A few months ago, a colleague gave us this great line – “If you don’t care, fly Egpytair.”
We were debating the best way to travel over our holiday break. We needed to fly from Accra to Cairo, Cairo Luxor, Aswan to Cairo, Cairo to Amman, Amman to Cairo, Cairo to Accra. And while we could bookend our trip with flights on Emirates, it would add considerable travel time and money. Egyptair was the airline with the most direct flights and at $1,000 a person, the best deal around.
It was easy to see where the airline had cut costs…the planes were old, really old. They only looked suitable for domestic flights, despite the fact that four of our flights were international. Instead of private screens, one dropped down from the ceiling every four rows. I’ve flown on dozens of airlines and this was the most inedible food I have encountered. And lastly, they closed the shades and turned off the lights, even on our day flights…I’m convinced they did this to get out of serving us. Not a single beverage cart came by during our required four hour “nap time.”
Oh, and they schedule their connecting flights too closely to allow them time to transfer checked baggage.
Which is how we found ourselves in Luxor, at midnight, wandering the airport with a man named Muhammad, trying to find our suitcase.
While in Luxor, we stayed at the Sofitel’s Pavillon Winter Luxor and Muhammad was the hotel’s driver. And I can honestly say that without him, I’m not sure we would have ever gotten our suitcase back, but that’s a story for later in this post. For now, it was after midnight, our checked bag hadn’t come in, and we were exhausted. It was time for some much needed sleep.
“Do you want me to drive slow or fast?” Muhammad asked. What he meant was: Do you want me to drive the speed limit or can I drive like I’m in the Fast & Furious franchise. All I’ll say is we got to our hotel quickly.
The next day we were up at 6:00am to meet Naama our guide with Emo Tours. As a certified Egyptologist, Naama studied archeology and tourism at university in Cairo.
We started at Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. Never meant to rule, she was named regent when her step-son inherited the throne at the age of two. Instead, she reined for 21-22 years, calling herself king and pharaoh – even going so far as to have herself depicted as a man in temples and art.
When her step-son, Thutmose III, finally came to power, he was so enraged that he spent most of his rule defacing her temples and statues. Desiring to do all he could to make sure no one in history remembered her, his actions have ensured that everyone knows who she was.
In fact, many modern scholars consider her one of the most successful pharaohs and Naama said that was because she was the only pharaoh of her dynasty (she began her rule in 1478 BC), who didn’t start any wars or military offences.
Despite the toppled statues and wall defacements, her temple is in much better shape than the one next door, which was brought down by an earthquake.
And historians and archaeologists have worked hard to piece together what was left behind:
Next we made our way around the corner and to the Valley of the Kings. This necropolis is home to 63 tombs that were built between 1539-1075 BC. Most famous is King Tutankhamun’s aka King Tut.
Photographs aren’t allowed inside unless you pay a special fee (costing more than the entry ticket!), so I declined and we explored sans lens. And if I’m being honest, the lack of camera wasn’t all that disappointing. Most of these tombs were found empty upon excavation and despite the surprisingly long tunnels, there’s not a lot to see. In fact, most of the artefacts that were found have been moved to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and other museums around the world.
Rameses IV’s tomb has the best coloring, ironic because it was one of the most used tombs…the Greeks turned it into a hotel for a while.
Merenptah died earlier than expected and only the first half of his tomb was completed. Pharaohs were to be embalmed and buried within 70 days, so it was never finished.
The diggers of Rameses III nearly dug into a previous tomb before needing to reroute. Diggers were blindfolded so they couldn’t return and loot the tombs, so no one ever knew exactly where the previous pharaohs had been buried.
For me, the valley itself was more impressive than what was waiting for us underground. I was more than ready to head to our final destination on the west bank: the Colossi of Memnon.
These statues were surprisingly large and came with a great story. The statues were found in pieces by a German group of archaeologists. They tried to reconstruct them, but did a pretty poor job with the one on the right and every morning, when the wind blew, it made a whistling sound. It reminded those who heard it of the legend of Agamemnon and thus the statues got their names.