A quick walk from the train station to the ferry gave us the opportunity to refuse countless offers for hotels, taxis, ferries, and tour-guides, and eventually we made it across the river, and into a taxi. The driver then trotted out the old Egyptian chestnut that one or two more passengers are heading to a hotel right near ours and literally just a minute or two away. It never ceases to amaze me that despite the waiting and additional passengers the fare never goes down. Calling his bluff, I pulled out the timer on my phone and started it. “Two minutes” I told him, and then we were walking. The timer’s large font is great in these circumstances. Within 30 seconds, he relented, and then shockingly, pulled our luggage out of his car and it seemed we were out a taxi, and he was out a fare. In actuality, he was merely passing us off to a friend of his, who was willing to leave immediately, and that lucky driver was the man we eventually hired to drive us around Luxor.
|A much needed (and delicious) coffee break at the Beit Sabee.|
|Karnak's impossing entryway.|
Karnak is huge. Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, breaking ground in the Middle Kingdom (2055 BC) and building through the Ptolemaic times (30 BC). It is the largest ancient religious site in the world and the second most visited historical site in Egypt, after the Giza Pyramids (been there, done that). So when our driver suggested that we meet him in the parking lot in about an hour, I told him that we would take as long as we wanted, and that it would likely be two hours or more. And that he should be waiting for us when we were finished. Tickets in hand we began the now expected routine of dodging, ignoring, or expressing total indifference to the tens of “official” tour guides who could explain this “utterly incomprehensible” or “totally mysterious” or “multi-religious” ancient site to us for only $20 USD, $10 USD, or $5 USD depending on how far past them we made when they named their price. Going in solo turned out, as it almost always is for us, the right choice. Cruising around just the two of us let us take in Karnak in delightful silence, and at our own pace.
|Jesse and Ramses I.|
Here Jesse takes the stance of his wife, whose importance and role is signified by her
statue standing just slightly taller than Ramses's knee. Its good to be Pharaoh.
|This family asked Jesse to take a photo of them. And when she went to take the camera, |
they explained that what they actually wanted was her in the photo! This happened all the time in
Egypt (and India), but for some reason, they never asked me to join in the family fun!
|There are so many columns!|
|Just one corridor of the Great Hypostyle Hall.|
|Another corridor, showing just how big the columns are.|
|Column after column after column|
Later on in our exploration we were invited by two guards to slip behind the closed signs and check out some of the partially renovated ruins. We found some giant seated Ramses to take photos with, served as the top of some legs-only statues, and then were invited to climb some staircase where the guards took our hands, touched them to a scared place on the rocks (100% made-up), touched them to our foreheads, and then to our hearts, blessed us, and had us kiss (fun!). But this kind of fun could only be bought with some serious baksheesh. And because the first guard recruited a second guard to “help” with the rule-breaking we were on the hook for double baksheesh. I gave them what I considered a very generous tip for showing us these “special” areas, taking
|A fun, but pretty poorly framed, photo of us behind the "closed" sign.|
It seems the security guards are neither taught how to keep people out of the closed areas
nor how to take photos of the people they allow in with the "closed" monuments.
|Jesse filling in for the lost upper portion of a Ramses statue.|
Presumably it was carried off after a $2.50 tip to the man assigned to guard it.
|Us at the top of the special closed stairway. We were doubly uncertain about climbing up a roped off stairwell.|
These ruins are old, and certainly not 100% stable.
|"Special photo, special photo!" On the right side you can see the second guard assisting in the rule-breaking.|
|"Kiss, kiss, kiss!" they chanted. Jesse wasn't even wearing her wedding ring.|
It must have been so scandalous for the modest Egyptians!
And photograph it I did. Wandering throughout the temple we flitted between tens of large tour groups, listening to snippets of the canned tour guide speeches (“And this tying of the lotus and the papyrus plants represents the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt…”) Blah, blah, blah. We heard it so many times we understood it in French, German, and even Japanese, but it was still always funny to hear an Egyptian speaking in Japanese.
Still there were lots of cool statues whose photos needed taking. With and without us:
|At the smaller, but still cool, hypostle hall at Luxor Temple.|
We got yelled at during this photo because we were not allowed
to stand on that column without paying baksheesh.
|Nothing like a little matchy matchy with Ramses|
|A shot down the hypostle hall at sunset.|
|The begining of the row of sphinxes that suposedly ran the entire 3 km from Luxor Temple to Karnak.|
|Just another giant statue of Ramses|
We finished up the day with dinner at Hapi Hapu near the Madinaut Hapu. And while the meal was just OK (I got the tiniest chicken leg and thigh I had seen since the one-biter I got in Valparaiso), after our meal we had tea and chatted with the owner for about an hour.
There is no need to hire a car & driver to do the Luxor East bank. Karnak is only 3 KM from Luxor temple, and the parking lots of both sites are filled with taxis for the short one-off trips. If you are coming from the west bank Luxor Temple is literally right at the ferry, though you’ll have to walk around the site to get to the entrance.
Lunch at Sofra was really good. The juices were good as were the meatballs.
* Thanks Wikipedia.