25 April 2010

UP! - Luxor, Egypt [Day Six]

Another day, another ridiculously early morning. I can't even remember what time it was, it all kind of blends into one crazy early morning blur...

I haven’t mentioned our 'breakfast boxes' yet - these were the breakfasts provided when we were on the move and couldn’t eat at the hotel. They were... shit, to be honest. This morning we were lucky enough to once again have a breakfast box. Awesome.

The reason for the early morning is a few of us did an optional hot air balloon ride. To get there, we had to take a bus, then a boat, then another bus. As we got on the boat they served us coffee and tea. So I settled down for a cup expecting it to take a while, but we were just going across the river (apparently there aren't many bridges around) and were there in about 5 minutes.

As we arrived there were six massive balloons just starting to come alive. The first thing that struck me was the noise - the... I don’t know the correct name, but I'll call them the fire makers... were so loud! We were shown to our balloon just as it was starting to lift. I couldn't believe the size of the basket! I guess I was expecting a Wizard of Oz style, with room for about four people. But our basket took 30 people or more.

After we were all in, the balloon lifted off. It's a really weird sensation. Every other time I have been "flying" your either at high speed and/or there is a lot of engine noise. In the balloon you move very slowly and its completely silent.

We flew over ancient ruins and got an amazing view panoramic view of the surroundings. I think what made it even better was that there were so many other balloons in the sky at the same time as us. And after about 15 minutes in the air the sun started to peek over the horizon. It made the early morning all worth it.

As we were coming down we flew over a small village. We got to see right down into peoples houses - backyards filled with chickens and ducks, donkeys, even a camel. The locals were waving up at us. It was really cool.

About a minute after we landed a truck pulls up with about 10 guys on the back, who all jump off and rapidly start trying to pull in the balloon. This takes about 10 minutes, and afterwards out come the drums and they all grab a girl and have a dance - apparently celebrating a successful landing. Although, its probably just a good idea to cop a feel.

Back on the bus, we met up with the rest of the group, and made our way to the Valley of Kings. This is a valley filled with the tombs of the kings of Egypt. The area was used for over 500 years, and is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers. And it is HOT! Crazily hot.

The most amazing thing about the tombs in the Valley of Kings is the colour. The ancient Egyptians prepared the walls before they painted, and afterwards covered them in a layer of egg white and wax. This has preserved them extremely well - smart people! The colours are still very bright, and the pictures, amazing! Again, no pictures, so you will just have to believe me.

Next we moved on to Deir el-Bahri, a complex of mortuary temples and tombs located on the west bank of the Nile. This is the location of the temple of Hatshepsut - a huge tiered structure up against the side of a mountain. Here too it was blisteringly hot.

On the first day at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, our guide Mido told us the story of Hatshepsut. He told one of the girls in our group, Cecilia, that she would have to retell the story on the day we visited her temple. She did really well! So rather than me retelling the story - I'll let her do it.

To avoid the heat of the day, we made our way back to hotel. We got some lunch and chilled by the pool for a couple of hours. Then it was on to our third temple of the day. By this stage we were pretty over temples, but our tour guide had saved the best for last - Karnak.

Karnak is absolutely massive. It is the largest ancient religious site in the world - measuring 1.5km by 0.8km. It is actually made up of several smaller temples, chapels, pylons and other buildings.

Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings over a thirteen hundred year period. The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big, St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls. The Hypostyle hall is 54,000 square feet and contains 134 columns. We didn't try, but apparently they are so large that it takes six people linking hands to fit around one column.

Why was Karnak so big? The simple answer is - it was the home of the god Amun, who was hailed as God of Gods. Every king wanted to contribute to the temple of the God of Gods. There are some interesting things inside the temple - some of the buildings are obviously unfinished. This is because the king died, and the new king did not bother to complete the previous kings work - they wanted to concentrate on their own additions.

There is a huge sacred lake, which the priests would purify themselves in before entering the temples. Right beside is a statue of the Scarab Beetle (aka Dung Beetle) which is considered good luck. The beetle got its name as it rolls dung into spherical balls. Egyptians regarded this action as an image of the sun and its course through the heavens, rolled by a gigantic beetle. Pretty positive people, if they get that from a dung beetle. It is thought that if you circle the statute 7 times you will have good luck. So that is exactly what most of the group did. There was also evidence of early Christians at Karnak. There are more paintings and a cross made from pieces broken from the Egyptian statues.

We returned to the hotel for more relaxing by the pool, before heading out for dinner. Later that evening we caught our night train (after a killer game of i-spy!) I was so tired I could have slept almost anywhere, so after about an hour I was out like a light.

Next Post - 'Brain Sandwich'


  1. Hey, what an experience to ride in a hot air balloon over such stunning scenery and to cop a feel must have rounded off a great day for you WOW.

  2. OMG That looks amazing. Your photos of the hot air balloons are unreal..such clarity and colour, nice job! Must have been weird 'floating' silently over a place with so muc ancient history..I'm seriously jealous!


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