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Historic city: Once the ancient city of Thebes, Luxor is now a fully-fledged city in its own right. With the River Nile running right through its middle Luxor has become a key stopping point on Nile cruise holidays, and many of the famous old Egyptian structures are found on the east bank of the river. Indeed, Karnak (the location of the renowned Karnak Temple) used to be a separate town to the north-east but it is so popular with tourists on holidays to Luxor it has now become a part of the city itself. Karnak is often described as the world’s greatest open air museum, but the same description could easily be applied to the entire eastern side of Luxor. After all, where else in the world could you see colossal statues, huge monuments and temples all within walking distance? That’s not to say the west bank doesn’t have any attractions – the Valley of the Kings with its famous tomb of Tutankhamen is to the west of the Nile, as is the Valley of the Queens. All in all, you could spend endless days here on your own voyage of discovery.
Lively markets and shops: There are two major markets in Luxor, both with their own advantages and disadvantages. Firstly, there’s the old market near Luxor temple with wood and canvas stalls, and secondly you can visit the cooler, slightly calmer air-conditioned indoor market. Both of them seem to encourage bartering, so be sure to haggle to pick up some cheap souvenirs to bring back from holidays here!
Attractions in Luxor
Karnak: Understandably, there’s a rather long list of sites to see on holidays to Luxor, it’s what makes it such a popular destination for tourists, after all. But one area (a whole town in fact) which should definitely be on your agenda is Karnak. It contains a network of temples, chapels, statues and columns all within a comparatively small space. Currently, just the largest district, the precinct of Amun-Re, is open to view. But you’ll soon discover that the area is more than enough for a sightseeing tour. Expect to see rows of sphinxes, huge hieroglyph-covered columns, obelisks, temples and even a sacred lake!
Luxor Temple: The massive Luxor Temple dating back to 1400BC was created for a religious festival which celebrated fertility. The most interesting features here are the two colossal statues which guard the V-split entrance and the huge columns (covered in amazingly intricate Egyptian hieroglyphics) and statues found throughout the interior.
The Valley of Kings: This dense, dusky desert canyon incorporates the tombs and burial sites of over 500 years of the Egyptian dynasties. As such, the historical finds and artefacts discovered at the site have gone on to fill countless museums across the world, while the tombs that housed them still stand proudly here in Luxor. 63 tombs have been uncovered here, each with decorative walls, mummies and untold treasures offered to support each member of the royal families in the afterlife. The area has a rightly-deserved reputation as being one of the best historical sites in the whole world, but it gained even more prominence after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. Reports of a curse on the explorers of this particular tomb (labelled, rather plainly KV62 in the Valley of Kings burial list) only served to heighten the intrigue in the area. Essential viewing on holidays to Luxor, it’s quite fascinating to see the level of architecture and artistry at work in these structures, some of which are over 3,000 years old.
The Valley of the Queens: Close to the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens contains several tombs which are in excellent condition, and display a high degree of sophistication in their construction. Queen Nefertari’s tomb (or QV66 as labelled in the burial list) is perhaps the most elaborate, considering it’s decorated from floor to ceiling in colourful, intricate paintings.
Activities in Luxor
Luxor Museum: This small, but perfectly-formed, museum houses some of the artefacts uncovered in excavations in Luxor. You’ll see the busts of huge statues, wall fragments with coloured hieroglyphics, sphinxes, and even mummies of the pharaohs Ahmose I and Ramesses I. Whilst Luxor Museum may not boast the size and stature of some of the exhibits in Cairo’s Museum of Antiquities, Luxor’s version has been created with the day-trip tourist in mind. It’s the perfect place to get a snap shot of Egyptian history on your holidays without being swamped with a deluge of information.
Mummification Museum: This fascinating museum was opened in 1997 and houses a wide range of mummies in clean, modern exhibition halls. The ancient Egyptians believed that bodies needed to be preserved so they could be transported to the afterlife. As a result, they developed an elaborate process of preserving humans and animals using a combination of extracting organs, alcohol and tightly wrapped fabric. The museum not only displays lots of different mummies, but also the tools used in the process, as well as amulets and stone tombs.
Restaurants in Luxor
Jewel of the Nile: A very pleasantly presented restaurant in Luxor. Luckily, with the great exchange rates and lower cost of living, your money will go far for food on Luxor holidays, and Jewel of the Nile is no different. Expect delicious dishes such as tagine, fried aubergine, fresh hummus and flat breads. There are lots of local delicacies on offer, but the chef isn’t averse to offering hearty British meals like roast with all the trimmings either!
A Taste of India: One of the best Indian restaurants in Luxor, you’ll be impressed with the variety of dishes on offer here, and you’ll be even more impressed with the low prices on offer! Look out for the flavoursome Tarka Dahl and the spicy onion bhajis.
Salahadeen: This traditional Egyptian restaurant is in grand surroundings with ornately carved wooden furniture and bronze ornaments. And the food is just as luxurious, offering lavish meals of tapas-style dishes to give you a taste of lots of different flavours. Try the chilli and cucumber dip, or the spicy tagine served in clay pots, or rich tomato sauce with white beans. All in all, there are over 20 dishes over the 3-course meal offered here. Sittings are timed but that doesn’t detract from the fact this restaurant is very special treat on holidays to Luxor.
Nightlife in Luxor
Light and Sound show in Karnak Temple: Ok, so this isn’t a bar or nightclub, but we thought we’d still list it as it’s a great way to pass an evening during holidays to Luxor. This spectacular show is truly the best way to appreciate the beauty of Karnak. You can sit in a comfy seating area and listen to narration by Antony Hopkins documenting the history of the site. Dazzlingly coloured lights and images are then projected to bring the whole area to life!
Kings Head Bar: This British-style pub deserves a special mention as it’s one of the only places in Luxor where you can enjoy alcoholic drinks. Egypt is a Muslim country so it’s forbidden for the locals to purchase or sell alcohol, which as a result, means you won’t find many bars in Luxor. Lucky for this place then, as it also has a pool table and home comfort pub food, making it the ideal place to unwind on holidays in Luxor.
Shopping in Luxor
Bustling markets: There are two lively markets in Luxor selling all sorts of bric-a-brac, unique souvenirs and quality products. The offerings in Egypt usually consist of oil-based perfumes, papyrus (thin, crispy parchment paper) and glistening jewellery. In any case, you are actively encouraged to barter no matter where you go! For an authentic experience of old (which almost brings to mind how the European explorers must have felt) head for the El Souk. This huge outdoor market is made up of canvas and wooden stalls, but it’s actually surprisingly clean. But if the going gets a little too hot and hectic for you there, you can always head to the air-conditioned hall which connects between two major streets in the centre of Luxor. The stalls offer largely the same items (and similar haggling) but the environment’s a little cooler.