Touts and Temples: Luxor’s East Bank

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Luxor egypt east bank


Whenever I tell people I’ve traveled to Egypt, the most common response I get, after the whole “are you insane?!” part, is what did I think about it? Did I like it? I usually murmur yeah, uh-huh, sure, along with accompanied hand-shake motion in the air that in Spain means más o menos (more or less). What people don’t realize is that this is a pretty complicated question! I would describe my feelings about Egypt as a love-hate relationship. One minute you are feeling like you are on-top of the world, that all your travel dreams have come true, and the next you are wanting to catch the first gypsy cab to the closest airport and hop on the next flight back to civilization. Would I go back to Egypt? Maybe. I definitely want to go to the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea, you know, once the Bedouins stop kidnapping Americans. See what I mean? Love-hate.

After 3 full days in Cairo ( you can read about herehere and here), M and I were ready for a change of scenery and we hopped on an overnight train down to Luxor. If only it was that simple. Most people who go to Egypt nowadays, go on tours. I hate tours; I avoid them at all costs. But on this trip, sometimes I wish I had booked one. Just finding the station in Cairo and buying our train tickets were complicated. Imagine a giant, hot, dusty train station, filled to the brim with locals, all the signs are in Arabic. Our plan of attack was to stand still staring at the guidebook until someone took pity on us and came over to help. This only worked about 25% of the time. The rest of the time we just got hassled and proposed to, you know, like marriage proposals. When we showed up at night to catch our train, it was about 3 hours late. So we hung out on the train platform, chatting with locals about life in Egypt, soccer, and America. The usual.

luxor egypt east bank

If you go to Egypt, you MUST head down to Luxor. Normal people fly, but M and I were feeling adventurous and took the train. If you’re insane, you can take a local bus. Luxor (modern-day Thebes) is one of the most important places to check out the ancient Egyptian sights. Across the river is the West Bank, where the Valley of the Kings is located (cough, cough King Tut AND his actual mummy!!), along with tons of great burial sites and tombs to see. We spent most of our time over there, but make sure you save a day to vist Luxor itself.

If you are staying in Luxor, you should try to stay at the Nefertiti Hotel. Seriously, this place was off the hook! Super cheap and in an incredible location, they picked us up from the train station, and helped us every which way planning our trip, even treating us to rooftop hookahs and hibiscus tea whenever we wanted. This is exactly the kind of paradise you imagine staying in when traveling to “exotic” Egypt. We spent almost every evening watching the sun set over the Nile, Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings while drinking mint tea and eating baba ganoush, intermittently running to the bathroom to barf our brains out. Love-Hate, see what I mean?


View of the Nile and the West Bank from the roof of our hotel

Luxor egypt east bank

Drinking delicious, super strong Turkish coffee

Luxor egypt east bank

How much water we drank in 1 day!!! AKA Luxor is hot!

There are basically three things to see in Luxor: Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, and the Luxor museum. The Luxor Museum is much better than the Egyptian Museum, but with less mummies. And it is air-conditioned, a huge bonus. Karnak Temple is a few kilometers north of the city center. Do yourself a favor and take a carriage or taxi there. We walked there mid-day in about 110+degree weather being continuously pestered and hassled. It was brutal, and it made for short nerves. It was so hot once we got there, we pretty much spent our afternoon hopping from shadow to shadow, chugging liters of bottled water with ease and eating overpriced ice-cream. Karnak is famous for it’s giant temple entrance filled with rows of wide, hieroglyphic-covered pillars, and it is a must-see if you are ever in Egypt.

Luxor egypt east bank

Luxor egypt east bank

Luxor egypt east bank

Luxor egypt east bank

We made our way back downtown (via cab) to watch the sun set while exploring the Luxor temple. We actually got completely lost and couldn’t find the entrance to the giant temple, walking around the huge complex before finally giving in to one of the annoying horse-carriages (calèche) who followed and pestered us constantly (pretty much our entire time in Luxor). Read here the full details of my experience getting harassed in Egypt.

Eventually, I only agreed because I was so hot, sweaty, dirty, tired and downright angry at this point. “Why is it so hard to find the damn temple entrance? And I don’t want to ride in your damn carriage, leave me ALONE!” I felt bad because the driver was a 10 year old boy named Ali. I agreed to ride in the calèche if he let me drive it. Deal!! M was shaking her head the whole time, no, no, no. But seriously, how could I say no?

Luxor egypt east bank

So that is the story of how I got to drive a horse-drawn carriage in traffic (cars and donkeys) in downtown Luxor to arrive in style at Luxor Temple at sunset. An incidentally not the last time it happened in Luxor either. Sorry M! With the ancient pillars and statues of the Pharaohs all lit up with the dusky pink and gold sunset in the background, it made up for such a hot, tiring and uncomfortable day. Just ignore the touts, calèche drivers, and guards with big guns, and it’s fine. Love-hate.

Have you ever been to Luxor or Egypt? Do you have a love-hate relationship with any country or city you’ve traveled to?


Luxor egypt east bank

Luxor egypt east bank

Luxor egypt east bank

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14 Comments on “Touts and Temples: Luxor’s East Bank

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  1. Hi Liz,
    Loved your report, I am passionate about Luxor and I am currently working on a documentary to try to get the tourists back. Oh, and by the way, your caleche driver Ali is a very good friend of mine, I have known him for 4 years and he is one of the most honest drivers in the city.

      1. Hi Liz
        I have made my documentary and would love you to see it


        Best regards

  2. […] As soon as we left the crowds at the Valley of the Kings, we realized just how much more Egypt had to offer. The hieroglyphics and colors in the tombs in the Valley of the Queens are much brighter than any we had seen before, and the carvings on the walls of the other temples on the West Bank are much more detailed and much better preserved than those at Karnak and Luxor. […]

  3. Wow have a good trip! that sounds amazing! and in september will be great too, hopefully not dreadfully hot. I would spend more time in Luxor and Sharm than in cairo, cairo you only need 2 or 3 days, max, luxor has a lot to see on the west bank and the ancient sights around it, i would def recommend going off the track a bit and seeing the tombs of the nobles and workers and the valley of the queens, or maybe going to the valley of the kings two times, there is a lot to see. its easy to organize a driver for the day to take you around and its cheap too 🙂 ive heard you need to get special permits for sinai now as an american, i would go, they always hand the kidnapped people back over unharmed haha 😛

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