Day 2,100 of Traveling the World | Luxor, Egypt | October 31, 2023

Twenty-one hundred days of being purposely homeless – today’s landmark for us. Being in Luxor was a real treat. Our ship, Virgin Cruise’s Resilient Lady, docked at Safaga, across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia. The bus trip was four hours long, but was interesting. While the first hour was through the Sahara Desert, the next three were through small villages filled with children, people shopping and waiting for a bus, and various shopkeepers and vendors. Whenever we smiled or waved, every single person acknowledged us with smiles and friendliness – an enthusiastic wave back, a nod of the head, a big smile, and several grown men blew kisses! Some looked startled that we were even noticing them. So that made it a lot of fun.

The Temples at Karnak in Luxor are most impressive – huge carved columns and statues and walls constructed of huge slabs of stones. Walking around is dizzying, feeling so connected to the past royalty of Egypt. It is the only place on earth where ram-headed sphinxes exist, and they made many – all lined up in the courtyard at the entrance.

The Valley of the Kings was chosen for burials once Pharaohs realized that when erecting a pyramid, the pyramid signified that a wealthy person (with expensive jewels and other items) was buried there – hence, ripe for grave-robbing. But they needed a pyramid shape to safely enter the afterlife. In the Valley of the Kings, there is a mountain that has a natural pyramidal shape, and so it was perfect for royal burials. The valley has 63 total royal tombs, all constructed in the same fashion. King Tut is here, and we just had to enter and see his tomb. We were surprised to see his head and feet – explanation below. With an entrance ticket to the temple complex, we were allowed to enter three tombs, and truthfully, that was all the time we had. There are still intricate carvings and vibrant colors in the tombs, which were magnificent. If only we were Egyptologists – we would know their significance and meaning. Until walking into these tombs, the only times we saw depictions of gods and hieroglyphics was in newly constructed places, like the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas. We had seen photos, of course, like everyone, but walking through and knowing that people 3,000 to 4,000 years ago had spent their lives building and decorating these areas made it feel like sacred ground. It is an amazing place to see and visit,

At the Karnak Temples, this is a good place to start. The Big Guy is a Pharaoh, thought of as a god by the Egyptians. The teeny-tiny figure who stands atop his feet and can fit between his legs? No, not a child – HIS WIFE! He is everything, while she is an afterthought. Glad that has changed – at least, in Western Culture. (By the way – when sculpted, this Pharaoh was dead, as his hands are crossed over his chest and his legs have him standing still.)
This Pharaoh was alive when this statue was sculpted – his hands are not folded over his chest, and he is possibly walking forward.
Rows and rows of sculpted columns adorn the Karnak Temples. A lot of the vibrant colors still exist.
Hatshepsut’s Obelisk, the second-tallest in the world. She was Pharaoh from 1479-1458 BC, started construction of the Karnak Temples complex, and assumed men’s affectations, such as a beard and male garb. Interestingly, due to religious and ritual reasons, her building accomplishments were destroyed. When it came to this obelisk, it could not be destroyed due to its inscription to the Sun God, Ra, at the bottom – so a wall was built around it so that it could not be seen…the only way it could be “destroyed.” This is all of the wall that remains.
A walking Pharaoh- so he was alive when sculpted.
Another large, walking Pharaoh whose face is lost to the ravages of time.
A small gateway in the complex guarded by two statues.
This walkway is lined with huge statues…it felt like an Honor Guard, walking through.
The walls were all sculpted in figures and hieroglyphics.
The outer courtyard.
The only place in the world where there are sphinxes with ram’s heads is here at Karnak Temples.
The entrance has these walls, mostly standing. They are the youngest part of the complex, dating to around 400 BC, as the Pharaohs would have wanted to see their statues and tombs first, so this was the last part to be built.
Outside of Karnak is this debris field, where bits and pieces of stone, columns, and structures are gathered.
The Nile River, lifeblood of Egypt. We saw quite a number of river cruises operating in this area, as Luxor is always one of the highlights of a river cruise.
Valley of the Kings, with the pyramid-shaped hill to the left of the sunbeam.
In all 63 royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, there is an intricately carved entrance hall like this one, listing that particular Pharaoh’s accomplishments.
A sarcophagus with carved walls and columns and a still-vibrant ceiling painting...3,500 years later.
Close-up of the sarcophagus. In all of the tombs we entered, there are multiple depictions of people and creatures, as you can see on the walls.
Entering King Tut’s tomb, considered a minor Pharaoh, as he died at age 19 without accomplishing much. But his tomb was bound with riches and funerary objects. Most of the others had been robbed centuries before.
The wall paintings in Tut’s tomb were also still quite vibrant, as they were only uncovered 100 years ago by British archaeologist Howard Carter.
A boat sailing into the afterlife.
We have heard and know so much about The Boy King – King Tut, but we had never seen his mummy. Meet his mummy…or, rather, his head and feet. We paid an extra $12 each to enter his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Apparently, because he died so suddenly, the embalmers did a rush job on him and didn’t let him dry out properly. When Howard Carter, et. al., attempted to unwrap him, his torso fell apart. That is covered by cloth, as our tour guide said it is a “gruesome” sight. So, head and feet only.
A close-up of his feet – not a pretty sight.
More of the amazingly vibrant colors in King Tut’s tomb. It would have been a shame if all of this art had been locked away forever, as intended.
We love how frivolous this looks, with figures upside-down in circles and a band of animals watching over the tomb – birds, a scarab beetle, a snake…
On the right is the Egyptian god Apis, revered for his uniqueness and importance. Like all of the walls we saw, he is depicted several more times in a row, along with four snakes, depicting royalty, divinity, and protection.
More boats sailing into the afterlife, along with gods and animals.
The burial chamber of Ramses IV, richly decorated.
Ceiling of Ramses’ entrance hall – the figures walk in all directions on the ceiling.
A Pharaoh sarcophagus in the Valley of the Kings.
As we drove along, close to Luxor, we spied several guard towers with automatic weapons. As one drives through the less-populated areas of the country, you must pass through many police checkpoints. Once in the city, every so often you observe police outposts with one or more officers watching the road with a vehicle pointed toward the road ready to respond to calls. In general, police presence in Egypt is quite vigorous and obvious.
Typical in Egypt, houses are built with rebar on top of the house, implying that further construction will take place. In reality, it is to avoid paying taxes, as the house is “never finished.” This family’s children may build the next level, and the next, always making sure there is rebar on top. We noticed this many years ago when we visited here. It makes the all of Egypt look as if it is going through renovation or repair, or as if some recent disaster has struck the entire country.
The first hour of our four-hour drive from Safaga to Luxor was through the Sahara Desert. The view didn’t vary much.
Sunset over the West Bank of Luxor, looking very Egyptian.

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