of Luxor’s main attractions is the Valley of the Kings, which is where the Egyptian Pharaohs are buried.
The are is not at all picturesque. Actually, it looks much like a mining region.
The sun roasts the stark, treeless valley and my throat is dry. I join the queues of visitors lining up to to see the rock-cut tombs dug beneath the hills.
There are 63 royal tombs. The most famous is King Tutankhamen’s, which was discovered in 1922 and was the only tomb found with its treasures intact.
Historians always thought it was strange that King Tut’s tomb was much smaller than the other Pharaoh’s tombs.
Recently, archaeologists have discovered evidence of other chambers hidden within King Tut’s tomb. And there’s a belief that the remains of Nefertiti might be buried in one of them.
The tombs are cool and quiet but don’t bother about bringing your camera as photographic equipment (and your regular tour guide) aren’t allowed inside the tombs.
These tombs have an otherworldly atmosphere. There are etchings of serpents, demons and sacred texts from the Book of the Dead on the walls.
Actually, King Tutankhamen was only a minor king who died before he could amass a substantial fortune.
Yet his riches are a dazzling display of wealth. In the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo you’ll find gold, jewels and figurines. There are over 3500 treasures in the museum.
The rock paintings inside the burial chambers are exquisite. Some of these paintings are faded while others have retained their intense colours. These paintings are meant to scenes guiding the pharaohs through the afterlife.
Nefertiti wasn’t the only influential female in Egypt. Hatchepsut (1473 to 1458 BC) was a woman who declared herself pharaoh when she found herself in the position of becoming regent for her stepson Thutmose III.
Hatchepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and his first wife. She married her half brother Thutmose II, who was the son of her father’s second wife.
Actually, Hatchepsut was the only female pharaoh in ancient Egypt and many Egyptologists consider her to be one of the most successful pharaohs.
Hatchepsut ruled with an iron fist. She is portrayed in many drawings as a man with a beard.
I find this rather curious fact quite amusing when compared to the sight of a giggling group of Egyptian girls dressed in colourful headscarfs and long skirts at the Temple of Hatchepsut in Deir al-Bahri.
Cruising from Safaga
Luxor is 170km from the port of Safaga, where I board the MV Aegean Odyssey. Voyages to Antiquity is a one ship company that provides boutique cruises for travellers with enquiring minds.
In 2016, there are several cruises including itineraries around the Mediterranean and from Cape Town to Colombo, Cape Town to Singapore, Singapore to Delhi and Singapore to Amman.
There are no casinos or glitzy floor shows. The aim is for travellers to learn about art, history and culture of ancient civilisations.
My Deluxe Stateroom was spacious and had a sitting area, balcony and a large bathroom with a bathtub and shower.
It’s a mode of transport that is comfortable and relaxing. But the main focus is on the shore excursions, which last all day, and are included in the price of the cruise.
On board lectures are delivered by a team of highly qualified experts such as archaeologists, Egyptologists and professors from recognised universities around the world.
As we cruise away from Safaga and into the Red Sea, I sit in the outdoor Lido Bar sipping a gin and tonic, day-dreaming of pyramids, mummies and scarab beetles.
Christina Pfeiffer travelled as a guest of Cruise Traveller and Emirates Airline.
Emirates Airline operates services to Cairo and Athens. Business Class tickets include complimentary limousine airport transfers and access to Business Class lounges.
When to go
Avoid June to August when the weather can get uncomfortably hot.
Three more things to do in Egypt
● The pyramids and the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo.
● Sharm el-Sheikh for an excursion to St Katherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the 10 Commandments and confronted the burning bush.
● Cruising the Suez Canal, the man-made waterway that links the Red and Mediterranean seas.