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Luxor Cruises

About Luxor (Safaga), Egypt

Called the “Hundred-Gated City” by Greek historian Homer, Luxor is set on the west bank of the legendary Nile River. The city was once known as Thebes and served as the dynastic capital of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom. At its height, Luxor knew great wealth and prominence and grew into a center for art, learning and politics. Its great temple of Karnak, dedicated to the god Amun, endured over many centuries and elevated the city into an important center of religion.

Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with beautiful colonial hotels and some of the world’s most ancient and significant ruins. Many consider this city, watched over by graceful single-sailed feluccas plying the Nile, one of the world’s great open air museums. The sprawling temples of Luxor and Karnak on the east bank are linked by an ancient avenue of sphinxes. On the west bank, in the Valley of the Kings, lie the tombs of Egypt’s great pharaohs.

Luxor Lifestyle and Culture

Luxor revolves around its market culture, farming and the ever-present tangible history of its temples and tombs. Picturesquely set on the Nile River, where an inviting corniche draws residents and visitors alike for long strolls alongside swaying palms, the city’s locale sets a relaxed tone. Perhaps because Luxor has evolved over millennia, time moves a bit more slowly here. Among locals, a favor or deed may get pushed off to bukra (tomorrow) with the wave of a hand. And Egyptians have forever placed the fate of their days in Allah’s hands, meeting polite well wishes with “Inshallah,” meaning “God willing.”

Few cultures are as social as Egypt’s. Men (most often) gather at cafés to trade news of the day over mint tea and a puff or two on a hookah. When they meet, they exchange elaborate greetings before getting down to substantial issues, perhaps kissing and holding hands. Women, too must hear every last detail of each other’s families when they meet in the marketplace.

Luxor Sights and Landmarks

Luxor’s archaeological heritage is unrivaled. On the city’s east bank, two of Egypt’s grandest temples face each other, connected by a two-mile-long pathway lined by beautifully carved sphinxes. Karnak Temple is the most breathtaking for its scale. Ancient Egyptians called it “Ipet-Isut,” or “the most perfect of places,” a sentiment embraced by its 1,500-year history as the most important house of worship in Egypt. Spread over almost 1,000 acres, it occupies a space that could accommodate ten cathedrals. On the opposite end of the Avenue of Sphinxes stands Luxor Temple. More compact than Karnak, it was buried and preserved under a village until 1885, so many of its hieroglyphics are the best preserved in Egypt.

The Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens lie on the west bank of the Nile. The bodies of pharaohs and other nobles and their treasures were buried in elaborate, dug-out tombs upon their death. Kings were given a prime space, down long hollowed corridors deep in the mountains, so as to be hidden from robbers. The tombs of queens and others were less hidden and more susceptible to theft. Also on the west bank, the Colossi of Memnon have stood watch over the Nile for 3,400 years.

Luxor Entertainment and Activities

For such a compact city, Luxor is home to one of the richest collections of temples, museums and tombs in all of Egypt. It’s easy to spend hours getting lost in Karnak Temple, with its forest of 140 towering columns, remarkable bas-reliefs, intricate hieroglyphics and massive pylons and statues. For more focused insight, visit the Luxor Museum, where carefully selected objects tell the compelling story of Thebes. The Mummification Museum reveals many secrets of this ancient form of preservation.

In the Valley of the Kings, visit the legendary tomb of King Tutankhamen. In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter stumbled upon the young pharaoh’s mummified body in his chamber, stuffed with endless riches. Today, the tomb and its painted walls are preserved but many of the riches are at Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Another great pharaoh, the female ruler Hatshepsut, was buried in the grand mortuary temple of Deir el-Bahri. The vast terraced structure is dramatically backed by towering cliffs and is a wonder to behold.

Luxor Restaurants and Shopping

Dining is a social affair in Egypt. Lavish banquets have been enjoyed here since the days of pharaohs. Mezze, a selection of small and flavorful plates for sharing, is popular at the nation’s restaurants, as are chicken, salads and fuul (fava beans). Freshly baked pita bread finds a place at every table. Egyptians are also known for their sweet tooth, as the many bakeries will attest.

Luxor is brimming with authentic shopping experiences. At Caravanserai, browse the selection of crafts handmade by Egyptian women. You can also feel good about shopping at the Fair Trade Center, selling handicrafts from NGO projects around the country, including wood carvings and pottery from villages outside Luxor and beadwork from Sinai. Delve into local culture and atmosphere at Luxor’s bustling souk, a long narrow street where vendors sell alabaster, leather and cotton goods alongside stacks of fruits, vegetables and fragrant spices.