We left our beloved hotel at 4 a.m. and those lovely people made us incredible breakfast boxes to bring with us to Cairo Airport, fine on the way in, not on the way out for a domestic flight. Thankfully we showed up early and had Mohammad to push us through the crowd like we were luggage on a cart. We were corralled into a small holding room before we could board the flight and there we met the four people we would constantly run into for the next few days: Donald and Esperanza and Paul and Joe. They were all very nice people but the exact type of American tourist you imagine, Donald in particular – sandals, shorts (it’s winter) and a sun hat, missing only the fanny pack.
The flight was less than an hour and we landed in Luxor no problem. It was warm and sunny and we felt proud of our cruise ship because our new friends weren’t on it and we also were not waiting in the line for Viking Tours. I swear every old British person or American BBC enthusiast was waiting with a red Viking folder, led by a fat man with a full white mustache and topped with a matching bowtie and suspenders set. Fascinating.
We were ferried into a car where we met Mohammad, a different one, who would be our guide. We would not go to the boat first, despite our desire for a quick nap. Instead we continued straight to Karnak Temple. Karnak was an incredible ancient maze of still colored columns -hundreds of them – carved and climbing to the sky. And that was just one part, one temple to be exact. Karnak is actually multiple temples all built nearly on top of each other. Ramses II, the ostentatious one, was most prevalent as shown by the many statues of him. Hatshepsut also had a temple there, complete with obelisks and sphinxes with her likeness on them. Her stepson/son in law/nephew hated her because he felt Hatshepsut stole the throne from him, so while he destroyed a lot of her images and her name all over Egypt, he could not destroy the monuments built for the gods. Instead he built over them to cover them. The joke is on him because it actually kept them in a better state!
Karnak was indeed the Great Pyramid of temples, but where the pyramid is virtually empty, Karnak is a wealth of distractions and we wanted to see everything. Mohammad showed us around and we marveled like children at everything – still painted tombs, deep temple rooms, giant statues, column after column. I was fascinated by the coloring. This place is outside, not a tomb, and yet the years and weather couldn’t fully erase the deep blues, greens, yellows and black that decorated the columns. My sister and I ran among the columns in our “free time” to explore.
Next we went to the Temple of Luxor, built by Ramses II and once connected to his temple at Karnak by a walkway lined with hundreds of sphinx statues. Ramses had more statues at Luxor Temple, and much larger. Other kings were present at the temple as Imhotep (#) first built there. There were paintings, carvings and statues of the other pharaohs who had made a religious stand there and even a statue of a young King Tut and his wife looking very sweet and innocent.
Luxor Temple was impacted by other religions too. There was an Islamic mosque built near the front hundreds of years ago and an inner area was converted to a Christian church. The Christians slathered the Egyptian carvings with some sort of fresco. Now you can see the Last Supper painted right on top of Egyptian gods and hieroglyphics. Alexander was also present here. When he came to Egypt he realized the need to take on the old religion to work with the people and thus built a temple here as any other pharaoh would. His was a small box room inside another pharaoh’s sanctuary. We walked about outside to see the “outdoor museum,” mostly rocks and fragments found but unable to be put in their proper places.
Slogging and dragging our feet by this point, we were rewarded with our boat. We climbed over a gang plank then through one boat, then another and into the third – the Star Goddess, our boat. We scarfed down lunch in the dining room and crawled into our cozy cabin beds to sleep for two hours before the evening’s entertainment and dinner. There was a belly dancer first, somewhat outdated but passionate despite her age. But the Whirling Dervish that followed her was incredible. He spun in a brightly colored costume around and around and around. Then his dress went up or down, then off, then completely covered him so he looked like a spun top. He spun around the room, on one leg, blindfolded, with a weird basket on his head. It was mesmerizing.
Dinner was a full, four-course meal but we were too tired to really eat much. We popped up onto the deck roof for a cocktail and long enough to realize the guests on the boat were boring and kept to themselves. No one spoke to each other, and it wasn’t because we couldn’t understand each other, though there were many Europeans. I was excited to get underway, but we had one more day in Luxor before that, really only a few hours. We would have to get up at 5:30 in order to see about six tombs and Hatshepsut’s temple before the boat cast off at 12:30 that afternoon.