After four days in the Western desert, we arrived in Luxor, badly needed a good shower. After a bit of freshening up, we galloped our way to the Karnak Temple, one of Egypt greatest temple complexes, with horse carriages. With 2000 years of history inscripted on the walls, it will take our guides a lifetime to explain everything. Fortunately, he chose the most important scenes only. Among all structures in Karnak Temple, the Obelisk built by Queen Hatshepsut, a one-piece of granite few stories high, stood out to be the most breathtaking.
That evening, we had dinner on a rooftop at a family restaurant on the west bank of the Nile. We took the opportunity to celebrate the birthday of Rachel, followed by Sufi dancing with a traditional Egyptian band.
Before sunrise the following morning, we crossed the Nile and arrived at the hot air balloon location. The bright fire creates silhouettes of balloons against the dark sky. We practiced our safety procedures and started the ascend. Sunrise is always memorizing, especially when you are high above ground. Great visibility allowed us to see the Valley of the King and Queen clearly, with farms surrounded by mud brick houses below. After 45 min, we 'evacuated' a few cows and landed on a farm grazed by villagers who stared at us as if we were extraterrestials.
Riding into the Valley of the King on donkeys is definitely one of my highlight. Matt was matched with Willy, one of the troublemaker donkey. True to its reputations, Matt had more than a bumpy ride with the uncontrollable Willy. The valley of the King is where pharaohs from the New Kingdom built their tombs. We entered the tombs of Ramses IV, V, I(mummy in Cairo museum) and King Tut (with mummy in glass case). All were elaborately-decorated tombs with ancient colors still remained on the walls. Word simply cannot describe my respect to these great timeless leaders of Egypt.
After a short break visiting a local alabaster factory, I couldn't resist but to visit the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the only true woman pharaoh in Egyptian history. This mighty temple is only one of many that was built strategically along the mountain in the West Bank. After a short stay in Luxor, we headed our way to Aswan, the third largest city in Egypt, after Cairo and Alexandria. We made an afternoon visit and enjoyed beautiful sunset at the Philae Temple on Agilika Island dedicated to goddess Isis. That evening, we enjoyed a family dinner on a simple island where the nubians reside.
After a terrorist attack 10 years ago in this area, security became very tight all over Egypt and checkpoints are everywhere. A convoy of tour buses led by military police lined up at 4am the next morning from Aswan to Abu Simbel, one of the greatest and many temple theatened by the rising Nile water. Situated along the man-made Lake Nasser (created by the building of the High Dam in the 70s), Abu Simbel was relocated block by block and is a symbol of eternity for Ramses II and one of his most beloved Nubian wives, Nefeteti. Reading the stories on the wall is truly a humble experience for all who make their visit every day.
We arrived back in Aswan around 3pm and immediately jumped into a felucca, a traditional Nile sailboat, our accomodation for the next 3 nights. With no toilet or engine, only a shade awning, the felucca sail slowly down the Nile. For 3 days, we relaxed on the mattresses, ate, read, talked, played cards etc.
Most of us, coming from totally different worlds, had quite a hard time to adjust. Fortunately, we all got used to watching life pass by along the Nile and enjoying the nightly bonfire with our Nubian crews.