Here we are, back again after 2011 and a missed on-land tour in 2012. This time we are on a small private tour to Luxor, Valley of the Kings and Karnak with a few other stops along the way. Thankfully on this cruise there was no wondering whether or not we are stopping here. On the GWV in 2011 this anguish reached epic and irritating proportions. We think that the better mix of passenger nationalities on this cruise has a lot to do with this relaxed approach to life.
Safaga is the main port for exporting phosphates and import of wheat. There are also frequent ferries to move workers to/from Kuwait via Saudi Arabia. There clearly had been an influx earlier in the day, only a few stragglers left when we arrived. Safaga also has a considerable diving and health industry for tourists.
We bypassed all that and went on a 3.5 hour bus ride over some rough roads (major construction to widen the road) to Valley of the Kings. Along the way we passed through Qena. Unfortunately for us there are no cameras allowed at the tomb sites. Suffice to say that the 3 tombs we visited were stunning. The remaining details and colours were surprising as was the height and scope of some.
We travelled next through the Valley of the Queens and Valley of the Nobles to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Her son had destroyed and defaced much of the temple and its statues but enough remained to give a good indication of the scope of the temple. This area is still well known for its manufacture of alabaster objects.
On our way to Karnak we stopped at yet another temple before heading to a restaurant. The Crocodile Restaurant was nicknamed KFC (Kentucky Fried Crocodile) by our excellent guide Gouda. Interestingly (disappointed?) there was no crocodile on the menu, A short boat ride across the Nile (check that box now as well we arrived near the Temple of Luxor although at the time we did not realize it for some reason.
Karnak Temple is another massive restoration/reclamation project. It was found many years ago covered in sand. It covers a huge area. You can read about the temple online elsewhere. We were in awe of what remains and its condition. The work required to craft these structures is immense, even with today’s machinery and tools.
The topping on the cake was seeing Luxor Temple at night. While not as large as Karnak, it is truly impressive at night. This temple too was at one time submerged in sand, to the extent that a mosque was built on that sand. The entry door is now 8 or more feet above ground level, a bit like the snow doors in Northern Ontario.
We could see beginnings of gatherings starting to celebrate the revolution from 2 years ago. Given the news of the deaths in other cities we were reluctantly glad to be leaving Egypt when we did.
The tour was run by Ramses Tours. Gouda spoke excellent English. The bus was roomy and of course air conditioned. Overall and excellent experience and we highly recommend them for tours in Egypt. Next time we are in Safaga we might just pre-book the snorkelling tour….