My husband and I disembarked from our Nile cruise ship early morning 5/28. Dropped off our luggage to the Steigenberger Nile Palace. Our excursion to Abydos and Dendera on 5/28 was covered in a separate trip report. This covers the remainder of our stay in Luxor.
5/28: We arrive back to the Nile Palace around 6:00 pm. We are tired as our trip to A & D has been from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm. We formally check in and I get exchange some large LE bills for smaller ones. We are told we've been upgraded to a front Nile view room but it only has 1 bed and we prefer 2 so it's back to a side view Nile room. Our room is #215 and has a nice view of the pool and the Nile. The room consists of 2 double beds, a sitting area of 2 armchairs & table, desk, TV, fridge with mini bar. The bathroom is very spacious and yea-a regular bathtub! On the balcony are 2 chairs and a table. The construction that has been discussed on the forum is never heard in our room or even when we're at the pool. We can see where the work is occurring-on the top floor of the middle section. By the time we settle in it's late and we're too tired to venture far so we opt for dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants-Casa di Napoli. I have a yummy dish of penne pasta with a spicy red sauce. My husband choses seafood soup and a good sized salad of tomatoes & mozzarella cheese. For desert we share 3 scoops of gelato-chocolate, strawberry, and carmelito. While we dine we are entertained by 3 couples doing a series of dances and a belly dancer in the inner courtyard area. We leave and the entertainment is still going on but we have a 3:30 am wake up call for tomorrow.
5/29: We are in the lobby before 4:00 am. It's so quiet. There are 2 others-a man with his grandson. We are waiting for our balloon ride pick up. Our rep is there at 4:00 am my husband and I get into a large van. We pick up some others-there are 10 of us. I had instructed Freelancers to book the hot air balloon ride for us but was never told which company. The rep has on a shirt with the name Dream Balloons. 4 in the group are Dutch, 2 are from New Zealand, and 2 from Hong Kong. We step aoard a boat named The General to take us over to the West Bank. We are given tea/coffee and biscuits. It's still dark and so quiet. We get to the launching area where we see other groups and some other balloons-all flat on the ground. We wait and wait and wait. The sun rises and we're told no going up as weather conditions make it unsafe. Disappointed but glad to see safety is primary concern. Fortunately we will be able to try again tomorrow morning but refunds will have to be issued to those who can't try again. We get back in the van, get on the boat back to the East Bank, get in the van and are dropped off at our respective hotels. We arrive back to our hotel and decide to drop off some items for laundry service. We go down for the breakfast buffet. There's plenty of food, a good variety, and it's good. There's an egg station similar to other hotels where you can have an omelet, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, etc.
We decide to go to the Luxor Museum. There are taxis lined up in front of the hotel and we're bombarded. We pick one, get the price which seemed high but hey what do we know? It's a very short drive to the museum. Admission to the museum is 80LE pp. I'm surprised-no cameras/pictures allowed. Must say we were impressed by the museum-well laid out and clearly labeled. We see a mummy thought to be of Ramses I and are knocked over as we read it was discovered in Niagara Falls (close to our home) sold to Atlanta who gifted it to Egypt! The green schist statue of Ramses III, a large pink granite head of Amenophis III, jug eared Senusert III from the 12th Dynasty, alabaster Sobek with croc head and human body, some busts of Akhenaten from his temple at Karnak, some things from Tut's tomb-bed, model boats,gold inlaid head of cow representing an aspect of Hathor. There are other mummies, canopic jars, and lots more statues. There are pictures/prints from 1800s time Luxor. Can do this in an hour but if you want to read all the labels/descriptions 2 hours would be better. We spend 1 1/2 hrs. here. Our taxi is waiting for us at the arranged time. He tells us that the plan is for a pathway to be built along the corniche by the river here for the caleches-no taxis or cars to be allowed. Sounds like a good idea I guess. As I'm reading my journal to post this part of our trip I realize I have made a huge error. On someone else's post about current conditions in Luxor I had mentioned that our taxi driver had charged us 160 LE for the trip to and from the museum. The 160 LE was the admission price. The cost for the taxi there and back was 50LE. I'm glad I didn't mention any names on that post. I'm hitting myself in the head as I type this on my computer!!
We return to our hotel. I get some money from the ATM right in the lobby. We head out to Arkwright's to buy some drinks and snacks. Immediately, caleche and taxi drivers are in our faces. We explain we're going across the street and they mutter under their breath. They are not overly rude but not polite either. Arkwright's was easy to find and less than 5 minute walk from our hotel. We browse, buy water and some snacks. It's a very nice store witha very friendly guy by the register where we paid for our purchases. Thought prices here were fair. We decide to spend time at the pool. We're given towels by Gamal who also directs us to our sunbeds-1 in the shade of the umbrella for my husband and 1 in the sun for me-perfect!! I notice a fair amount of people cooling off in the pool. The pool is quite large and there are plenty of sun beds. We spend a few hours here. It's so relaxing.
We have decided to do afternoon tea at the Old Winter Palace. The concierge calls to verify the times at the OWP. It is very hot, I'm told the walk is maybe 30 minutes. I decide to hire a caleche from the group in front of the hotel. I chose one with a young, smiling driver-not aggressive-and a well cared for horse. He states 5LE to drive us to the OWP. That seems like too little and I like his non aggressive manner so I give him much more. I will be more generous if subjected to this kind of behavior rather than the almost nasty hassle from others. The OWP is a grand place. Tea is held in a room that makes me feel I'm back in time. We have a pot of tea and a 3 tier plate of small sandwiches, some cake loaves and some fancier sweets. I expected scones but there were none. The food was ok-not out of this world great but ok. Price for the tea for 2 was 150LE. I've experienced tea in Hong Kong at the Peninsula Hotel and at the Princess of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Both of those places were way more expensive but the finger sandwiches were divine and we had scones with clotted cream-food quality much better but like I said way more expensive-around 2-3 times more cost. We certainly had plenty to eat-so much that we didn't have dinner later. I've found that the heat has taken away my appetite (when I arrive home I happily discover I've lost 10 lbs. over the 2 months we spent in Egypt and Greece). The caleche driver who brought us isn't around so I opt to return by caleche whereas my husband decides to walk. I ask the driver to take me by the Emilio Hotel, Luxor Temple-a bit of sightseeing. We pass a market area and tons of caleches by the Emilio. I arrive back as my husband arrives. We spend a lovely time on our balcony watching the sun set. Early to bed as another wake up call for 3:30 am. I'm going to be really put out if it's another no go!!
5/30: We're picked up by the same Dream rep at 4:00 am. We pick up others, get to the ferry/boat area. Same routine-tea/coffee, biscuits, etc. Again at the launch area but this time it's a go!! I start taking pictures-my battery is dead and I didn't bring the spare! Luckily I have my other camera-whew. Taking pictures of other balloons. There were 7 or 8 balloons that flew this morning. Awesome to witness this. We are then told we will be in a different balloon-sky cruise. I didn't ask why but my husband said he overheard a discussion about weight. Hmm does that mean the 2 of us are too heavy for the Dream balloon?? Our new group is larger but so is the basket. Our captain Antar is very thorough in our take off and landing briefing. The basket is divided into sections and my husband and I are in a corner section with another guy. Each of the 4 corners has 3 people in it. The other 4 sections each have 4 people in it. There's a total of 28 people plus the captain. We get in, the balloon goes up and we're on our way. This is so exciting. The sun will rise as we soar in the sky. We see so many amazing sights-Hatshepsut's Temple, Ramesseum, Medinet Habu, Colossi of Memnon, and more. We drift over the Nile and see the cruise ships. We go back to the West bank area-farm fields, house roof areas. We see the Dream balloon has already landed. It's been 30 minutes of flying now. We will be up in the air for 55 minutes-there's only 2 or 3 of us still up. We see the ground crew in the truck. They're heading for the landing area. OH oh, there's a corn field and next to it a smaller area of dirt. Our captain and ground crew skillfully land/maneuver our balloon in the dirt area very close to the corn field. We're all in the landing pose and everything goes as it should. The captain thanks us and suggests we may want to consider a tip for the ground crew. It's not mandatory. I hand over 50 LE. I hope that's ok as I didn't bring much money with me. We are taken back to our hotel by the Dream rep and given 2 t shirts and 2 certificates. He tells us we are lucky in that we were up for almost 60 minutes. I agree we had a great time even if we were up at 3:30 am two mornings in a row. It was so worth it! I recommend this wholeheartedly.
We return to our hotel and head for breakfast. I have the concierge arrange for a driver to take us to the West bank for the Ramesseum and M. Habu. The cost is 180LE for the morning. We stop by the ticket office. I buy our tickets for the Ramesseum and M. Habu. Admission to each is 60LE pp. I have my guide book and notes as I want to tour these sites on my own. We are driven to the Ramesseum and our driver will wait there for us. There is no one else there. I am awed by what I see. If only it had remained intact. A guardian is with us even though I try to explain I don't need a guide. He is so friendly, trying out his English and pointing out what he thinks are the most important areas which do coincide with my notes. I take pictures of the fallen pieces of the colossi of Ramses II. Scenes of the battle of Qadesh. The relief showing some of his sons, appearing with Atum and Mont and kneeling before the Theban Triad. The massive columns in the Great Hypostyle Hall. We spend an hour here. The guardian doesn't ask but I give him 25LE and he seems happy.
Our driver takes us to M. Habu and indicates we can meet him at a nearby cafe when we're done. There's no other tourists at M. Habu which honors Ramses III. Another guardian attaches himself to us. We see reliefs of campaigns and smiting. Scenes of hunting. He shows us areas that are roped off. Some santctuaries. Then he has his hand out-clearly he wants some baksheesh. I think ok I'll give him the same amount I gave the other guardian. He wants 100LE-just because he opened a couple of roped off areas which I really didn't need to see. I'm upset at this and he realizes I'm not happy with him. I make it clear I'm not handing over that amount. I give him 50LE but now my tour of this site is spoiled by this experience. We leave even though there's more I had planned to see. I can't get out of there fast enough. We meet our driver and I'm so upset that I've decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. It's also very hot and I'm tired after our early morning start. If we had gone up in the balloon the day before I probably would have also added Howard Carter's House, Temple of Seti I, tombs of the nobles making a whole day instead of the 1/2 day we did. On the way back to our hotel I have our driver stop by the Colossi of Memnon so I can take some close up pictures.
When we return to our hotel we decide the pool is where we'll spend the afternoon. Lunch is junk food-chips, ice cream... We decide to go to the Lantern for dinner as it's been recommended on the forum. We brave the caleche and taxi drivers walking the few minutes to the restaurant. We don't have a reservation but luckily we get a table. There are only about 12 tables and the place is almost full. We're greeted by the owner Debbie. By what we observe there are lots of repeat/regular visitors here. We order the specials-beef tangine and chicken coconut curry. Desert is peach/apple cobbler. Food was delicious and portions ample. Prices very reasonable. A lovely way to end our time in Luxor.
We slowly walk back to our hotel taking in the sights and sounds of the evening. Wake up call for 4:00 am tomorrow as we will be picked up at 5:00 am to go to the airport for our flight to Sharm where we have 5 free nights-scuba diving for my husband and beach/pool relaxation for me.
I loved Luxor except for the annoying hassles. Would I return? Probably as there's so much more to see that interests me. My husband says he'll return only because he feels he has learned from our first experience and will be able to handle whatever the next time. i"m going to do an album of pictures just on our time in Luxor. I'll post the link when it's done and I know I should have done that first but my brain isn't working the way it should. Sorry.
Next report will cover Sharm el Sheikh.Edited: 6:13 pm, August 03, 2011