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In our first blog, we had just arrived in Luxor. Luxor is located along the Nile and contains a wealth of ancient Egyptian sights. It is also a popular destination for tourists who want to come and see the temples and tombs. Coming from the desert into Luxor was like night and day and we were not used to seeing so many tourists. We arrived mid-day on Friday, which is the Muslim holy day and we weaved through traffic where there were tons of people overflowing from the mosques into the streets praying. We had originally planned to head south right away, but instead decided to do a Nile cruise down to Aswan. There are tons of these Nile cruise boats that sail between Luxor and Aswan and we were able to find a very reasonable priced 5 star one.
We first had a day to see the sights of Luxor. Luxor is just as chaotic as Cairo, but much more focused on tourists. As soon as you walk into the street you are bombarded with touts and people calling from across the street. “Caliche, caliche (horse carriages)..taxi, taxi…tour West Bank…my brother’s store….camel ride…fellucca sail”. They walk along beside
you and start out with friendly talk and then precede to sell you anything. They even wanted to polish our shoes, even when we were wearing flip flops! They cannot understand why we would walk anywhere when we could afford to take a caliche or taxi. We have tried explaining that we like to walk, but they just laugh. They love to guess what nationality you are and are fluent in various languages. The funniest was when one man first guessed that I was Japanese, then Chinese (???).
We started our day on the Western Bank where there are many sights to see. We bauked at paying $40/person for a tour and decided to try out luck by ourselves. We first headed to Medinat Habu, which is a large temple and the first of the enormous temples we toured. The scale of what the Egyptians built is just amazing and the detail is so great. There are inscriptions and drawings carved into every surface. We then headed to the Valley of the Kings, where numerous tombs were carved out of the desert mountain. You can go down into the tombs and again it was truly amazing to see what
they had created underground. We headed back to the eastern bank and to the Karnak Temple, another amazing temple. This one had the largest Hypostyle Hall, a giant room with columns that are massive. All of these sights are indescribable because of their size and detail. You can only wonder how they possible created them without modern technology.
In the evening, we went out on a fellucca on the Nile. A fellucca is a Nile sailing boat. We went out at sunset, but unfortunately there wasn’t much wind and we ended up paddling around. We of course thought of you Mom and Dad.
Costs in Egypt
In Luxor we stayed at a hotel that cost $3 Cdn/night – the cheapest we had paid yet. As you can see, we have become quite good at doing our laundry in the sink. In Egypt, they use the Egptian pound (LE) and the exchange rate is 5 LE = 1 CDN. The bills here are very well used and smaller bills are coveted because they are useful for baksheesh. Baksheesh is like tipping but on a whole new scale. Egyptians will want baksheesh for doing the littlest deed like opening a
door. We have heard that Egptians make on average 150 LE/month ($25 CDN) and so they see tourists as being extremely wealthy (even us backpackers!). Here is a sampling of what we have found things to cost: (in Canadian)
Large bottle of water – $0.40
Taxi Ride in Town – $1-2
McDonalds combo – $4 (this would be way too expensive for most Egyptians)
Hotel – $3-12
Egpytian meal – $1-5
Entry fee to tourist sites – $4-8
Egypt is unique in that there is an official dual pricing policy for tourists and locals. At tourist sites and on buses and trains, tourists pay at least 10 times more than locals. Pricing is rarely displayed and you constantly have to negotiate the price of everything, from water to fruit to taxis. We have found that if we do not get the price we want, if we walk away, they will usually come running. Now that we have been here almost 2 weeks, we know what prices should be and have to laugh at some of the outlandish prices they first quote us – quadruple times what you should pay.
The Nile Cruise
We boarded our Nile Cruise
boat, the Marquis for a 3 night cruise between Luxor to Aswan. The boat was a 5 star and we enjoyed 3 days of realtive luxury. The boat had Dutch and German tour groups on it and therefore all the announcements, signs were in Dutch/German, so we had no idea what was going on half the time. We enjoyed great meals, tea time and lots of lounging on the pool deck. The boats that go down the Nile are not large like the Caribbean cruise ships, smaller and more intimate.
The Nile is the world’s longest river and since most of Egypt is a barren desert, 90% of the population live along its riverbanks. As you cruise down the river, it is wonderful to take in the scenery and actually see how the Egyptians live. The river is very important to their lives and is used for everything. As you cruise down, the kids love to yell, “Hello”, even though you’d think they would get tired of this with all the boats that go by. But each time you go by, they are just as excited to wave and say hello. The Nile is very lush with palm trees
and pasture land on the banks, but in the background is the stark barren desert.
We would cruise down each day and occasionally stop at an Egyptian site, as there are many temples and ruins along the river. One evening before dinner, we were moored before a lock and some Egyptian men in a row boat came up beside our boat and were selling blankets and robes. The process was quite comical to watch. If you were interested, you would yell down (5 decks) and they would throw up the merchandise in a plastic bag. You would inspect, negotiate a price and then put the money in the bag along with the merchandise, throw it down (bags often landed in the water) and they would retrieve the money and send the merchandise back up to you. Extremely funny to watch and we couldn’t believe how much the tourists were willing to spend.
Our cruise finished in Aswan and we were quite sad to leave the 5 star accommodation. Aswan is considered part of upper Egypt (this really confused me because it is south, but it is called this because it is the upper Nile) and as a
result the people of Aswan have much darker complexions (more African) than their more Northern counterparts (which are more Arab). Paul has been asked on at least 3 occasions, if he is Egyptian??? (from up north of course). We toured around the city and the highlight was walking through the markets (souqs), which were full of locals and tourists alike.
Egypt is a very safe place and everyone is very welcoming. You get used to what we call “the hassle” of the touts. Everyone wants to know where you are from and when we say Canada, they always say, “good country”. They love saying”Canada Dry…Never Die.” or “Welcome to Alaska”.
From Aswan, we took the train to Luxor and then flew to Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai peninsula, where we are enjoying a vacation from our vacation, staying at the Hilton (on Paul’s points) and enjoying lots of lounging and even happy hour! Till next time!
For those of you that want to see where we have visited, at the bottom of the blog is a map of Egypt you can click on.