The hotel we booked at Luxor is Winter Palace Hotel. The rate is very reasonable so we reserved 4 nights, including one that we were going to Aswan. We didn’t know the Hotel is a heritage site when we booked it, but it is hard to miss once you step in. We were shocked by the lavish garden – After the chaotic in Cairo and wildness in White Desert, this was like paradise to us.
When we woke up the next morning, we could see some hot air balloons from the balcony. Taking the balloon to see Luxor, Nile River and the West Bank from above is a popular activity.
Some visitors spend 7 days in Luxor but we really had only one and a half days. We were going to the most famous temple first in the morning – Karnak Temple. Karnak is the largest ancient religious site in the world. In Egyptian myth, it is the dwelling place of god Amon-Re, his wife Mut and their son Khonsu, the moon god. In pop culture, it appears in several movies, such as Death on the Nile, The Mummy Returns and the Transformer 2. Different from most other Egyptian temples, Karnak was developed and used over the period of thousand years by more than thirty pharaohs. Although most of the temples are ruined, roof are fallen, obelisks are broken and statues are demolished, its massive size and complexity still remind the visitors of the grandeur of its past. The most impressive one is the Hypostyle Hall that features 134 columns in 16 rows, where the middle two rows reaches 24m (80 feet) in height. Another interesting site is the granite Scarab statue, it is worshiped by ancient Egyptian as a symbol of sun god Ra.
Our plan for the afternoon was to go to Aswan and stay there for the night. From Luxor to Aswan takes 3-hour drive. We didn’t book the tour through large agency, but followed the recommendation from posts on TripAdvisor and arranged the tour with a local private agent. After lunch, we met our driver and guide and set off to Aswan on a minivan.
Luxor is a small city, while the city center along the Nile River is busy, the road out of Luxor is lovely. Flowers are planted on the roadside. Soon, flowers are replaced by corn and sugar cane field. They are the major crops in Upper Egypt. (It is cotton for Lower Egypt). Our whole trip was along the Nile River. It is wide and smooth, just like Luxor, in fact I should say the city is like the river. You can easily realize how crucial that Nile is to Egyptians – all the crop fields are within the narrow band along the river. We passed villages from time to time and we saw people riding donkeys on the road.
Our first stop is Edfu. It is located almost exactly half way between Luxor and Aswan. Temple of Horus at Edfu is dedicated to god Horus, which is one of the most important gods in ancient Egyptian religion. The temple was buried under the sand for two thousand years until 19th century. Because of that, the temple is very well preserved. Looking at its main gateway (Pylon), it is the impression that we had about Egypt from movies. Horus, who is symbolized as a falcon, is to be believed to unite the Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt kingdoms. Many carved reliefs reflect this concept.
After another hour of driving, we arrived in Temple of Kom Ombo. It is surrounded by fields of sugar cane and has a beautiful setting overlooking the Nile. The temple is dedicated to two gods, one is falcon god Harioeris, Horus the Elder; the other is crocodile god, Sobek. To me the most beautiful feature is the columns carved with the lotus of Upper Egypt and the papyrus of the Lower Egypt. Under the late afternoon sun, their light and shadow created a fascinating contrast.
Several Nile cruise ships were parked just outside the temple. The cruise trip was romanticized by countless films and novels, but we didn’t have time to do it.