It was an early start for what would be a 700 km drive and some experiences to last a lifetime. The opportunity to visit the ancient sites of the new Kingdom while staying in Hurghada was too good to be missed. Though the trip was expensive in comparison to the coach tour, we were glad of the freedom it brought to explore at our own pace. The 6am start was a bit of a shock but it meant we were at our first destination by 10.00. Mohammed and our Driver Ahmed made the time disappear. The driving is not for the faint hearted but at no time did Ahmed make the experience feel unsafe. The basic rules of the road do not seem to apply consistently and as you might experience in India or Italy, the horn is one of the most important parts of the car. We stopped for a rest half way across upper Egypt (the high desert between the red sea and the Nile). This was an opportunity for being harassed by traders as well as a chance to eat breakfast.
Luxor came about 1.5 hours later and the contrast between the desert and the greenery is stark. Busy communities, people and animals, poverty and happiness all rolled into one. Arrival is punctuated by many stops at check points where “2 Ingles” was announced to the guards.
The roads seem to have speed limits but not sure how rigorously they are applied. Crazy acceleration and fierce braking for the many speed bumps. At all times however interesting things to see, poverty and questionable sanitation, a huge contest to the bubble of a westernized luxury hotel.
As we approached the historical sites, Mohammed came to life, telling the story of the Pharaohs and orientating us to the temples at Karnak. The site is simply amazing. Having traveled extensively to ancient sites in Asia and Europe, this is by far the most incredible experience. Time was short but enough to see and hear and reflect back on the stories of Joseph and his brothers, of Moses and to consider how this ancient civilization was so developed while much of the current first world was living in much darker times.
Moving on to the valley of the Kings, we spent time in three of the main tombs including the extra cost to visit Tutankhamen, where though no photographs are allowed, it is plain to see how simple that space is in comparison to the two for Ramases 4 & 6
The sheer engineering and the stories of the 12 hour journey between life and death and their associated hourly challenges gives an insight into the religious beliefs of the past.
Then on to see the Hatshepsut temple. Restored in the 1960’s this looks immaculate from a distance. Close up the scale and vista towards the Nile are stunning.
Two visits to a papyrus and Alabaster jar manufacturers were interesting and potentially wallet damaging. Sales pressures simply enormous so be sure you really want what is on offer.
The return journey was completed with a 40 minute trip across the Nile. Again an extra cost but worth the opportunity at the end of the day to see the temples from the river; to get a sense of history and of the current life of the ancient city of Thebes.
Thanks to Mohammed and to Ahmed for a splendid day out.