| Several tour operators
offer Nile cruises, usually between Luxor
and Aswan, and generally lasting around 5 days.
It is also possible to get a cruise to Minia, a
charming town with Greek, Roman and Pharaonic ruins, including the
Beni Hassan archaeological area, and/or through to Cairo.
Felucca trips offer the same route with more basic
Once the ancient city of Thebes and powerhouse of upper Egypt, Luxor
has grown into a big town, awash with hotels, restaurants and souvenir
shops, with most of its economy coming from tourism and visitors.
A highlight is the Karnak Temple, covering an immense
one hundred acres (40.5 hectares). Of the 3 temple enclosures, the
grandest is the Precinct of Amun, the main place
of worship. The Great Hypostyle Hall is 6,000 square
metres (64,584 square feet) and filled with vast stone pillars.
The entire site has colossal statues, reliefs, obelisks and halls
and, the Avenue of the Sphinxes. There are son
et lumière shows every night.
Along the riverbank, Luxor Temple is guarded by
a massive statue of Ramses II, and although a fraction of the area
of Karnak, it also contains countless columns,
statues and sphinxes. A pleasant walk north along the corniche brings
you to the Luxor Museum where a small, fascinating
collection of relics from the Theban Temples and
Necropolis can be visited. The recently opened
Mummification Museum has exhibits of human, bird
and reptile mummies, as well as good explanations of how they are
On the West Bank of the Nile is the huge Theban Necropolis,
containing some of the world’s finest tombs including:
• The Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Queens
of the Nobles
• The Tomb of Tutankhamun
• Ramses II
• The Tomb
of Nefertari, reputed to be the country’s finest,
which is newly restored and allows only 150 visitors a day for ten
Close by is Deir el-Bahri (Northern Monastery),
a picturesque temple set amidst the amphitheatre of the Theban Hills.
Along the Nile, felucca owners tout for custom, and it is possible
to hire one for a brief sunset cruise to Banana Island,
or even to organise a trip upriver to Aswan. Hot-air balloon trips
are now also available, offering the best views of Luxor.
Around Luxor Temple, shopping is dominated by tourist
bazaars with enthusiastic salesmen. The more traditional souk, with
household goods, spices and clothes, is at Sharia el-Birka.
Cafes and stalls sell hot food, and there are rooftop terraces overlooking
the river. A livestock market is held on Tuesday morning at El-Hebel,
a village 4km (2.4 miles) from Luxor.
A beautiful winter resort, relaxing Aswan is the southernmost city
in the country and the gateway to Africa, steeped in Nubian culture.
Although the sights are not amongst the country’s finest,
the town’s riverside location is picturesque and peaceful.
It has a busy tourism scene although it is less aggressive than
The corniche offers attractive riverside walks, and a stop-off for
cruise ships. In the evenings, floating restaurants present a lively
gathering place, and the world-famous folkloric
dance troupe performs each night during winter months at the Cultural
Centre. Southernmost is the Old Cataract Hotel
(made famous as the location of the film ‘Death on
the Nile’). Sharia el-Souq is the atmospheric market
stretching for streets, with spices, food and clothes, as well as
Elephantine Island is easily accessible by a river
taxi. Formerly Egypt’s frontier town, recent excavations of
this ancient site have exposed temples and fortress. Aswan
Museum contains exhibits found locally. The Nilometre on
the south of the island, and dating back to Pharaonic times, was
used to measure the height of the Nile.
Further south is the tiny Island of Plants, presented
to Lord Horatio Kitchener in the 1890's in recognition
of his military services. Importing exotic flowers and plants from
Malaysia and India, he created a beautiful botanical garden, open
daily, attracting a wide variety of birds.
The Monastery of St Simeon lies on the West Bank of the river Nile.
Close by lies the domed granite and sandstone Mausoleum of Aga Khan.
Outside the city are the Aswan Dam, built by the
British at the start of the century, and the Temple of Philae,
on the Island of Philae. The Temple is one of Egypt’s
most famous attractions, and after being under threat from flooding
from the High Dam, UNESCO moved it stone by stone
to a higher point on the island.
Further afield is Abu Simbel, the magnificent Sun
Temple of Ramses II, also rescued from flooding by UNESCO.
Ramses had 4 gigantic statues of himself built in order to intimidate
travellers entering Egypt from Africa, especially the Nubians.
Kom Ombo, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Aswan,
is a largely Nubian settlement, known for its Temple of
Haroeris and Sobek. Located nearby is the Darow
Camel Market, held every Tuesday morning and mainly frequented
by tribesmen from the northern Sudanese deserts.
Edfu is famed for the biggest and best preserved Pharaoronic Temple
in Egypt, the Temple of Horus and a favoured starting/stopping
point for felucca trips to and from Luxor.