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Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Luxor: A Step Back in Time - Page 2

Written by Lydia Horrex
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When I found out I was going to be working for a British tour company, I anticipated traveling to a typical European holiday resort. Images of basic hotels and groups of out-of-control youngsters filled my mind. Let’s face it, this was my first assignment, my plane ticket wasn’t going to say, “Destination: Barbados”. When the job description arrived in the post, I knew my fate for the next six months was sealed. As I nervously opened the letter and read my appointed location, I was unable to be instantly delighted or disappointed; I’d never even heard of the place.

Fortunately I found a bazaar which held plenty of opportunity for some serious souvenir shopping. This busy marketplace located behind Luxor Temple was an Aladdin’s cave of healing spices, smooth silk rugs, and vibrant costume galabayas. It didn’t take too long for me to discover that Egyptians were passionate merchants. As much as hassling tourists in the street seemed illogical, I was beginning to understand. Tourism is their main source of income, it isn’t just a way of life - it’s a fight for survival. Haggling was an alien concept to me but I was willing to give it a go. I had been told a good rule of thumb; aim for a third of the asking price. There was only one way I was going to find out.

LuxorLuckily for me there were some things in Luxor I didn’t have to haggle for. I purchased my ticket and was on my way. It wasn’t quite the great pyramids, but I was still excited to visit my first temple. I gingerly passed the armed guards and followed the crowds down. With every step closer to the temple it seemed to grow even grander. By the time I had reached the entrance I felt like an extra in ‘Honey I shrunk the kids’. Ramses II guarded the temple from his glorious throne. The statue towered above me. I was just about level with Ramses ankle. I quickly snapped out of my trance-like state, there was no time to waste. I had a whole temple to explore.

A short walk from the Temple I was back along the Cornishe, Luxor’s main street. The Cornishe runs alongside the river Nile, and could take me from one end of the city to the other. I followed the path for 15 minutes before I reached Luxor museum. I was interested to find out more about what I had seen that morning. Although it didn’t make much sense to me yet, I knew I was about to witness some of the best artefacts found in excavations of the area.

It was a relief to discover not everything in Luxor was from an ancient time. My job as a holiday representative meant I spent a lot of time in Luxor’s major hotels. My favorite was the immaculately maintained five-star Jollie Ville Movenpick (http://www.movenpickhotels.com). This hotel, 2 miles south of the centre, was built on its very own island - Crocodile Island. I was so enticed with the Movenpick, that it would be where I spent my precious day off. I would take advantage of the gym facilities, massage treatments and large infinity pool which gave the illusion of joining the Nile. The hotel even had a small zoo, housing the only crocodile this side of the Aswan dam. With daily activities, a separate children’s pool, and all accommodation on a ground-floor level, it is also seemed an excellent choice for those with children.

As luck would have it, I wasn’t staying at the Jollie Ville Movenpick. I was living at the Luxor Mercure (http://www.mercure.com), situated in the heart of the haggling merchants and bustling souvenir bazaars. My three-star accommodation faced the river Nile, and offered a comfortable stay in a central location. During my time at the Mercure I came across countless repeat guests. Yet it was no real surprise. With a pleasant out-door swimming pool, and lively evening entertainment, the hotel is perfect for those eager to sight-see by day and relax by night.

I was keen to visit Karnak Temple, and not just because it was featured in the James Bond film, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. I’d been told that this gigantic complex was built and further contributed to over a period of 1200 years. I was curious to see just how big it was. The first thing I noticed about the temple was the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes which led the way to the entrance. Secondly, the sheer size to which everything had been built. I thought the pylons at Luxor temple were impressive, but these were twice the size. Once inside the complex, I was amazed by the structure and order, let alone the dynamics of how such a sanctuary was built. The size of the complex covered 200 acres, that’s enough space to fit 15 great pyramids. My reliable guide Ahmed was trying to explain the meaning of the carved symbols on the pylons, but it just wasn’t sinking in. I was told that a sound and light show would be performed later that evening, so I was definitely returning to hear more around the story surrounding the temple.

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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