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explore Luxor, Egypt

Explore Luxor, Egypt

The name of “Luxor” means “Palaces” and it is the premier travel destination in Upper (southern) Egypt and the Nile Valley. The dynastic and religious capital of Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Egypt, Luxor has much for travellers to enjoy: vast temples, ancient royal tombs, spectacular desert and river scenery and a bustling modern life.

Explore Luxor which although is a relatively small town by Egyptian population standards, Luxor is quite extensive and is best divided up into 2 ‘districts’ or areas that group the main attractions on their respective sides of the river Nile:

  • East Bank the town, the Luxor Temple, the Temple of Karnak, The Museum, trains, hotels, restaurants
  • West Bank the location of the major ruins including Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and other important sites; the Western Valley ruins, and a few hotels.

The old capital of Egypt, Thebes, was on the West bank of the Nile. That is where most of the ruins and tombs are.

The modern city of Luxor is on the East bank. That area has the train and bus stations, most of the hotels and restaurants, some museums, tourist shops and so on.

Luxor has a hot-desert climate. The city is one of the driest, sunniest and hottest (during summertime) cities in the world. Rainfall doesn’t occur every year, about 1mm on average. Luxor features cool winters with mild days, but cold nights.

Luxor International Airport is a destination for flights on several European and Middle Eastern routes, as well as the main southern hub for domestic flights within Egypt.

Calèches, or horse-drawn carriages, are common on the east bank and are a delightful way to see the city, especially at night-time. Prices vary according to bargaining skill. You’ll need to haggle / walk away to get these prices.

It is also possible to travel around the tourist district on foot during the cooler parts of the day, provided you have a good sense of direction. To avoid unwanted attention you will need to constantly repeat the words “No Hassle”, or “Laa Shukran”, which means No Thank You in Arabic. Also, be prepared to yell out for the Tourist Police if you have any concerns for your safety. There are usually always some policemen nearby since they may be also wearing civilian clothes.

What to see. Best top attractions in Luxor, Egypt

  • Deir el-Bahari, West Bank, Luxor. The various Luxor district article pages contain detailed information and suggestions for things to see. Definite highlights, not-to-be-missed.
  • Valley of the Kings. Note that with this ticket, you will get to choose 3 tombs to visit of usually about 8 open in Valley of the Kings. Extra entry is required for Tutankhamen and Seti I. If you take pictures inside without a camera ticket (which is basically the cost of another entry), guards may ask to see the photos on your camera. You will have to pay a bribe if they catch you.
  • Temple of Karnak. Karnak is further out of the city centre and is specifically well known for its forest of columns. It is a fun temple to take your time searching for colors that have lasted for thousands of years.
  • Temple of Luxor. Note that the Temple of Luxor downtown is open after sunset. It’s a cool place to see a temple as the light changes.
  • The Tombs of the Nobles. Note you can buy 3 tickets for the tombs, each ticket allows you entry into 2-3 tombs each.
  • Tombs 96 (Sennofer – beautiful with many paintings) and 100 (Rekhmire – very large, also many paintings) which are the most interesting
  • Tombs 55 (Ramose – large but empty), 56 (Userhet – agricultural scenes and many of Osiris) and 57 (Khaemhet – a few statues inside)
  • Tombs 52 (smaller but includes explanations), 69 (Meena – many cool paintings), 41 (newly found just a few years ago)
  • The Ramesseum Temple
  • Colossi of Memnon
  • Deir el Medina or the Valley of the Artisans. Extremely underrated and hardly visited is Deir el Medina where the paintings are so well preserved and gorgeous. Very easy to get to as you will likely pass it while visiting other sites. Ticket allows entry into 3 stunning tombs.
  • The original house of Howard Carter is a small museum now in the area. There is a mock tomb of Tutankhamen and how they originally found it but it is mostly a chamber filled with the story of the discovery.

You should 

  • Walk from the Valley of the Queens across the desert and over the cliffs to the Valley of the Kings
  • Hire a bike and ride around Ancient Thebes – takes you less than 15 minutes to get there.
  • A local felucca ride just before sunset. Take a felucca cruise on the Nile for a 2 day trip to Aswan.
  • Hire a donkey, horse, or camel to ride around Luxor’s West Bank. Go to Pharaoh’s Stables, just a short walk from the ferry terminal. They will take you to places where the big coaches can’t go, so you can enjoy the real Egypt, with its friendly people and relaxed lifestyle. Every day is different when you see the West Bank by horse or donkey, and the guides will look after you all the way. They have horses for beginners to experienced riders. The Sunset ride and Nile ride is a must do.
  • Go for a swim in a hotel’s pool after a dusty day of tombs and temples:

There are at least two different markets in Luxor. One is located in an air-conditioned hall, with shops located on either side of the hall. This market hall connects two major streets.

The older market takes up several streets near the Luxor temple. It is a joy to walk through, as it is mostly pedestrian and is a welcome respite from the horse and carriages on the main streets. This market really feels like an old souk and the visitor is taken back in time. It is covered with a wooden trellis, shading people from the sun. Many of the shops offer the same items, so the wise buyer shops around and looks for the best price. One can often bargain better after going to several stores.

Once you find a merchant you like, sit down, have some tea, and begin the game of bargaining. It can feel like you are becoming a part of the family. Buying something as simple as a cotton galabeya can take hours, as you try on almost every single galabeya in the store, and then move on to items that they think you may want for the rest of your family.

Buying anything may be very frustrating due to constant bargaining if you are not used to it.

The main Souk in Luxor lies on the Abd-El-Hameed Taha and consists of the section for tourists, and the section for locals. The touting in the main Souq’s tourist section is so bad that it is an absolute nightmare walking through it. Any desire you had to buy anything will quickly disappear as dozens of men try every possible catch they have on you. These include: “You look lucky,” “you look Egyptian,” “come see my shop, no hassle,” and guessing your nationality. But if you continue straight forward (north of Mostafa Kamel), passing by the garden, you will come to the real Souq, where the locals go shopping – and suddenly the atmosphere changes completely. While the local section is less clean, it is much busier and much more hassle-free, so you get to choose for yourself the merchants and wares to investigate.

Luxor is a vegetarian’s paradise with lots of fresh seasonal vegetables such as tomato and cucumber.

A meal often begins with pita-bread and mezze such as baba ganoush or taboulé.

Your main course may include meat or poultry, or regional dishes such as pigeon or rabbit.  As with any heavily tourist area in Egypt, it’s never hard to find reasonably well-executed Western food.

Dairy products, such as yoghurt or gibna bayda cheese (think feta but much creamier), might accompany your main meal.

Finally, many fine vegetarian desserts are available, though some might seem overly sweet to western tastes.

While the evening meal is often filling, you may find this doesn’t meet the energy requirements of a busy tourist. Be sure to eat a hearty breakfast, drink lots of water, and snack frequently during the day.

On the road nearby television street and the train station are lots of fruit vendors – be sure to pick up some fruit that is delicious and cheap. These guys make an honest living with their shop and will not try to scam you. You will find the non-tourist part of Luxor to be very friendly and inviting, indicative of true Egyptian culture.

To buy local Egyptian beer and wine there are a handful of shops near the train station on Ramsees Street – they are easy to find as they have shelves full of wine and beer behind the counter. Prices are before haggling.

Luxor is known as the hassle capital of Egypt. For those not on fully organized tours, touts can make sightseeing very frustrating. However within temples, one must contend with the government tour guides who are legitimate government workers who aggressively “guide you” and then demand a tip. It may be worthwhile to give a small tip upfront then ask to “self-tour”.

Prostitution and drug use are not taken lightly by government authorities.

Visit Dendera. Luxor is a good base to this site of a fantastically well-preserved Ptolemaic temple of Hathor. A number of hotels organize such day-trips – you don’t need to be staying with them to use these services.

For those with more time on their hands you can add a visit to the Temple of Seti I at Abydos, featuring some of the best relief work in Egypt. This is a lengthy road trip from Luxor, but can be combined with a day trip to Dendera.

The city is also a good staging post for onward travel through Upper Egypt and on to Aswan and Abu Simbel.

Official tourism websites of Luxor

For more information please visit the official government website: 

Watch a video about Luxor

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