Day Three: Monday, 11/25/19
Farrah River Cruise
I did say that this was vacation bootcamp... So it was time for us leave Cairo behind for to embark on the next leg of our journey. We had a 2:30am call time to board the bus and off we went back to Cairo airport to fly to our next destination Luxor. Then we boarded on our private river cruise ship as we journeyed down the beautiful Nile River for the next 5 days. I couldn't be more excited to actually be living out one of my fantasies, cruising down the Nile River in the land of the Ancient Egyptians! So it's...Goodbye Cario for now and hello Luxor as we (100 people) boarded our river cruise ship Farrah River Cruise. Once all 100 people were securely checked onto our boat we instantly began our journey heading down the Nile River heading to our next amazing destinations.
Experience the ancient treasures of Egypt on a five-day cruise. The Nile is the longest river in the world, with over 4,000 miles of snaking water meandering from Lake Victoria in Uganda through South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt before reaching the Mediterranean Sea, where it delivers 10.5 million cubic feet of water each day. It’s the ancient lifeblood of Egypt, supplying fresh water to centuries of civilization, and it’s where you’ll find many of ancient Egypt’s treasures. The sheer power of this river makes it a wonder of the natural world, but it feels almost mythical like it’s been created by something besides gravity. This is, after all, the land of gods and goddesses and the people who worshipped them.
The Nile River splits Luxor into two parts: the East Bank and the West Bank. The East Bank of Luxor is the location of Luxor town. This is where most Egyptians live and work and it is also where you will find the majority of hotels and restaurants. There are a few notable sites to visit on this side of the river, but two of these (Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple) are two of the most spectacular sites to visit in Egypt.
Luxor Temple: was the ancient city of Thebes. From 1570 to 1069 BCE, Thebes was the capital of Egypt. It became an important center of worship of the god Amun. During the period of 1353 to 1336 BCE, this was the largest city in the world, with a population of 80,000 people. Luxor Temple is located within the modern city of Luxor (and Karnak Temple is only about a 15-minute drive from it). It was originally built by Amenhotep III, one of the great builders of ancient Egypt, from about 1390 to 1352 BC.
The West Bank of Luxor is where the ancient Egyptians buried the dead. Each night, the sun sets on the West Bank, so this became the necropolis, the area that is filled with tombs and mortuary temples, including the famous Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. You can visit both the East and West Banks in one very busy day, but for the best experience, we recommend spending a minimum of two full days in Luxor.
Karnak Temple is actually the 2nd most visited site in Egypt, second only to the pyramids in Giza! It’s the largest religious complex ever constructed and was developed over 1,500 years (starting around 2,000 BC). It’s dedicated to Amun, Mut and Khonsu. This temple blew me away, it was even more breathtaking in person than I imagined! Karnak is also the biggest temple in Egypt and the second biggest temple in the world.
Great Hypostyle Hall
If you only have time for one activity in Luxor, I would suggest that you go to Karnak Temple! I loved exploring Karnak because it is actually a complex filled with many temples! You could spend many hours here if you wanted to, visiting all of the different nooks and crannies. Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt is the second-largest ancient religious site in the world, after the Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Construction at the massive site began during the reign of Senusret I in the Middle Kingdom (between 2050 BC and 1710 BC), when the city was still known as Thebes, and continued into the times of the Ptolemaic Kingdom (around 305 BC). The site was revered by more than 30 different pharaohs and each one added something more to the complex.
The photo above shows the Great Hypostyle Hall, which was erected between 1290 and 1224 BC. The 54,000 square foot hall was originally under roof, supported by 134 giant sandstone columns carved in the form of papyrus stalks. The roof caved in long ago, but most of the columns remain. Each measures nearly 33 feet in circumference and is carved top to bottom with inscriptions, battle scenes, religious symbols, and even the terms of a peace treaty. The most remarkable part of the columns, however, are the capitals, which are designed in the shape of papyrus flowers that are closed buds, opening, and fully blooming.
The obelisk that is visible beyond the columns is one of two that were installed by Queen Hatshepsut, a Queen who became the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. Only one survived; it is said to be the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth. While undeniably huge, the part of the complex currently open to the public is only one out of four main areas. Excavation work, restoration, and research continue in other areas. Today, Karnak Temple is the most visited site in Egypt after the Pyramids of Giza. I literally felt like I had stepped back into time. Another interesting fact is that it was built over 2000 years and it was the largest religious building ever constructed!
Tip: The men who work in the temple will try to advise you where the best places they think to take a picture are. Like this picture and be prepared to have single dollar bills to give as a tip.
Day Four: Tuesday, 11/26/19
Valley of The Kings:
Our first stop was Valley of the Kings, an outstanding archaeological site that keep the burial place of most of the pharaohs of Egypt. To date, 63 royal tombs have been discovered here. The location of these tombs wasn't a pure accident, the Pharaohs were buried on the West Bank of the Nile river, the same place where the sun goes each day, representing the end or death of the day. Pharaohs were brought there at the end of their days on Earth, just before starting their journey to the afterlife. Every month in Egypt there are at least one or two new discoveries. Egyptians say that they’ve only uncovered 30% of their history!
Valley of the Kings
The pyramids of Giza are where the Pharaohs of old are buried, but the new kingdom Pharaohs chose to have their tombs in the Valley of Kings. Many notable Pharaohs are buried here including King Tut and Ramses II. They stocked the tomb full of treasures and whatever else they felt they might need in the next world. One of my favorite things about the tombs is how well intact the colors still are today.
One of the earliest examples of a necropolis, (literally, a ‘city of the dead’). A veritable burial ground of the great pharaohs and noblemen of Egypt for a period of time that spans 500 years, the Valley of the Kings & Queens remains one of the richest sources of Ancient Egyptian history.
I had the chance to go into 4 tombs, but there are many many others. I absolutely loved the experience. I was so intrigued by all of the different colors and hieroglyphics. My little girl self was absolutely dying inside. I loved Egyptian history so much as a child so actually being here and seeing it was such a surreal feeling.
Cuz Toni and I geeking out in Ramses IV Tomb
TIP: If you want to take pictures in the tombs, with a regular camera (cell phone camera is free) then you will have to pay a little bit extra. Personally, I thought that it was worth it!
In Valley of the Kings, we went inside the tomb of Ramesses IX. Because the temples are underground, the colors are vivid without ever being touched up or repainted. It is incredible to see something so well preserved thanks to being untouched by outside elements.
Due to many tombs getting robbed, the royal tombs were quickly moved and hidden in what’s now known as the Valley of the Kings. Because the royals were buried with all their treasures, pyramids drew so much attention and clearly marked where tombs were. The mountains in this area are shaped like pyramids which symbolize success in the afterlife, making it a natural fit as a burial ground and hide away. one of the earliest examples of a necropolis, (literally, a ‘city of the dead’). A veritable burial ground of the great pharaohs and noblemen of Egypt for a period of time that spans 500 years, the Valley of the Kings & Queens remains one of the richest sources of Ancient Egyptian history.
We continued our visit of the West Bank of the Nile by exploring Hatshepsut Temple, a mortuary temple built for Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who was the first and one of the only three women who become Pharaoh in over 3000 years of ancient Egyptian history.
I love this temple!! As one of my favorite spots, I feel inclined to share the history of the place, and of the woman for whom it was all created! Can you believe it? Here’s a bit of history of Queen Hatshepsut to give you a better understanding of why her mortuary temple is so fantastic!
Hatshepsut Temple was one of the temples I was most excited to visit because of her power in Egypt. Hatshepsut was born circa 1508 B.C. Beginning in 1478 B.C., Queen Hatshepsut reigned over Egypt for more than 20 years. She served as queen alongside her husband, Thutmose II, but after his death, she claimed the role of pharaoh while acting as regent to her step-son, Thutmose III. She reigned peaceably, building temples and monuments, resulting in the flourishing of Egypt. After her death, Thutmose III erased her inscriptions and tried to eradicate her memory.
Hatshepsut Temple is located not far from the Valley of the Kings, under the cliffs of Deir el-Bahari. The temple is quite beautiful and the setting within the natural red rocks of the valley is quite extraordinary. She is well known for her huge power, and it is said she reigned Egypt like a man. She was considered one of the most successful and longest-ruling pharaohs in Egypt.
Colossi of Memnon
As we left Hatshepsut Temple we made a quick visit to the Colossi of Memno. It was as easy as pulling off the road into a small parking lot to view these two faceless protectors of the west bank of Luxor! Each of these massive statues were carved from a single block of stone, and weigh around 1000 tons!! They’re impossible to miss and sit at the entrance to a former funerary temple of Amenophis III. Evidently, they were built in honor of Memnon, the African king killed by Achilles in the Trojan War.
Years later in 27 BC, an earthquake caused a great deal of damage, which we can see here today. Local authorities do not trust the stones not to fall apart and injure tourists, so they keep these perimeter ropes up to protect us as well as the statues. Located just west of Luxor, the Colossi of Memnon are two statues that are over 3,400 years old. They used to be identical, both representing the Pharaoh Amenhotep III – originally flanking his mortuary temple, which was lost through flooding. He reigned in Egypt during the Dynasty XVIII.
Back onboard The Farrah River we sailed down the Nile while I marveled at the lush green surroundings of the Nile. We passed tiny farmhouses and cottages, painted with the soft pastel hues of the Egyptian bounty–shades of apricot, mango, and banana. Mimosa and jacaranda trees surrounded the houses and mosques, while tall reeds grew thick on the banks of the river. The afternoon trailed into the evening, wowing us with a spectacular sunset. Now on our way to Edfu!
Next Up on Day Five: 11/27/19 Edfu and The Temple of Horus!