Monday, 21 June 2010

3am starts and incredible views

As the sun began to dip lower in the sky we left Karnak and moved onto Luxor temple, much smaller than the huge complex of the afternoon, but still a lovely place to watch the sun set and get a major shock - walking towards the temple we spotted a couple of familiar faces, and found that by complete coincidence, we'd ended up in the same place, at the same time, as a couple we met whilst travelling through East Africa last year!

After a shocked greeting, we spent the evening together, which was a wonderful catch-up, but unfortunately didn't help much towards our 2.30am wake-up call the following morning...

If I were to recommend one extravagant activity whilst travelling through Egypt, it would be our adventure that morning. After piling into a small, cramped minibus, then offloading for a short trip on a ferry, we were greeted with this sight...

After watching the sun set inside Luxor temple the evening before, the following morning we were able to watch it rise from the basket of a balloon. The ride was incredible, taking us over the Valley of the Queens, swooping low as we approached the Ramesseum and revealing the temple of Hatshepsut nestled deep within the pink-tinted valley. Much cheaper than a balloon ride back home would be, it lasted almost an hour and felt surprisingly longer, as the calm, peaceful morning lit up before our eyes.

After landing, we continued our day with a trip through the Valley of the Kings and Queens, a ground level look at Hatshepsut's monumental temple and the Colossi of Memnon. The whole area, almost completely exposed to the sun, becomes unbearably hot for most of the day, and I think that this is the one place of all the major Egyptian sites where a booked tour isn't the worst idea - if only for the air-conditioned bus that could give some temporary relief from the stifling temperatures outside.

Picking which tombs to enter (you can only go into three in each area) is difficult - we saw examples of early tombs and then later ones to see the differences between the style of decoration, but whichever are chosen, it is definitely worth heading inside to see the elaborate artwork and consider the humid, thick conditions the artists would have worked in.

After the extremely early start, by the end of the afternoon we were completely exhausted, and ready for a day or two at a slightly more relaxed pace!

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