Luxor

The tour we booked included two connecting cabins on an overnight train. Sadly, overnight actually only translated into a 4:30 AM wakeup for a basic breakfast and waiting for our 5:30AM arrival at Luxor. We were due at 5:00, but ended up being behind schedule somehow. At least we finally rode in our own cabins on an overnight train. We were supposed to have the remainder of that day to rest before touring Luxor’s monuments the next day. Unfortunately our guide decided that he wanted to go through a few of them that day and work two half days in Luxor instead of one long day. This would have been OK if we had been well rested, but we were all pretty bushed still. Nonetheless we headed out with smiling, tired faces.

I won’t relate all the stories here, but our guide (Hysam, but called “Sam”) turned out to be a highly knowledgeable yet absolutely intolerable and an arrogant pain in the butt! It started with us all swatting house flys (there were about 30!) that were incessantly bugging us during Sam’s explanations. He actually stopped, grabbed Luke’s arm and gave my poor son heck for not paying attention! At the end of the first day of touring Claudette and I were pondering if we wanted to be with him for the next five days! We wrote it off to our tiredness and figured things would be better tomorrow. The next day though was more of the same. Ooozing arrogance at every step. The breaking point for Claudette came when he waved his hand in front of us while repeatedly snapping his fingers, yet again demanding our attention. Apparently, snapping of fingers makes my wife see blood red, (as I have woefully found out a few times in the past when I was only joking around….(Honest!)).

This guide was also forcefully suggesting crazy high tips for everyone we encountered. He even went so far as to call a van driver on the cell phone and tell him to come back in front of me to get a higher tip. After driving us to three monuments over a five hour period, Sam explained to me, “I TOLD you to give him $24 but your wife only gave him $5!!!” I quickly became incensed and related that my wife and I agreed that a $5 tip was even excessive for what the driver actually accomplished during his few hours of driving us around while getting paid a salary to do so by the tour company. He rebutted that I would have to give more since the van driver was returning. I couldn’t believe this little PICK (with an “R”). He then said, “OK, OK… just give him another $12 and that will be good for today”. Before walking into the hotel I insisted that the only way the driver was gonna get ANY more money was if Sam paid it himself. We contacted the tour company and related that Sam was no longer welcome as our guide, and could they please try and find another one on short notice for the remaining three days going up the Nile River. All guides are freelance, and luckily the tour company was very receptive to our concerns and fired the guide. A new guide would join us at our first monument they told us. Whew!

In the meantime I should relate a bit about the visits we did accomplish in and around Luxor. There were two large temples in the town (Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple) plus a short (half hour) drive to the Valley of the Kings, Hat Chep Sou (sp???) Temple and the Valley of the Queens. The two temples in town were both pretty cool and distinctive for their own reasons. One was very intact while the other had the painted colors more visible and a more colored history. The Luxor Temple had one portion half buried in sand, and the Muslims built a mosque on top of one section several hundred years ago. Then came those nasty Christians who defaced all the faces and bodies of the hieroglyphics and story walls the Egyptians had made. Hearing about how the horrible Christians of old came and defaced their ancestors majestic works with abject disdain in the guide’s voice became a very common theme over our tours in Egypt. I gritted my teeth and neglected to point out to any of them that there is practically NO ancient Egyptian blood left, and most of the current residents are from Muslim conquerors who also razed and defaced many of these prized showcases. I think I shall write a letter to the Tourism departments of the Universities and ask that they educate their tour graduates with some of their own ancestory facts along with extensive Egyptology and how to manage tours.

At Karnak Temple were two standing obleisks which were pretty impressive. Most temples are added on my successions of Kings (Pharos) but this one had a large portion done by Hat Chea Sou, and when her step-son took over power from her he destroyed most of her works because of his deep hatred for taking his throne for so long when women were not really entitled to rule. This included raizing some buildings and scraping clean many walls of stories at that temple. He left the obelisks though since they were firstly a pretty impressive feat and secondly because he was afraid of offending the Sun God Ra whom they were erected for. At night there was a “Sound and Light” show at the Karnak Temple. This is one of three where guests walk through in stages and different portions of the temple are lit up dramatically while up to four voice actors relate specific stories through strategically placed loudspeakers. It was pretty cool to see, but VERY expensive. While daytime admission to the temple was only about $10, the evening Sound and light show was $18.

The Valley of the Kings was pretty amazing, but we were sadly rushed by our guide (Sam) who seemed to want to be finished for the day by 1:00 PM? The Kings built many pyramids over the years, but they eventually realized that it might be easier to just sink a shaft into a mountain and make a tomb in their to protect their afterlife riches from thieves. The valley was easily guarded, and so many tombs were built there over a large span of years. As soon as a king gained power he would initiate building his pyramid or a tomb shaft and rooms in the Valley of the Kings. These would typically take 20-50 years to construct, but as soon as the King died the new King would start his own rather than spending time and money finishing off his predecessor’s. At the entrance visitor’s center there was a clear acetate sheet showing the relief of the area’s hills along with mapped out 3D clear acetate shafts where all of the Kings tombs were. It was VERY cool, and I explained to our guide that this was the type of thing I did as a job back home.

The Valley of the King’s was where Tut’s tomb was found. The entrance had been covered by the excavated ruble from newer tombs close by. Tut’s tomb was actually very small and with a very short shaft because he died so young and didn’t get to finish much of it. His was most famous simply because robbers had never discovered it and the possessions and treasures in it were all intact. That gave archaeologists a thorough glimpse into what was burried in the tombs without having to rely solely on the wall scripts describing the process.

Hat Chep Sou temple was built by a woman who took control of the throne from her step-son. She had many impressive acheivments to her name, and this grand stair-ridden throne to worship the gods was large with many incredible statutes and architectual work. It was built a few km away from the valley of the King’s & Valley of the Queen’s, and was built into the side of a mountain. Our guide said that locals and tourists can walk through the hills in between these ancient places, but anyone seen in the hills after dark is shot. I figured that they’d send a reconnaissance troop out first, but he insisted that no, anyone up there in the dark is assumed to be a robber and will be automatically shot. I’m still unsure of how absolute that truth is, but it’s worrisome even to consider.

The Valley of the Queens was obviously far less impressive than the Men’s valley of course. I say this with such an assumption because of the still strongly apparent extreme lack of respect for women in this area of the world. In the VOTQ there was a tomb for some Prince that died quite young. His passage and rooms at the end were entirely average compared to the others except for the colors. While all of the tombs origianally had an abundance of strong and beautiful colors painted throughout, very little has remained. This princes tomb’s wall and ceiling scene’s were still very colorful and extraordinary to see. Every where we went, every turn of our bodies, or glance in any direction the Egyptian tomb “guards” tried extorting money from us in the form of tips. I have grown VERY weary of this behavior and respond in kind to them now. Similarly for the shopkeepers and tout’s that attack people walking down the street. Luke even took up my tactics the other day to combat being hassled. The shocked horror on these guys faces at being told to buy a battery or a small stick for “best price!” in an incessant barrage of decreasing (yet very outrageous) prices with barely taking a breath. It was sweet justice, and in the end most of them have gotten a good laugh knowing how much of a pain in the butt they are when they do that to us.

Comments are closed.