Out of every country, national park, city, and state I’ve visited, the most awe-inspiring day of travel I’ve ever spent was the one we spent at Luxor, when our Egyptologist guide took us to the Valley of the Kings, followed by the Valley of the Queens.
Being smart people who learn from their experiences, Egyptians realized building giant pyramids in which pharaohs and their treasures were buried–even if the chambers are hidden within said pyramids–makes it fairly simple for potential grave robbers to find the treasures. So, after a while, they start burying their people in the side of the rocky, arid, and hot as Hell area later known as the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. Our guide scheduled our tours of each grave in a sort of crescendo order ending with his favorite, Seti I.
I’d thought going into a bunch of tombs would get dull after the first couple; I was wrong.
Each tomb was covered in unique carvings, like the temples we’d seen elsewhere had, but because they are underground, all the painted art on the walls and ceiling are preserved, too, so brilliant colors greeted us inside every corridor, hallway, and room.
Once we finished the Kings, we went to the Queens, and Nefertari’s (favorite wife to Ramses II) was my favorite tomb; it’s sometimes called the Sistine Chapel of Egypt. I told my bride I want to wallpaper our house to look like her tomb (or at least our bedroom).
Most of the tombs were empty of mummies or sarcophagi, but King Tut still lay in his, so no photos were allowed inside, and there were guards inside the room where his body was, but we still got to have the surreal experience of walking deep inside an Egyptian tomb and finding a body inside. Did you know King Tut is missing a toe? He is. Now you know.
Before we got to the valleys full of tombs, we traveled over 100 miles from Aswan to Luxor in a van, stopping at Kom Ombo temple (and the Crocodile Museum next to it), the Edfu Temple, and concluding with a sound and light show at Karnak Temple.
Karnak temple was amazing, which is probably why it was featured in “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
Hatshepsut’s Temple (the 2nd historically confirmed female pharaoh; she reigned 21 years) was also impressive:
We saw Luxor Temple, which is connected to Karnak by the Avenue of Sphinxes (1.5 miles long!). It’s like Electric Avenue, but the rock is literal.
At the end of our long days in Luxor, we relaxed at the Hilton Resort, where our youngest lived her best life by the pool, which was next to the Nile and had a waterfall plus a swim up bar.
At night, after the children were in bed, my bride and I went to the hotel bar to watch soccer, smoke cigars, and have cocktails served by a server who told his nickname is “Why Not?” because that’s how he responds any time he suggests another drink, and a patron questions such an suggestion. By the 3rd night there, he knew exactly what my tobacco and spirit preferences were.
Another of my favorite experiences in Luxor was having tea one afternoon at the Winter Palace, another hotel where Agatha Christie stayed to pen more of “Death on the Nile.” With our tray of treats and tea were some dates, so it reminded me of the “bad dates” scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which we reenacted for Instagram, to the great confusion or amusement of various hotel staff and guests who walked by.
After 2.5 days in Luxor, we flew back to Cairo for a final day of exploration before heading home.
Like I said in my introduction, I loved Luxor–especially the day we spent exploring the tombs, but what I wasn’t ready for was the locals inside many of them, who masquerade as guides or park rangers of sorts, but are really glorified beggars. Many of the tombs prohibit photography, so these guys would make a “shhh” motion with their hands, move a piece of scrap wood that I’m sure they’d placed to partially block off a section of the tomb, and motion for us to go inside and take pictures or even offer to take our phones to take pictures for us and of us. They’d point out unique carvings or paintings in each tomb, walk with us back toward the exit (where our Egyptologist guide stood waiting), and right before we’d get to the men at the entrance who’d taken our tickets to enter, ask for a tip. If I gave what was considered too little or had no local currency (because I almost never carry cash), they’d get agitated. This went on in pretty much every single tomb, all day, and it bugged me to no end. Our guide said to ignore them and they’d leave us alone, but they wouldn’t. So, if you ever go to the Valley of the Kings (and Queens) in Luxor, bring a bunch of small bills (or your resting “get away from me” face) and expect to be accosted. That said, the annoyance was worth it; I loved Luxor. I just needed more Egyptian pounds in small denominations.