Trip Report: Luxor


Sep 22nd, 2004, 05:25 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 19
Trip Report: Luxor

Continued from Trip Report: Cairo. If you have an early flight, be sure to ask the hotel to prepare you a box breakfast that you can take with you to the airport/plane.
The flight was scheduled for 5 am which meant a 3.30 am pick up time. Tour agency came to pick us up at the hotel lobby. Yes, a bit of a waste for the hotel room but what could we do? Would not want to wander around from noon (check out time the day of) until 3 am without a room!
Arrive at airport just before 4 am. The airport was a mess. There were flights to Aswan, Abu Simbel and Luxor all around the same time. We all wait in a small waiting room. Not enough seats for everyone so people start sitting on the stairs blocking the doors etc. EgyptAir staff yell out the destination that is boarding at the moment. Only one 'gate' from which you get on a bus that takes you to the plane. I kept checking to make sure we were getting on the right plane! However, flight left on time, smooth with no problems. I would avoid the muffin and juice that is distributed on the plane, felt a bit sick after eating that and fiancé got sick eating Egyptair food on the way back to Cairo from Luxor.
Arrive Luxor on time. While waiting for our suitcase, noticed a tour operator type person had taken our suitcase off the baggage thing and placed it in a line of other suitcases which were all part of his groups' luggages. Went over and took it out of the pile of suitcases, it was a good thing we saw this happen, otherwise our suitcase would have been piled onto the bus with this big group and no one would realize for a very long time that it did not belong to anyone in their group and when we could not find our suitcase come off the plane would just have believed luggage got left in Cairo. Be vigilant about the bags going around the carrousel thing. Innocent mistake but one that would have resulted in huge inconvenience for us and often these tour group leaders are so flustered keeping everything organized that easy to mis-read the labels on suitcases.
The Hotel: Le Meridien Luxor Hotel. Very new, so new in fact work is still ongoing. Very beautiful and luxurious. You have shops selling souvenirs and water/drinks on the street right in front and if you walk a bit down the main street of the hotel can find some good clean restaurants to eat in. Due to early morning flight and the fact that we had to wait for our room to be ready, crashed and slept til late afternoon.
Woke up and walked into Luxor. It may be a bit of a walk but we felt it was a nice stroll especially in the evening. Yes, caleche drivers and taxi drivers yelling and trying to get you to hire them but telling them No and just continue on your way gets rid of them. Be polite and then ignore them, be engrossed in conversation with your travelling companion. Walked by Luxor Temple from the outside and just wandered around, came back to hotel area. Ate at the Sonesta St. George hotel which is next door to the Meridien, at their poolside restaurant called Aladin.
Day 2: Breakfast buffet. The Meridien buffet has a omelette service so it is cooked in front of your eyes to order, also had crepes to order as well. Sat by the pool because we woke up too late to visit any sites (too hot at 11am) and lounged around, read up on the places we were going to visit in the Lonely Planet. Around 5pm we walked into town to visit Luxor Temple which is opened til 9pm. Walked in just as the sun was about to set, very gorgeous. Visited the museum of mummification and Luxor Museum. Museum of Mummification is interesting but small. One room only, it would make sense to combine it with Luxor Museum?? Both open til 9pm. Walk by the Nile, (what is called Nile Shopping Center) and look at shops and cafés. Return to hotel street, buy souvenirs and buy bottled water.

Day 3: Breakfast and took a taxi to Karnak Temple, taxi driver insisted that he wait for us and would later show us all kinds of crystal, papyrus, perfume shops. We told him that we did not know how long it would take so we did not want him to wait. He insisted so we asked for his phone number (many taxi drivers have these little business cards with their number on it) and asking for this and telling them we will call when we need them makes them go away. Took gazillion photos, lots of old men who try to point things out to you or tell you to take a photo of them in exchange for money. Saw some young european couples paying 'guards' tips and then going inside restricted areas for photos etc. Was very disgusting to see, no respect for the monuments nor for others. Saw one couple actually climbing up Ramses statue. Walked around the good luck scarabee near the Sacred Lake, walked around some more. We went out of Temple of Karnak to see if our taxi driver had hung around but could not be found so we found another person to drive us back. On the ride home, asked the driver who was very quiet how much it would be for his services for the day to go to Valley of Kings etc. and he told us 80LE, much more expensive than in Cairo but that is apparently normal. We liked the price he stated and also the fact that he was not pushy and not trying to take us to his uncle's papyrus shop etc. so we asked him to meet us at 7am in front of the hotel the next day.
Got back to the hotel, went and sat poolside for the rest of the day (7pm it starts to get too windy to stay by the pool). Lunched by the pool. Pool is wonderful right next to the Nile and wonderful views. Evening ate at the italian restaurant in the Meridien.

Day 3: Alarms set up for 6 am! Breakfast and to the lobby for a rendez vous with the taxi driver that we found the day before. We hired him for the day to take us to Valley of Kings and Temple of Hatshepsut etc. When we got in he asked where we wanted to go first. Colossus of Memnon was on the way so we got out, took photos, climbed back in the taxi and went to Valley of Kings.
VoKings. Bought our tickets and walked to the little train that brings you to the main part of the VoK. Could not find a place to sit because groups kept coming and taking over the train. Just jump on and sit there as if you are part of the group otherwise you will never get a train! Get to the entrace, security check. There was no posting of which tombs are closed etc. So we headed to the tomb of Tuthmosis III (I think) and when we reached it were told it was closed. According to Lonely Planet then, we should see Ramses I and VI. Ramses I was closed as was Seti. Ended up seeing Amenophis and Ramses III and VI. I wish there was a sign that noted which ones were open and closed so we did not keep wandering from tomb to tomb only to find it closed. Massive lines to enter the tombs and very very hot inside. People were coming out of there soaking and dripping with wet. Very humid inside. Already at 9.30 am it was getting to be quite hot. Did not see Tutankhamen's tomb and it seemed no one else was interested, no lines in front of his tomb. Probably due to the steep ticket price plus the fact that guidebooks tell you there is nothing worth seeing inside.

Snap some photos, drink tons of water. Get back to the waiting taxi and off to the Temple of Hatshepsut. Repeat performance with the little train that brings you to the main part of the temple. Sun is blazing hot by this time, 11.00 am. Take more photos and read the guidebooks. Asked fellow tourists to snap photos for us.
BATHROOMS: I just want to throw in a line here about the bathrooms. I did not use any of the bathrooms in the tourist sites but they seemed to be ok. The bathroom in the Cairo National Museum looked decent as did the little bathrooms set up in VoKings. The one at the Temple of Hatshepsut was closed for some reason. So I was quite worried about the bathroom situation at tourist sites but does not seem to be a problem...

Jump back in waiting taxi and off to Medinat Habu which is the temple of Ramses. This was another wonderful little gem. Each one is so magnificent I think we took about 350 photos throughout the entire trip in an effort to capture every little detail!! I may be asking myself why in a few weeks time?
Read guidebook as we wonder around. Sun is really hot and getting headaches. Run back to taxi and go back to the hotel!

Shower and lie down for a rest before heading to the pool for lunch and a swim and nap. Evening we head to a little restaurant down the street from the hotel called Maxime's. Nothing spectacular but clean and nice food and half the price of food in the hotels. We had bought some soda and bottled water and on the way back from the restaurant little girls came up to us and asked us for the soda. Earlier had seen that a woman tried to give some juice to the little kids on the street which turned into a mini riot as children poured out of every which way and started fighting over who got the juice. The poor woman who was only trying to be nice in the end had to break up the fight and go buy more packets of juice. Even 15 minutes after the crowd had dispersed the children were still tugging and pulling and fighting over their packets of juice. It broke my heart, a soda is just a soda but I did not want a similar situation to break out amongst the girls so said no and walked away.

Back to the hotel, had a drink on the terrace of the hotel overlooking the Nile. Fresh breeze, almost too chilly and no mosquitos.

Day 4: Flight for Cairo at 5.15 pm. Asked the hotel for late check out which they gave us free of charge. Lounged around, packed and went to the pool for a swim, lunch and nap. Around 3pm came back to room for shower and got our stuff to wait for our airport pick up 4.15 at the hotel lobby.

The airport was again a bit chaotic. Charter flights, normal flights everything a mess. We get through all right. There are several gift souvenir shops plus duty free shops. We bought two mug cups for 100LE after bargaining but at the airport we saw them for $5 (set price)! So if you want to avoid the hassle of negotiating can buy your souvenirs here. Just be careful because the International Departure Hall in Cairo does not have souvenir shops. !! (Just duty free and small souvenir shops but nothing compared to what you find in Luxor Airport).

Again chaos to get on your plane but despite this plane takes off on time. Need to be vigilant about which flight number the man at the door is yelling out and make your way over to him.

Arrive Cairo 6.45pm. We decided to stay at the Novotel Heliopolis for the last night in Cairo before departing back home (flight was at 10.45 the next day). arrive in hotel, check in and grab a taxi to take us to Khan Khalili one more time. Buy some more souvenirs and take in the evening atmoshpere of this place. Everything is opened until at least 10pm. Drink some coffee and return to hotel for dinner.

Pack up and sleep for our departure!
Cairo Intl. Departure Hall. Again chaos. This time we arrived two hours ahead of schedule. There were two desks open and all of the sudden one person left his counter and did not come back so left with one counter open. People kept cutting in line and a director type person kept telling people to go to the head of the line. There were about three individuals ahead of us in line but it took an hour to move because tour operators kept cutting in line with their stack of 30 passports and the agent would start assigning them seats, tagging their bags and checking their passports. Finally I lost my cool and told the agent how unfair it was that we had come to the airport early (two hours with enough time to look at the duty shops and other souvenir shops) only to have to stand in line and do nothing but get irritated. He told us it was not his fault but the director's fault. So we went to the director and told him that it was not fair, his answer was to bring us to the head of the line which is definetly not what we wanted. Told him that these people were ahead of us so should get to go first and that we were complaining of the tour operators who just walk up and cut in front of a huge line of waiting people. An egyptian man joined in and started getting upset in arabic. Still nothing changed, not that we expected it to... Really rude.
At least they made sure not to let anyone else cut in line until they got rid of us!
Good bye to Cairo and will definetly go back!

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Sep 22nd, 2004, 08:15 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Thanks for the continuing story of your trip. Sounds like you certainly enjoyed it, which makes me feel better about going in March. I might even decide to go on our own instead of with a tour package.

I really do appreciate your insight, and you can consider your goal accomplished, that you hoped your "list below will be of use to others".

Take care - Denise
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Sep 22nd, 2004, 01:57 PM
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It's a toss up whether to go on your own and book most tours and/or activities once in-country, versus having all arranged before getting to your destination. And in Egypt it is certainly easy enough to do it all once in-country. But even a tour package doesn't necessarily mean a "group" - it's just a set itinerary.

While reading couboocou's report, which I enjoyed tremendously, I felt for every situation you experienced at the airports and hassles with guides at sites, taxi drivers, etc. We did an independent tour, preset prior arriving in Cairo, and never once did such frustrating and hectic situations occur. We were met at the airport at the outset, had a guide/driver while in Cairo, and were fine on the cruise; even in Luxor with plenty of time on our own and again when returning to Cairo - never a hassle.

I'll give you there is a madhouse when checking in at the airport, but it's a breeze when your guide (even if for just the two of us) gets better and quicker service. Sure it looked like a zoo, but once we had our boarding passes, we had no problem hearing the flights announced when boarding planes to Aswan/Abu Simbel and again from Luxor. And the same wonderful Egyptian guy met us everytime we appeared at the Cairo airport and when our regular guide wasn't assigned to us. Not that we asked, but he was there "johnny (or ramadan - his name) on the spot" to run interference for us.

We went shopping at the Khan el Khalili bazaar on our own, without any hassles. In fact, salespeople from one shop or another were more than glad to walk us directly to our next stop - rather amazing. We did the souk in Aswan on our own, no hassles. And when in Luxor we did both Luxor and Karnak Temples on our own and had no problems. Also here, we and another couple from the boat were to meet two women from the boat for dinner when I realized we were lost in the souk. So I walked over to three men sitting outside a cafe with their "hubble bubble" and they knew before I opened my mouth what I was about to ask. They graciously pointed us in the right direction.

The cost of our trip was very reasonable (in '99 at about $1,700 for 10 days including the 4-day cruise and Abu Simbel), and if we maybe paid a few extra dollars prebooking rather then arranging it once in-country, it appears to have eliminated situations that could have been uncomfortable.

At least your report, couboocou, provides some pros and cons of independent independent travel in Egypt. Thanks for providing your experience with this option for travelers.
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Sep 23rd, 2004, 02:31 AM
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Independent versus Group. I also grappled with this for a long time while researching this trip. It made it alot easier because we decided not to do a Nile cruise this time around (definetly going back you see...) if we did want to do the Nile Cruise, a package or a pre-set itinerary would have been much cheaper than doing it on our own.
I think it boils down to personal taste and how much flexibility you would want for spontaneous activity or level of laziness (lying next to the pool) you want to include in your trip.
You will enjoy it no matter what, what a great country, place and people.
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