Luxor is the premier travel destination in Upper (southern) Egypt and the Nile Valley. In antiquity, the city, known as Thebes by the Greeks, was the dynastic and religious capital of Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Egypt. Today, it has much to offer the traveler, from vast temples, to ancient royal tombs, via spectacular desert and river scenery and a bustling modern life.
The modern city of Luxor is on the east bank. This area has the train and bus stations, most of the hotels and restaurants, some museums, tourist shops and so on.
Visitors usually stay on the east bank and travel across to the west bank of the Nile, to the Valley of the Kings and the mortuary temples of the pharaohs.
Activities in Luxor Egypt
A ballon flight is the latest tourist craze in Luxor, Egypt. It offers an unbeatable view of the city, the west bank and the Nile river. As the ballon gently rises into the dawn sky, tourists witness the beauty of the early morning Egyptian sun rising over the east bank, illuminating the city and mountains, and enjoy magnificent vistas of the Temple of Karnak, the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Colossi of Memnon and the Ramesseum. In the distance, the hidden Valley of the Queens rests peacefully in the mountains while the farming villages below wake up and begin the day.
The Karnak Sound and Light Show is another favorite tourist attraction. The show begins as visitors walk along the Avenue of the Sphinxes, passing through the towering facade into the Great Court. Walking through the complex, a booming Pharaoh’s voice narrates the history of Upper Egypt and the New Kingdom as the various additions left by rulers such as King Tutankhamun, Ramses II and Queen Hatshepsut are illuminated against the night sky. The second part of the Sound and Light Show at Karnak finds you seated overlooking the sacred lake as the temple complex is illuminated and the story of Egypt continues. Please note, while the show is suitable for all ages, younger children might be frightened by the darkness of the area and the roaring sound of the speakers. The ground in and around Karnak is uneven and sandy, so please wear comfortable, flat walking shoes.
One of the best displays of antiquities in Egypt is located at the Luxor Museum. They include a carefully selected assortment of items from the Theban temples and necropolis, including pottery, jewelry, furniture, statues and stelae.
There are a number of exhibits from Tutankhamen, including a cow-goddess head from his tomb on the first floor and his funerary boats on the second floor. A superb statue of Thutmose III (circa 1436 BC) is one of the best pieces in the entire collection. Another splendid attraction features 283 sandstone blocks arranged as a wall from the ninth pylon of the Karnak Temple.
The east bank of Luxor has two of the most impressive temples in Upper Egypt – Karnak and Luxor. Visitors walk along the magnificent Avenue of Sphinxes to enter the immense complex with its massive facade. Karnak (Ipet-isut ) was a city for the priests of Amen within the ancient city of Thebes. Various well known pharaohs, especially those of the 18th and 19th dynasties provided for the construction of pylons, collonades, obelisks, chapels, granaries and administrative buildings. The deeper you go into the complex, the further back in time you will travel, with the oldest ruins dating back over 3,000 years.
Walking through the Great Court into the Great Hypostyle Hall, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the 134 columns towering above you like an ancient forest. At the rear of the complex is the sacred lake where centuries ago pharaohs and their offerings to the gods were purified.
Luxor Temple (ipet resyt) is one of the finest expressions of the Egyptian style. Built by Amenhotep III, it was once joined to Karnak by a 2 kilometer long Avenue of Sphinxes. The entrance is dominated by imposing statues of Ramses the Great, who expanded the construction. The inner walls and columns are decorated with intricate and beautifully carved hieroglyphics and images depicting the Festival of Opet, in which a cult statue of Amen was paraded down the Nile from nearby Karnak Temple to stay there for a while, with his consort Mut, in a celebration of fertility.
New entrance to Luxor Temple
In the past, the site was entered from the west side, by the Nile, which created crowds of people near the Nile. Now the SCA has built a new entrance on the east side, with a new parking lot and an X-ray machine. There is also a new gift shop and café for people to relax and enjoy after visiting the temple. The buildings and police station that were located north of the temple have been removed, and for the first time everyone can see Luxor Temple as a whole from the north side.