Luxor and The Nile

Luxor: Temples and Tombs

The guidebook gushes with the following descriptive terms for this 4000 year old city of ancient Thebes: "staggering ancient splendor, extraordinary, compelling, spectacular, massive, and strikingly graceful." * For once I agree 100%.

My first stop, and my favorite, is the Luxor Temple. The temple is filled with wall writings and pictorial carvings and enormous statues of the Pharaohs: Amenhotep III, Tutankhamen, Ramses II, Nectanebo. Even Alexander the Great and various Romans (Marc Anthony?) added their touch. In the 13th Century, the Arabs built a mosque in an interior court.

"Karnak is a spectacular complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons, and obelisks, dedicated to the Theban gods and the greater glory of Egypt's pharaohs." * The entire area covers about 1.2 square kilometers. My wandering and climbing and gazing and wandering some more is an epic ordeal in the hot sun. But a worthwhile ordeal. And at the very beginning and at the very end is the sphinx-lined path that provides both inspiration and resolution for my day with the man-gods.

What's the plural of sarcophagus? I stared at a few, surrounded by bright and colorful wall paintings, deep underground in The Valley of The Kings, in the dusty, barren and dramatic Theban hills.

The Next Time

There are sixty tombs in The Valley of The Kings and dozens more in The Valley of The Queens. The Colossi (I guess that's the plural for colossus) of Memnon and the Temples of Seti are nearby. Much further south in Egypt is Lake Nasser and the Temples of Abu Simbel. In the north is Alexandria and in the west, The Western Oases (plural for oasis). And in Cairo, the Cairo Museum. Ali said it is the best museum he has ever seen.

And back in The Sinai there is the Suez Canal, Mt. Sinai, and Sharm el-sheikh, the Egyptian version of Miami-Las Vegas, so says the guidebook.

If I had been less impulsive I could have seen more tombs and temples, the Lake and the Canal. I could have planned a cruise on the Nile and a dive in the Sea. I could have planned a proper trip to Egypt. One week is insufficient. It's a big country.

There will be a "next time" to The Middle East, in sha' Allah. I must return to Jordan to see Sama and Ishmael and Ali and Taghreed and, of course, my dear Manal.

Despite the indifference of the officials, everyone says the Syrian people are warm and welcoming. Then there's Libya. I promise to avoid Iraq and Iran for the moment, although Iran is tempting.

And finally, this evening, I am on my way to Tel Aviv for what I hope will be, G-d willing, the first of many visits to Israel.

Osama, my cheerful, talkative driver in Luxor, charged me fair prices. He took me to tea and to lunch before I left. I will be happy to see him again. And the staff at The New Pola Hotel is also excellent. The sweet young cashier at the rooftop swimming pool is shy and then friendly. And beyond the white-rigged sailboats on the green-fringed Nile, the rooftop view of the setting sun is just as you would expect. Egypt is charming after all.

And yes, the food is good, especially the morning buffet of eggs, salad, olives and all the hummus I can scoop up with my pyramid of pita. Have you ever had halvah for breakfast? What a rush!

Tisba 'ala khayr,


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