Sorry for the late posting, but the "free internet" advertised at my hostels is usually EXTREMELY SLOW so I haven't been able to blog as much as I had expected... but fear not you will get sick of me soon as I have alot to post!
Where did I leave off??? Yes - Luxor! I had last posted about my exhausting trip to Luxor, which by the way was just in the nick of times, because apparently now alot of the trains are not running and due to the curfew there is just per day for foreigners.
Luxor - part of what is considered Upper Egypt (but geographically southern on the map) and part of the green and lucious Nile Valley. By train it was approximately a 10 hour tirp so if that gives you an idea of how south we went. Luxor is actualy built on the 4000 ancient city of Thebes and won the antiquity jackpot when it inherited the relics and of history's most prosperous and powerful empires.
The Nile divides Luxor into two parts; the East bank where most of the city buildings, shops and hotels are, and the West bank which represents a quieter and more rural lifestyle. The East bank is also where most of the ruins are, and one can easily cross from one side to the other with a small ferry for just 1 Egyptian pound.
The night I arrived in Luxor, for convenience sake, I ended up booking a tour through my hotel for the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Tmeple of Hatshesput and Colossi of Memnon. This can easily take up most of your day, and since the heat can be wretched in the desert, its best to start off early at around 8am.
It was an amazing tour, with a great mix of people and again I was the token Yank. We were limited to ony 3 tombs but somehow got away with four. The most incredible was probably that of Ramses II. Again, as in the Museum in Cairo, I was stunned at how nothing was protected and you could touch everything! The hieroglyphics and use of color was phenomenal, and in interesting tidbit of info-- the color back then was derived from ounding certain stones and extracting the dust, then using say the yolk of an egg to help mix it together and give it the right consistency, then sealed with Cobra venom! That's why so many of the excavation workers who intially opened the tombs when first discovered all died of the same cause - Cobra venom poisining! King Tut's tomb was open but an extra 100 LE and since everything was on display at the Museum in Cairo, we all saw no need to spend the extra money.
Next we ventured to the Temple of Hatshesput (hot shit soup) who incidently, was the first AND ONLY female ruler of Egypt. The temple rises of the desert with three phenomenal terraces built against the mountains as a Temple to worship her other father "Amun Ra". She was eventually tgaken down by her nephew who sought power and she was exiled where she eventually died of natural causes, as ocnfirmed when her mummy remains were examined with DNA testing.
Next we went to Valley of the Queens, which would have been worth it if the tomb of Nefrertari was open, but alas it was still closed for renovations. Unfortuantely these tobms paled in comparison to the Valley of the Queens. By this time, the sun was at its peak and it was blazing hot in the desert, so we made this trip and the next to the Colossi very short ones.
The Colossi of Memnon is actually just off the main road back to the center of the East Bank. These twin statues at 18 meters high are all that remains of the Templ built by Amenhotep III. The Greeks believed that they were the statues of Memnon who was slain by Achilles in the Trojan War.
This last site ended our trip and we were back at our hotels by 2pm. I ended up grabbing a bite and had some of the best babaganoush(sp?) I have ever had...
I then headed out around 4ish to the Cornichse where all the Felluca captains are, and found someone for the right price to take me down the Nile to Banana Island, its not realy an island but rather a banana plantion, but still its a nice two hour trip there and back, and when the sun sets along the West Bank, its just too beautiful for words. That was definately the best part of my trip, extremely peaceful and serene.
The night was an early one for me as I was exhausted and had a 4:00am wake up in order to take my sunrise balloon trip the next morning.