Dendera/Abydos temples vs The major temples at Luxor


Sep 23rd, 2012, 07:40 PM
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Dendera/Abydos temples vs The major temples at Luxor

Hi Everyone,

Was just wondering if anyone could advise what is the major comparison between Dendera/Abydos temples, vs the major temples at Luxor (such as Karnak, Luxor Temple, Medihat Habu, Valley of The Queens?)

If I was being completely honest, my family are not entirely keen on tombs (but we stand corrected as we have never seen actual ones in Egypt yet) , but we are so far impressed by the paintings of Dendera/Abydos and Medihat Habu, seen on TA.

We only have two days in Luxor, and we thought of going to the major must see's namely Karnak and Luxor Temple on Day 1.

And Day 2..... would you reckon we should visit Dendera/Abydos on a Full Day excursion (we wouldn't mind the journey, I think)? Meaning entirely skipping the Valley of the Queen, Valley of Artisan, or Valley of the Kings etc. Would you think this is a good idea? Considering my family isn't into tombs but more inclined with the paintings. Are the paintings in Dendera/Abydos can be found in temples of Luxor? Are the Valley of The Queens and the likes so worthwhile that it should not be missed, and that means forgoing Dendera/Abydos?

Any general insights of these comparisons would be truly appreciated.

Thank you very much for your time and I wish you a wonderful day.
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Sep 23rd, 2012, 08:28 PM
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Hi. We went to Egypt this April... See my trip report here, or visit (Stillunder construction) for some photos.

If you are in Luxor, you MUST see Valley of the Kings. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed there, but I have a few postcards I scanned in. These are "tombs" from the New Kingdom, around 3300 years old (1300BC and thereabouts). Considering that Greece or Rome are a lot younger and almost nothing is left... You MUST see these - the paintings are incredible, the paint still looks fresh. Just go to Google images and look for Valley of the Kings.

These are not real tombs, today. They were robbed and basically cleaned out over 2000 years ago. Some do not even have the (empty) sarcophagus still inside. Basically, they are tunnels, usually several hundred feet long, opening out into temple rooms to the dead Pharoah; with wall and ceiling paintings all the way from the entrance to the end. The only one close to a real tomb is King Tut's; the decor is minimal, the treasures are in Cairo, and Tut, mummified, is on display in a glass case in there, with his face and toes peeking out of the wrappings.

The worker's village and the tombs of the nobles are interesting because there are some small but beautifully decorated tombs - the grapevine tomb is spectacular. (The cover photo for the Luxor guide, see toward the bottom for the picture.

Perhaps you can do one day swing through the West Bank - Valley of Kings, Hapshepsut's temple, The tombs of the Nobles, the workers' village and tombs (and Dier el Medina temple) and the Ramsesseum and Temple of Ramses III with the Syrian-style entrance. Luxor temple was open in the evening to after dark.

Here you can see my photos of Abydos and Dendara. We left Luxor early (6AM) and we were back by 3PM. Unless you are deeply interested in Egyptian temples, or want a road trip to see the countryside and how people live - you will see almost the same sort of carvings in the temples around Luxor.

We had the luxury of our own guide and driver, so we made the most of our time; we got to each site and went straight in, spent as long as we cared to there, and when we were done, went straight to the next place. No waiting for 40 bus passengers to be rounded up, no waiting for the slow person with the bad hip, etc. Just go go go at our pace.

Sorry, we didn't get to Valley of the Queens so I can't say what it is like.
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Sep 23rd, 2012, 09:43 PM
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Dear MD,

Thank you very much for your kind insights and really appreciate all the helpful notes and advices you so kindly offered. Will certainly check out your blog and trip reports.

Was just wondering if you have visited Abu Simbel? How does it compare to the abovementioned sites?

Perhaps I should also mention that while we respect the strict regulation of no-photography in some of the temples, as some of us in my family are photography enthusiasts, it would be nice to capture, where photography is allowed, among others, the amazing paintings of some temples. So, I wonder if this interest itself could determine which temple to visit, and not? Any thoughts?
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Sep 23rd, 2012, 11:53 PM
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I agree with MD that the Valley of the Kings is a MUST SEE. IMHO it is the best thing in Egypt.
BUT - you could do a morning trip out to Dendara and Abydos and come back to Luxor with time to visit Luxor Temple at night under the lights. At night, under the lights is often the photographers paradise.
The next day stay do the Valley of the Kings and Karnak and anything else you can fit in - meaning, do Karnak first and then head to the West Bank and see what ever you like until closing time.
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Sep 24th, 2012, 05:33 AM
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I too am a photo buff, our result from 17 days in Egypt was about 30GB of photos. Many Egypt attractions, like they do in the museums and churches of Europe, also ban photography.

Partly, this ban is because many tourists with mdern digital cameras have never learned how to turn off the flash - the UV from accumulated flashes could eventually damage paint and other material.

Partly, this is crowd control - the people waiting to get that perfect shot will hold up the lines and slow everyone down.

The cynic in me also thinks it is an inducement for you to buy the postcards and picture books.

Some tombs in Valley of the Kings have a wooden rail down the center. Walk in down one side, out the other, to simplify traffic in narrow tunnels. (A few tighter ones also had clear acrylic panes between you and the walls to prevent people rubbing on the paintings.

I am told in its peak season, the place used to be wall to wall people, thousands at a time. When we were there, April 2012, tourism was still way down. In many tombs we were the only ones there at the time; in one, the attendant offered to let us wander beyond the rail and around the sacophagus (for a good tip).

This is the other problem. In Valley of the Kings, and in Cairo Museum, the rules is NO cameras. The fear in VoK is that the underpaid attendants will let tourists take pictures for a tip; so check the cameras at the gate. (At VoK we left our cameras in the car). Some posts we read suggest that you could not just have your pictures erased if caught, they might confiscate your camera. Did not try to find out. (These rules become more difficult with cell phones, but still - don;t get caught!)

In Dendara the guard harassed our guide about our monopod, so he bought us a tripod permit. This is another issue - the lighting is not bright. The newest digital cameras do some very good low-light photos, but still you need to practice holding the camera steady. I can get passable photos from exposures as poor as 1/5sec about half the time.

Abu Simbel also has a "no photos inside" policy. We stood at the door and took pictures, and plenty of the outside. We did sneak some pictures of the inside, but again lighting is poor and fortunately for us the place was deserted. (Unfortunate for their tourist industry). Again, normally there were thousands crowding the place. In our case, the early bus tours had left, only our one plane-load, and we had bypassed the multimedia experience everyone else sat through.

Abu Simbel is a fantastic experience, but is even more remote that Abydos and Dendara. You will fly there and back (or fly to Aswan and drive 3 hours each way) a whole for maybe 2 hours at the pair of temples. Again, everything depends on time and timing. It is unique.

Perhaps if you get back from Dendara early enough, and are not totally famished, you can stop at Karnak for an hour or two just to see it?
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Sep 24th, 2012, 08:53 AM
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If you can follow Casual Cairo's plan, that is the best idea for seeing the top sites. You would have enough time to cover what she suggests. If you have to stick by your plan for the second day, I think you would like Valley of the Kings over Dendara and Abydos. If you can get into the painted tombs in the VOK, you will love them, since your family admires the paintings. Those tombs are filled with paintings. I'm not sure what tombs you can get into these days, but the spectacular paintings -- if I recall correctly -- are in Seti I, Ramesses VI, and of course Nefertari. The latter is usually open only to groups that have paid a huge fee to go in. But who knows, with less tourism in Egypt, perhaps these tombs are open. I find even the lesser tombs have something of interest. They are not really tombs as we would think of them, but huge underground chambers with carved and painted figures. This is not to say that Dendara and Abydos aren't fine -- they are. Just farther to go and less overall to see. As for Abu Simbel, I personally wouldn't try to see that. A big time investment and a site that doesn't take long to see. It's impressive because its size, but the art is not the quality of the other sites you mentioned, and I don't recall there being any painted images at all.
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Sep 24th, 2012, 09:15 AM
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Just remembered that the tomb of Nefertari is in the Valley of the Queens. But you'd have to investigate first to see if it is open and if you can get in. If you could, it would be worth the trip. Except also keep in mind that they only allow you a limited time in that tomb -- maybe 10 minutes? I thought it was one of the best sites I've seen in Egypt. Still, you have time limitations so the Valley of the Kings would be a better choice, and there is plenty to see there.
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Sep 24th, 2012, 09:13 PM
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Hello everyone!

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!!!! For all the wonderful, helpful, amazing advices . Will spare some time to really digest it all. But in the meanwhile, I would just like to share with you all that we have decided to extend our days in Luxor to 3 days (haha not by a lot but hopefully a better choice, that

Basically, our working itinerary would be as follows:

Day 1 : Arrival Luxor from Cairo in the morning 10am - Karnak Temple - Luxor Temple or proceeding to some West bank temples if time and energy permit

Day 2 : Abydos & Dendera - Souq visit

Day 3 : West Bank sites ; Valley of the Queen, Medihat Habu, Valley of The Kings - Night train to Aswan

Can't resist Abydos & Dendera, what with all the raves about it, we JUST had to check them out ourselves Unfortunately we only have 9 days to spare, and we will also be going to White Desert. Actually by extending one day at Luxor, we will be skipping our full day tour at cairo (islamic cairo + khan al khalili bazaar). Figured that the Egyptian sites is once-in-a-lifetime kinda thing, so better to go for those

Dear PamR, thanks so much for the kind advices - some queries on the Abu Simbel, when they say magnificent in size, do they mean the 2 statues itself? And, why does everyone rave about it? Is the temple different from those seen at Luxor? In terms of painting, tombs, etc?

Thanks everyone, again, all your kind help is well appreciated! Wishing you happy travels always!
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Sep 24th, 2012, 09:41 PM
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See also my photos of Abu Simbel at - it's 4 statues, not 2 (Ok, technically 3 and a half). The scale of the staues is quite large. There are 6 lesser statues on the second temple.

It's impressive for it's size; it was quite remote from the main civilization at Luxor and Cairo; it was also moved several hundred feet up the cliff and reconstructed in artificail mountains, to be saved from the Aswan Dam flooding. It's best known for being a well-know site, so if you can visit it do so; however, if you truly want to see great painted wall reliefs, yes, Abydos and Dendara are the places to go (outside of the Valley of the Kings).

It's hard to say one place is better than another, but certainly the quantity (surface area) and quality of wall paintings is greater in the Dendara and Abydos temples.
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Sep 29th, 2012, 01:29 PM
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My first trip to Egypt was to see the pyramids and VOK with no idea of ever returning. My partner didn't want to go at all but I dragged him along; we've both been back several times since. You may find Egypt is more than a once in a lifetime visit. We sure did.

The tombs at VOK are not all open all the time, if Ramses VI and Thutmose III are open they are very much worth your time. We visited Dendara and Abydos on separate trips. The drive, especially to Abydos is pretty long. Both are worth every minute they take. The bas reliefs at Abydos are some of the most exquisite work I have ever seen. Do not miss the Osireon at the rear outside the temple.

The thing about Abu Simbel is the staggering amount of effort that went into creating it and then saving it, literally in the middle of nowhere. I don’t regret the time we spent going there but I can understand how some might feel you could allocate your scarce resources of hours in perhaps more productive ways.

There is a museum in Aswan just up the hill past the Old Cataract that is exceptionally fine. If you can squeeze in a visit to the bazaar in Cairo, you really owe it to yourself to do so.
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Oct 5th, 2012, 04:09 PM
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Hatshetsup's and The Tombs of the Nobles area was fantastic. Senefer's Tomb was particularly stunning. Also agree with Sal9000, the Aswan Museum was a very nice surprise. Looking back over my trips, the only thing I can think of that can safely be skipped would be the hydro-electric dam at Aswan. Maybe the unfinished obelisk, but I found it fascinating as well. It's very tough to limit a trip to Egypt. The good news is you will tremendously enjoy whatever you decide to see.
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Oct 8th, 2012, 10:48 AM
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Dendera and Abydos were impressive but it is a long drive from Luxor. It was an all day trip for my husband and I. We got back to our hotel around 5:30pm. I believe the Luxor Temple site is open until 9pm so you could manage both sites in one day but it will be hectic.

You MUST visit the sites on the west bank. If you're hardy think about a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Then check out VOK. Must leave camera at entrance gate. No pictures allowed. Ticket for 3 tombs but extra for Tut's tomb. There was an extra charge for another-think maybe it was Ramses VI. VOQ we did 2 or 3-remember Tyti and Amunherkhepeshef. Memorable was Hatshepsut-pictures allowed. Brief stop Colossi of Memmon-pictures allowed. After that you could do Karnak. It would be another hectic day.

Luxor has so much to see and do.
The Luxor Museum-no pictures allowed.
Deir al Medina/Village of the Workmen-Sennedjem #1/Inherkhau #359/extra $ for Pashendu#3.
Valley of the Nobles-tickets sold in groups-Nakht & Menna/Rekhmire & Sennefer/Ramose & Userhet & Khaemhet.
Medinet Habu mortuary temple of Ramses III.
Ramesseum mortuary temple of Ramses II.
Temple of Seti I.

If you will have 3 full days for Luxor you can see/visit quite a bit and spread things out so pace would be less hectic. Whatever you decide I'm sure you will have a great time!
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Oct 8th, 2012, 11:24 AM
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Can see some pictures #517-622 sites visited Luxor Nile cruise, #631-672 Abydos & Dendera, and #776-826 Ramesseum & Medinet Habu
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Oct 14th, 2012, 11:22 AM
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We had enough time to visit VoK, Luxor, Karnak, Abydos and Dendera, VoQ, Worker's Village, and the Luxor Museum on our trip. I would only skip Abydos and Dendera on a subsequnt trip because it's such a long way from Luxor, where we stayed. It's a fascinating ride through the countryside to get to the temples but took all day. So if I had to elimintate something, it would be that.

VoK is not to be missed--IMHO--the paintings are at eye level and so vivid. In the temlpes they're higher up so it was great to see them close-up. My favorite temple was Medinet Habu--amazing amount of remaining color and such deep carving. My "blog" from our trip:
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