Our Egyptian tour is nearing its end, but not before we enjoyed two days in Luxor, known as Thebes by the Ancient Greeks and Waset by the Ancient Egyptians. It’s now a lively resort and tourist town on the banks of the Nile. It is also home to the massive and imposing temple at Karnak and the equally imposing Luxor temple, each connected by the avenue of the sphinxes. Across the river on the Nile’s West Bank is the Valley of the Kings, home to the burial chambers of the Pharaohs dating back as far as ~1,500 .BC. It was all head-spinning, to say the least. It’s a lot, so stay with me.

Statue of Ramses II at Luxor Temple. Yep, this is the same pharaoh who built the temples at Abu Simbel.

Our first stop was at the gargantuan Temple of Karnak outside the city of Luxor. Massive columns and statues are the highlight of this sprawling temple to the Egyptian’s principal god, Amun-Re. It was built over the course of 1,200 years by successive kings and queens who added their own attributes. Portions of the bright paint that originally adorned the structure are still visible. According to our guide, 30% of the world’s ancient monuments are located in the Luxor region.

Karnak. The crowds were large at this site.
A small section of the Avenue of the Sphinxes, which stretches for 1.7 miles and connects Karnak Temple with Luxor Temple.

After Karnak we checked into our hotel, the Winter Palace, which dates to 1886. It was from the steps of this hotel that the British archeologist Howard Carter announced the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. It’s another stately hotel that is beautifully landscaped and sits along the Nile. We didn’t have one of the best rooms in the place, but it’s still one of those grand old hotels we can say we stayed at.

Later that day we visited the Luxor Temple, arriving at sunset. It’s a popular time, but it was magical to see it in twilight. This temple was largely built by Amenhotep III and Ramses II. Ramses was the great builder of ancient Egypt. He reigned for 66 years and died at 91, an unusually long lifespan for that era. He spent much of that time building massive monuments to himself and for the glory of Amun. Other pharaohs left their mark on Luxor over successive generations, including King Tut, who wasn’t known to have accomplished much during his short reign.

The next day we took a motor launch across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings, the sprawling necropolis where the pharaohs were buried in rock-cut tombs over a roughly 500-year period from the 16th to the 11th centuries BC. As of this writing 64 tombs and chambers have been discovered. A basic entry ticket allows you to get into up to three of them. However, the best preserved tomb, where the remains of Ramses V and VI were originally interred, requires an extra ticket, as does visiting the small burial chamber of Tutankhamen. The chamber of the Ramses is very impressive and worth visiting, while Tut you have to do simply because of his modern fame.

Note that all of the burial chambers save for Tut’s were stripped clean by ancient grave robbers of the treasures meant to accompany the pharaohs to the afterlife. Many of their mummies were also moved in antiquity by priests of the era to protect them. Those that survived can now be viewed in the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo. (We were able to see them upon our return to the city.) Only Tut’s is still in his burial chamber for reasons that are unclear.

Pat and I posing in Tutankhamen’s tomb.

There really isn’t much else to see in Tut’s tomb except for some of the wall paintings where his sarcophagus and treasures were found by Carter. Photography of his mummy isn’t allowed, though as can be seen below, that is easily circumvented for the cost of a dollar; for that gratuity the supposed guard happily snaps away using your phone. It’s obviously a good side hustle for the guy.

Say hello to King Tutankhamen.

Finally, there was still one more monument to see, the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Egypt’s greatest female monarch. She ruled for 20 years in the 15th Century BC and built the temple seen below.

Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple.

She’s depicted in statues at the top of the temple as a typical pharaoh, with the long false beard they are normally shown with, but the face displays feminine features. And to think we saw all of this in two days. More time could be devoted to all of it if you could spare it.

Queen Hatshepsut as a pharaoh.

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