Saturday, April 2, 2011

Deluxe Luxor, Day the First

I arrived in the AM fresh off the overnight train, checked into my hotel, had a bite to eat that was not pure butter and sugar, and promptly started touring!  My photo essay begins now. 
Welcome to Luxor Temple, a fairly awesome and well preserved temple that is not by any estimation, small in size. 

See how big?  That shadow is more or less life size.  No joke.  

 I should preface this by saying while I realized they were probably conservators, I couldn't help but gasp and be all "WHAT ARE THEY DOING, chipping away at the pillars so violently and loudly and oh my sweet merciful monument!"
 Shocker: Turns out everything was totally cool, guys.  Restoration and whatnot...
 Okay, how cool is this?  That is Greco-Roman painting over an Ancient Egyptian carved wall.  Ancient art mashup!  I was totally taken with how well preserved it was, and doubly so when I later found out that one of the guys in the picture?  He's THE Alexander the Great.  

 At first glance, the avenue of sphynixes seem to just peter out.  But no! Oh no!  They apparently ran the 3k from Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple, all the way under modern Luxor.  Restoration work is underway, but most are not as well preserved as our friends above.
 I would watch it if they did a Nile Rescue Police Cops...

 Until Day the Second, this was seriously one of the best meals I had in Egypt.  The Oasis Cafe came recommended in my Lonely Planet Egypt Guidebook.  The atmosphere was totally delighful; it is in a converted old building that gives a Victorian literary cafe meets the modern era flavor to it.  You can go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and stay a while.   The chicken tagine was filled with spices and flavor, and the portion was entirely generous.  Being one of three people in a space that can fit many more was sad (as in, where are all the tourists, their economy is really hurting), but kind of relaxing for me.  My waiter mostly left me alone, but did awkwardly and almost endearingly ask if I was a Christian, before telling me that he someday hoped to have a girlfriend like me.  The owner is a really nice guy who even gave me a little tour of the restaurant and told me he'd lived in Oregon for a while.
I strongly recommend both the chicken tagine AND The Oasis Cafe!

 I thought these kids were following me so that I would take their picture.   Turns out they were following me so that they could take my picture with their cell phone camera! 
 Never let go Jack!
Whatever, like you'll ever be able to forget that movie either.
This was my boat over to the West Bank of Luxor, where I had arranged a camel ride with a reputable stable, according to my Lonely Planet Guide.
 It all started off so well!  My guide was a perfectly sweet, chatty, 19 year old.  Getting on and off a camel is nothing like riding a horse.  Scary times at high altitudes!  Riding it? Not too different, just a bit more rocking. 
 Look!  I am having a great time!
You know what was not a great time?  When my guide gave me a hard time after giving him a nearly 30% tip.  He told me that was nothing to an American.  Well, he's right.  9 pounds in Egypt is like $1.50 in the USA.  But my camel ride itself was 30 pounds.   I felt really bad initially, because I was probably his only client of the day, what with the lack of tourists.  But I was in Egypt, not the United States, where generally speaking, price posted is price paid, and tipping is extra, and generally not 30% on services rendered.   And realistically, as one person, I can only do so much; it was not my responsibility to solve the regions economic problems.  The least I can do is write about my experience in the hopes that people start to realize it is safe and trickle back in.   I was left feeling like I had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth after an otherwise great experience, partially of guilt (though frankly, I think I tipped enough), and partially of frustration out of yet again being hit up, almost expected to give large tips, simply for clearly being a foreigner.  And yes, it happened again on the way back on the boat.  Frustrating to the nth degree.  So I went and decompressed while watching the sun set on the lovely, relaxing roof deck of my hotel, The Nefertiti Hotel.

This roof deck was clutch.  I went up there at every possible moment, morning, noon, night of my stay in Luxor.  Gorgeous views, great atmosphere.  Nefertiti Hotel, you are onto something!
 I mean, come on.  Come ON.  How gorgeous is that?  
And it drops so fast too!  Desert sunset are phenomenal. 
 Yes, I will recover from a guilt and frustration-trip with some baba ganoush and pita on the roof deck at sunset, thank you very much!
But then it was onto more tourism.  And by tourism, I mean I gladly jumped on the slightly geriatric formal tourism parade that come from many of the cruise ships that traverse the Nile and stop in Luxor.  I went to the Sound and Light Show at Karnak Temple.  It was one part hokey and filled with the kind of music and narrative voices you expect of one of these shows, one part historical information, and one part actually really pretty.  You really got the sense of what Karnak must have looked like at night for Ancient Egyptians, what with the stars overhead, and the shadows on the stones, and the overwhelming magnitude of the space almost emphasized by the darkness.  I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did!

View of the whole temple structure at Karnak Temple, lit up for the Sound and Light Show.

Upon arriving back at my hotel?  BABY KITTENS.  IN A BOX.
I may not like cats, but hi.  Baby animals?  Always cute.

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