The Luxor Egypt Travel Guide is part of the Trip Report Athens Marathon: The Original Course which includes the following cities:
- Toronto, Canada
- Detroit, Michigan
- London, England
- Athens, Greece
- Giza, Egypt
- Cairo, Egypt
- Luxor, Egypt
- Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
- Abu Dhabi, UAE
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Here is the Luxor Egypt Travel Guide using the Guns & Butter methodology:
- A trip is composed of two factors: Labor And Lazy
- Anything on the line (Production Possibilities Frontier for my fellow economists) is an efficient use of your time depending on your tastes and preferences.
- Anything inside the line is inefficient as should be avoided.
- Anything outside is aspirational but may be impossible to do given the constraints of time and resources.
- The opportunity cost (what is given up) for relaxing and being Lazy is gained by being adventurous in the form of Labor and vice versa.
Note: Everything in Luxor is inefficient and should be avoided.
Now that I have your attention let me tell you why. On paper, there are sites in Luxor worth seeing, history worth learning, and a culture worth exploring. In reality, Luxor is a hotbed of crooks who have abused the art of negotiation. If Luxor was a college athletic department, they would receive the death penalty for lack of institutional control because of the way they exploit tourists. If you don’t believe me then you can do one of two things: 1) stop reading this post and go see for yourself 2) read this post then go to Luxor to confirm.
Just so we are clear, I am not advocating a boycott of Luxor. I am preaching that if you do go to Luxor that you make your tourist voice heard so maybe someone will listen and tell the banditos that they have gone too far.
In 2011, the Arab Spring had taken hold of the Middle East. In Cairo, the brave Egyptian people had stood up to Hosni Mubarak and peacefully oversaw his downfall. Tragically, the instability that followed resulted in a sharp decline in tourism in Egypt. The threat of terrorist attacks throughout the region including a plot that was thwarted in Luxor in June of 2015 further kept tourists away. In September of 2015, the Egyptian security forces mistook tourists for terrorists resulting in the death of eight Mexican tourists.
Such events have crippled tourist cities like Luxor whose economy relies on tourism. Understandably, the people in Luxor have become quite desperate. Unfortunately, this desperation has turned into exploitation of tourists which further exacerbates the problem. The result is a trip tarnished by tricksters who did their very best to get the best of me. As a result, I didn’t get to enjoy what would otherwise have been a visit to a mystical city.
The Egregious Offenders
- The Taxi Drivers: Speaking Arabic shouldn’t result in 90% discount, though it often did. While that’s lucky for me, that’s not lucky for you if you don’t speak the language. (see taxi from airport and to airport)
- Historical sites: Looking Middle Eastern shouldn’t result in a 90% discount, though it would have had Ms TPOL not had so many ‘European features’. I can appreciate that I should pay more than the locals because I am a visitor but let’s be reasonable about it.
- The Tour Guides: I was called a ‘bad tourist’ by my Valley of the Kings tour guide because I called her out for raising the price for our tour. Since she was a shady, unscrupulous person, I took it as a compliment.
- The Liquor Store Merchant: Come on dude, half of my cousins own liquor store. I can understand that there’s a higher margin due to the convenience of not having to go to Albertsons but why are you trying to charge me double for beer? Why are you then being so callous to say in Arabic that you are charging me more without making the assumption that I can understand what you are saying.
- Strangers: Is this too broad of a generalization? Maybe it is but everyone I met besides the two gentlemen working at the Sheraton Luxor came at me with an angle. It always started the same- kindred spirits. It always ended the same- sworn enemies. Here’s how it went.
- Stranger: Inte Misri? (Are you Egyptian?)
- Me: Lut, ani Amerki. (I’m American.)
- Stranger: Oh, because your face it look Egyptian.
- Me: Abouee ooh umee min Iraq. (My parents are from Iraq.)
- Stranger: Welcome to your second country my brother.
- Me: Shukran (Thank you.)
- Interlude of small talk, then three minutes later…
- Stranger: You want tour of Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, West Bank?
- Me: No.
- Stranger: You want to go on my boat.
- Me: No.
- Stranger: You want horse ride?
- Me: No.
- Stranger: Come on I take you horse ride, just five minute you give me 5EGP. Brother time is hard here. I need money just for my horse. I need to feed my horse ha ha ha.
- Me. No.
- Stranger: Come on brother.
- Interlude: This goes on for far too long and I finally agree because he is relentless.
- Stranger: OK, I wait for you here then I take you back to hotel.
- Me: (feeling trapped) Fine.
- Interlude: I get back in the cart and he takes me to the hotel.
- Me: Here is 10EGP.
- Stranger: (looking heart-broken) What, 10 pounds? No, no, no give me 40, even 30 pounds. What about 20 pounds?
- Me: I told you I didn’t want anything to begin with. Here is your 10 EGP which is more than I would pay the taxi. Have a good day.
- Stranger: F*#@ 78!* (I curse you.)
- Me: Ma’a salama (Goodbye.)
From brothers to being cursed, that’s the way it always went in Luxor. You can call me cheap, you can call me cold-blooded but again I say go to Luxor first before condemning me.
The Sites Themselves
Hot Air Balloon over the West Bank
The ancient Egyptians were fascinating people. They were superstitious but their beliefs were, given the information at the time, very reasonable. Luxor is separated into two parts, the West Bank and the East Bank. The sun rose in the East, this symbolized life. The sun set in the West, this symbolized death. As a result, the great pharaohs lived on the East Bank and were buried in the West best, the home of the Valley of the Kings.
For 250 EGP (versus the 500 EGP quoted by the Sheraton) you can take a hot air balloon ride across the Nile and over the Valley of the Kings. I had never been on a hot air balloon but had wanted to go after visiting Bagan, Myanmar.Though I can now say that I took a balloon ride, I would strongly advise doing so in Luxor. It is absolutely pointless.
The Valley of the Kings is the area where the great Egyptian pharaohs were buried. I repeat, the Valley of the King is the site of the pharaohs’ tombs. What could I possibly see by flying high up in the sky over them? The answer is an obvious nothing. Still, TPOL did manage to get a few nice pictures for self-promotion.
The Valley of the Kings
My tour guide, the one who called me a bad tourist, tricked me into paying an additional 100 EGP for her useless services when I visited the Valley of the Kings. As I had written, if you do visit the Valley do not bother hiring a guide. They are not allowed to go inside of the tombs with you. Instead they will take out a bunch of flashcards and give you the Disney story of what the engravings on the wall mean. Then they will try to sell you those flashcards.
I was so irritated by this guide that I could not appreciate the significance of what I was seeing. Upon returning home, I have learned more about the design of the tomb, the significance of the paintings, and the Egyptian belief in the afterlife. It is worth researching before you go to Luxor.
I can advise that you skip King Tut’s tomb as his stuff is now at The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. As of 12/21/2015, his mask is too. (see Cairo Travel Guide for that story)
The Valley of the Queens
“You want Valley of the Queens?” the tour guide asked, “that will be extra.” Even after my argument with the tour guide about her crafty business practices, she was still trying to sell me on more tours.
Cruise Down the Nile
“You want to see crocodiles?” the tour guide followed up, “That will be extra.” I would have liked to have seen crocodiles as they played a role in ancient Egyptian religion. When the departed goes from death to the afterlife, he must make the journey across water (the Nile). Along the way, he will need protection against the crocodiles and other pitfalls so he brings his mates with him for protection. He goes through many tests before his soul can be redeemed in the afterlife. That’s my crass summary of what is otherwise an intricate, captivating, somewhat plausible explanation of how one achieves life after death.
There is no alabaster museum. It is a hustle to get you to buy handcrafted alabaster goods of which you probably have no use. Somehow I was convinced that I needed an alabaster chess set. The price went down from 3500 EGP ($450) to 500 EGP ($65) to 250 EGP ($30). Then I realized that I didn’t need a chess set and begged for the tour guide to take me home. You can imagine how the conversation with the proprietor of the museum went from start to finish.
The Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III
This was a free stop on our journey. I think they take the tourists who don’t buy chess sets here after so they can pretend that they went to a museum not a shakedown saloon.
I visited the Luxor Temple on my own and found it to be very peaceful. It is the site where the kings of Egypt were crowned most notably my namesake, Alexander the Great. Though it is believed that he never actually visited Luxor, I proudly arrived as his surrogate.
Go to Luxor if you want or don’t. It’s up to you, brother.