World’s Finest Open Air Museum
Luxor, once an Ancient Egyptian capital, is known today as the world’s “greatest open-air museum.” From the tomb of Tutankhamen in the valley of the kings, and the magnificent sunset views at the majestic temple complexes of Karnak and Luxor to the exciting and fun Nile cruises, Luxor is the perfect choice for culture vultures, Once known as Thebes, Luxor’s importance in ancient Egyptian history cannot be denied. It was the religious capital for almost all of the Pharaonic period which is why the town is dominated by the two temples.
Most people know that Luxor was once Thebes, but “Thebes” was not what the ancient Egyptians called it. Ancient texts show that it was called t-apt, which means “the shrine”, with the ancient Greeks calling it tea pie. The Arabs had problems with pronunciation and so it became Thebes to them. The name vanished then as the area submitted to the desert and then by the 10th century Arab travellers thought the ruins were of grand buildings so started to call it Al-Oksour, or “site of the palaces” which slowly became Luxor.
Nowadays it has been elevated to the status of Governorate, though it is still classified as being in the province of Qena. It has a population of round about 230,000, most of who are employed in tourism somehow, though there are many who are employed in agriculture and commerce. It is one of the most popular destinations in Egypt, being one of those places that you must see. Because of this almost every tourist company has an office somewhere in the town.
It has been estimated that Luxor contains about a third of the most valuable monuments and antiquities in the whole world, which makes it one of this planet’s most important tourism sites. Monuments such as The Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Deir El-Bahri (the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut), the workers village at Deir El-Medina, the list goes on and on and on. Though most visitors will stay for just a few days, it would take a substantial amount of time to visit everything in this amazing town Luxor is divided by the Nile into two areas commonly called the East Bank and West Bank which were considered in Ancient Egyptian times as symbolizing respectively Life and Death.
While the East Bank has grown to become a modern city, it has retained its lush green setting, its traditional bazaar and stunning view of the Nile. The East Bank boasts some of Egypt’s most refined hotels, home to amazing Spa’s and a golf course. The West Bank is known for its necropolis and mortuary temples: the valley of the king, the valley of the queens, the Workers Village, and the Temple of Medinet Habu are the highlights of Luxor’s West Bank. In Ancient Egyptian mythology the setting sun to the west symbolised the journey to the afterlife, so it was fitting symbolism to bury the dead west of the Nile.
While in Luxor, you can opt for a simple accommodation at one of the simple hotel of the West Bank, where archaeologists used to stay when on excavations missions, or you can take it to the other extreme by staying at one of the town’s luxurious establishments, such as the El-Moudira Hotel on the West Bank or the history-filled Old Winter Palace on the East Bank.
Sun and warmth all year round characterizes Luxor’s climate, the sun shines for 11 hours during summer and 8 during winter. Winter temperature averages around 26°C, in summer temperature reaches 39°C.
Luxor is situated 670Km (416 miles) to the south of Cairo, 220Km (137 miles) to the north of Aswan, and 280Km (174 miles) to the west of Hurghada. It is the second most popular place to visit in Egypt, behind Cairo, and is accessible in a number of ways:
Luxor International Airport is located 6Km (4 miles) east of the city and can be reached from most countries around the world, though it is most popular for charter flights. From here you can also fly to most of the main cities and towns in Egypt, as well as arriving from them. EgyptAir runs daily flights from Cairo to Luxor, as well as Luxor to Cairo, which take, on average, about 50 minutes.
Luxor is situated on the main Cairo to Aswan railway line and has a modern station in El-Mahata Square. Services to both Cairo and Aswan are very frequent, though restriction on tourists are in place right now which allows them to only use the sleeper service, or the trains either side of them.
Though Luxor is connected by road to Cairo and has a good bus connection with the capital, tourists are asked not to attempt to use this mode of transport for this journey and are therefore left with only rail or flight as an alternative. The road to Aswan can be used though as it gives the opportunity to visit sites such as Edfu and Kom Ombo. Hurghada is reachable by a 3.5 hour bus journey, opening up the Red Sea for those who wish a change. Please note: if you do intend to use this mode of transport you are best booking your seats at least 24 hours in advance to ensure you get the seats you want.
Nowadays you can only go to Aswan by cruise boat, though some operators do offer the opportunity of a one day sail to see Dendera. The River Nile has not been used for cruises between Cairo and Luxor since the late 1990’s.
What you should see in & around Luxor?
Deir El-Medina (the workers village)
Medinet Habu (the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III)
The Colossi of Memnon
The Luxor Museum
The Mortuary Temple of Seti I
The Mummification Museum
The Open Air Museum in the Temple of Karnak
The Ramesseum (the Mortuary Temple of Ramses II)
The Temple of Hatshepsut
The Temple of Horus at Edfu
The Temple of Karnak
The Temple of Khnum at Esna
The Temple of Luxor
The Temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo
The Tombs of the Nobles
The Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Queens