If visiting the world’s greatest open-air museum of ancient civilization sounds appealing, then Luxor should be the holiday destination for you. It’s a history or archaeology buff’s dream, boasting a rich legacy of temples, tombs and monuments.
When you’re not marvelling at ancient wonders, there’s the chance to sail along the Nile admiring riverbank scenes akin to biblical times. There’s fantastic five star accommodation at reasonable prices and the people are warm and friendly. It all makes for a great year-round destination.
Getting there, getting around Luxor
Most scheduled flights to Luxor involve a short stop at Cairo but there are also direct charter flights from several major UK airports.
Once there, all the major sights are pretty close. Luxor Temple is within walking distance, or you could hire a bike if you want to get there quicker. Assuming you feel the horse looks healthy and happy, a hantour (horse-drawn carriage) is also an option. The Valley of the Kings is on the West Bank of the Nile opposite the town of Luxor and there’s a baladi (ferry) service available for those who don’t fancy crossing the bridge. There are also, of course, lots of taxis, but you have to be prepared to bargain extremely hard. Try and find out what your fare should roughly be at your hotel before leaving.
Sightseeing in Luxor
Luxor is built on and around the 4,000-year-old site of ancient Thebes and its highlights are spectacular. They include the Valley of the Kings, the burial site of Egypt’s ancient rulers in magnificent tombs. Other sites include the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Tomb of Nefertari – one of the finest tombs ever discovered and only open to the public since 1995 – and the magnificent complex of temples at Karnak, complete with an avenue of sphinxes.
It doesn’t even really matter if you don’t know your King Tut from your Kom Ombo as you can’t help but admire the fabulous hieroglyphics and astonishing tomb decorations, some of which look as fresh as the day they were done. Your best bet, if you’re not an expert, is to get yourself your own guide, or join one of the many guided groups.
Family attractions in Luxor
The Egyptians love kids so they’ll be made to feel extremely welcome by the locals. Otherwise, children are bound to enjoy seeing the ancient sites as much as adults.
They’ll love a horse-drawn carriage ride and a trip down the Nile aboard a felucca (sailboat). One thing to be aware of is the heat. Some days when you step out of your hotel, it can feel like a furnace so make sure your kids are well protected from the sun and take lots of water with you to prevent dehydration.
Day trips in Luxor
A felucca ride along the Nile and the return journey at sunset should not be missed. Most of the boats are owned by locals and you’ll often need to bargain pretty hard when arranging your trip. A favourite destination is Banana Island, several kilometers upstream from Luxor. It’s a large banana plantation where you can relax, enjoy a drink or picnic and get some shade under the banana leaves.
If you want to arrange something particularly special then splash out on an early morning hot-air balloon trip over the Nile and the Valley of the Kings.
Eating out in Luxor
The national dish is fuul, a stew made from beans, garlic, tomatoes and paprika. Otherwise, when it comes to local cuisine, expect lots of spit-roasted lamb and chicken. Many specialities are absolutely delicious, such as the kebab, the kofta and kushari. Most of Luxor’s restaurants can be found in the centre of town. The Oriental, situated close to Luxor Temple is recommended as well as Amoun Restaurant on Sharia el-Karnak and the El-Hussein.
If you’re missing some more familiar food, then the Sheraton Hotel, situated on the banks of the Nile serves excellent pizzas. Egypt is a Muslim country but alcohol can be bought in most bars, restaurants and cafes.
Nightlife in Luxor
You can find plenty of discos and entertainment in the hotels in town and the entertainment in most hotels will often involve a bit of belly dancing. What’s more, audience participation is generally encouraged. Since Egypt is a Muslim country, there aren’t many bars around Luxor. However, the Metropolitan Cafe, found opposite the Luxor Temple on the Corniche walkway, is worth a visit.
Believe it or not, there’s also an ‘English’ pub, the King’s Head, which is open 24 hours a day. You can even play darts and billiards and they often show Premiership football.
If you prefer something a lot more laid back, head for the West Bank, where evening desert BBQs with a horse dancing show can be organised. The Sound and Light show at the Karnak Temple is breathtaking, and the night bazaar is well worth a visit too. Wherever you are, listen out for local Saidi music, often played at weddings and accompanying various shows.
Shopping in Luxor
The market, or souk, on Sharia el-Birka, as well as the tourist bazaar on Saria el-Karnak, are good places for lots of bargains. Scarves, scarabs, spices, carpets and other local souvenirs are all pretty cheap. Silver jewellery is a popular purchase in Luxor, and alabaster, which is mined nearby, is everywhere, so look out for handmade cups and vases. A tagine, a clay pot used for cooking, is also a great purchase. In the markets especially, you’ll always need to be prepared to haggle a bit.
There are many souvenir shops located close to the Luxor Temple in the more tourist areas. Two good handicraft shops to try are Bedouin Market, beside Marsam Hotel and Maarad al-Gurna, in front of the tomb of Ramose in the Tombs of the Nobles.