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10 Days in Egypt & Israel – Day 6

By tam-admin | December 5, 2007

Tuesday
It’s our last day in Luxor and we decide to meet Amol for one more guided tour of the West Bank. We grab a quick breakfast and leave at 7am to try and beat the heat. Today we visit the Valley of the Queens, the Tombs of the Nobles, the Workmen’s Village (this was the home and burial ground for the builders and artisans who constructed the tombs and temples), Deir al-Medina Temple, and Medinat Habut (the Temple of Ramses III). At this last stop, we see yet another fight break out among a group of 10 to 15 Egyptians. The result? The loser ends up with a ripped shirt and the standard humiliating slap across the face. 

Workmen’s Village in Luxor – these are the remains of their homes.

Photo: Workmen’s Village in Luxor – these are the remains of their homes.

Afterwards, we take a relaxing ride back to the East Bank and stop at the relatively new downtown Luxor souk and then enjoy a late lunch at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the Nile. After lunch we bid our guide a fond farewell and relax at the hotel for an hour or so before our sunset cruise.

At 3:30pm we’re picked up and taken down to the docks to board a felucca for a sunset cruise down the Nile. (You can also take longer multi-day, one-way or round-trip felucca excursions between Luxor and Aswan.) Feluccas are ancient sail boats without motors, and without a swift wind, you’ll need an alternative to get down the river. On this particularly calm evening, we were fortunate enough to have a motorized boat cruising the area. They towed not only us, but picked up nine other feluccas along the way. We “cruised” our way down to Banana Island where our captain gave us a tour of the isle and a sample of Egyptian bananas.  As the sun sets on our last day in Luxor, our captain and co-captain row us back to the dock in front of the Sheraton.

Our felucca captain. The feluccas behind us are all tied to the motorboat as we’re pulled down the Nile together.

Photo: Our felucca captain. The feluccas behind us are all tied to the motorboat as we’re pulled down the Nile together.

With Egypt under our belts, we pack our bags and head to the airport for an overnight flight to Tel Aviv.

Travel Notes on Egypt:
1. If you travel by land from Luxor, you may have to travel with a police convoy. Since the 1997 terrorist attack in Luxor directed at hurting Egypt’s tourism industry, the government requires police convoys for travel in certain areas. These have become the bane of many tourists’ travel plans, and many have pointed out the increased danger of traveling with an ill-prepared  convoy at the exact same times and along the exact same routes each and every day.

2. A second and unfortunate note about Luxor: many call it the hassle capital of Egypt. While the scams in Cairo run from creative to simply infuriating, in Luxor hassling is the preferred method of getting “baksheesh.” If you’re traveling around Luxor on your own and without a guide, you will be hassled relentlessly at every temple, tomb and historic site. Egyptians stand at every entrance and target tourists traveling without guides. They act as though they’re trying to assist you by guiding you through the site, or they offer to take a photo with you or of you. The goal, of course, is always “baksheesh.” If you don’t wish to give away your life savings during your stay in Egypt or spend the better part of your time trying to keep hasslers away, either take lots of single bills or learn the term “la’” which means “no” in Arabic, and be firm. Tour guides offer a safe haven from this and most speak 2-5 languages including Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Italian.

3. While guides are great for providing history lessons, if you’re heading to any markets, it’s best to go alone – even the tour guides will try to pressure you into buying from specific shops. Go shopping on your own and practice your haggling skills.

4. Women traveling in Egypt need to take extra precautions. Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country and extremely conservative. Yes, we realize it’s about a million degrees out, but wearing shorts and cropped spaghetti-strap shirts will garner you the kind of attention you don’t want. At the very least, wear pants and short sleeves when you’re in public areas. Save the daisy dukes for the resort properties. You are a visitor here. Be respectful and mindful of the culture. And, as the saying goes, when in Rome… 

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5. The best guide? You can never go wrong with a Lonely Planet guide. They’re always thorough and offer not only a history of each area, but maps, language translations, and itinerary examples if you’re attempting to tackle Egypt on your own. Also, National Geographic offers a great map of Cairo and the surrounding areas with historic sites highlighted with photos of the buildings and temples.

Check back to find out what happens tomorrow for Day 7 in Israel!

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