The Nile River has been the center of Egyptian life since the early
days of civilization there. And, during a lot of that time, Luxor has
been an important spot along the Nile -- where temples were built and
royalty was buried.
Actually, the pharaohs and others were buried on the west bank of the Nile -- where, as a
tour guide pointed out, the sun sets. The living -- most of them, at
least -- are on the east bank, where the sun rises. That's still true
today. And that's where I'll start my photo tour around Luxor.
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Friends who spoke both Arabic and English helped me be sure that my train ticket would really get me to Luxor (actually, Aswan, on the way south, though I got off at Luxor) and back to Cairo. If you want the English translation and you don't have friends who can read Arabic, you could try one of the travel agents in Cairo who charge you several times as much as you'd pay at the train station :-(.
It's a cliché, for sure -- and obvious, too, in any city that's been there for millenia -- but you'll see both the old and the new side-by-side in Luxor. On the left below is a modern childrens' playground in front of some columns of the ancient Luxor Temple. The people in both photos below are wearing traditional Muslim dress, which you'll also see everywhere in Luxor. Several people I met -- including some Christians (who are a sizeable minority in Egypt) -- insisted that people of both faiths get along well in Egypt these days. The old and the new coexist in the same way:
Not all of the faithful are happy with this arrangement. The extremist bombing in Luxor, in 1997, destroyed Egypt's tourist industry. But it's come back since -- under the watchful eye of the police, who you see everywhere: at checkpoints, on the streets, and especially at tourist sites. There hasn't been an incident since. I felt welcomed and comfortable there -- although, if I'd told people I was an American, I probably would have faced a lot more questions and hostility. Several people told me, though, that it's not Americans themselves who are unpopular here: it's the current American president and his policies.
You can see evidence of the majority Muslim faith everywhere. From your hotel room you'll hear the five daily calls to prayer blast out from the local mosque's loudspeakers. The week I was there in early October, 2003, was the yearly visit of the Imam to the mosque. Thursday night was an all-night party, and Friday was a Carnaval-like procession through the winding streets: trucks loaded with people in costume (and without) -- and thousands more walking, waving strong sticks in the air in an ancient dance. The photo at left below shows one of those trucks, and the right-hand photo is of crowds watching from building balconies above.
The main mosque is just off the edge of this first picture below, which shows the famous Luxor Temple. There's a nightly sound-and-light show on monuments around Egypt -- and the moon had just risen over the temple entrance when I snapped this shot.
The second picture shows one of the horse-drawn carriages that are everywhere around Luxor -- for tourists to ride, that is. You do see plenty of people on horses and donkeys, though, along with the occasional camel. This carriage has stopped in front of one of the market stalls that line some of the main streets around the temple and mosque.
If you aren't into a carriage ride, how about a stroll along the Nile? Luxor's riverfront promenade runs for what must be a couple of kilometers, at least. The people at left below are enjoying the view, and the shot at the right below is of felucca boats on the river. In the background of both shots, you can see the river's west bank
North of the Luxor city center are the fabulous Temples of Karnak; there's one small view at left below. About 50 km farther north, outside the city of Qena, is the beautifully-preserved Dendara Temple. The photo at right below is of a dark passageway to the roof. I'd really recommend a side trip to Dendara (which, if your trip is like mine was, will be in a police-escorted convoy).
(These photographs are Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)