Egypt travel diary/travelogue

Day 2 - Luxor, Karnak Temple

November 2009

Rams lining the entrance to Karnak Temple
Rams lining the entrance to Karnak Temple
Huge Lotus-adorned columns at Karnak
Huge Lotus-adorned columns at Karnak

We had an 8am start this morning - not ideal after the previous evening's bevvies but about the latest we're going to rise for a while yet! The first planned visit was to Karnak Temple just outside of Luxor which we travelled to by calesh, a horse-drawn carriage. Very leisurely but a bit smelly if you're sat up front right behind the horse's rear-end.

The temple is an amazing sight - it was where they filmed one of the most famous scenes from Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. Thankfully no-one pushed any large boulders off the top on to our group below. The heat was bearable but it was good to dip into the shade from time-to-time and our guide, Mohammed (Mohammed the Great, he told us, except from when he's at home when he's Mohammed the Suffering), knows all the shady places to hide. The obelisk is pretty stunning, both because of its size and also the fact that the granite it's made out of came from Aswan some 260km away. How they got it up here, let alone raised it, is a mystery to me. As for the finishing touches - the carvings and the polished finish - I can't even begin to imagine.

A ride in the country

In the afternoon we all opted for another ride in caleshes, this time towards the outskirts of Luxor to see how life is in the country. The town centre is not all that large and if I thought it looked basic in the centre, the countryside was something else. Everywhere were piles of bricks, unfinished buildings and signs of real poverty. The most surprising thing was the reaction of the locals, in particular the children who came running out of their houses to greet us. All of them shouted "Hello" to us and waved, often running up the road alongside the caleshes. After a while it got a bit tedious having to respond to them all but it seemed incredibly rude not to. John reckoned that they were on a State-organised scheme to welcome tourists. He might be right.

Later that afternoon we checked out the pool on the top of the hotel. It was alright, as pools go, but the view of the Theban hills over to the west made for a more stunning backdrop than you could expect from your local municipal pool. The water was - surprisingly - freezing so, after a token dip, I went back to the room for a nap. Another early start tomorrow, after all. I took the key and told Andy to knock and I'd let him in. When he got back to the room, he knocked for ages before eventually going to get someone from the hotel to let him in with a master key. While they struggled to get the master key to open the door, I finally came to and realised I'd power-slept through it all!

Two-headed king

In the evening we went to the King's Head for a meal. Andy went to go upstairs to find the bar that we had been in yesterday, except that this King's Head wasn't the King's Head we had been to last night and there wasn't an upstairs to speak of. So after the group meal, we went for a walk through Luxor to the other King's Head (the pub) where we met Hamdi again for a couple of beers. All in all, a pretty relaxing evening.