Thursday, December 3, 2015

Luxor, Egypt, Part 2: Sunrise, Sunset (Sunrise, Sunset)

I'm 90% sure nobody got my title reference from "Fiddler on the Roof," only because I'm sure nobody else's father had them watch the movie a million times when they were young without realizing it was weird for an Asian family to be so into a traditional Jewish movie.

On a side note, just have to take a moment to say that I am loving Egypt at the moment.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Second day in Luxor involved a tour to the West Bank.  We first stopped at the Valley of the Kings, or the ancient necropolis where pharaohs and kings were buried for over 500 years, between 1500 and 1000 B.C.  Here, the ancient Egyptians carved tombs underground into the natural limestone mountains - archaeologists have discovered 63 tombs, though only 12 are open for the public to visit. They don't allow any photos inside the Valley of the Kings, but trust me when I say that the tombs were AMAZING. Many of them involved passageways that tunneled into the ground, all decorated to the max with incredible paintings and bling and pictures that opened up into several rooms. It was like being totally overloaded by senses - you had no idea where to look, because there were gorgeous scenes and stories and symbols everywhere.  I absolutely loved it. 

This was the only photo we were allowed to take at the Valley of the Kings, right at the entrance. The tombs are all buried in the mountains behind me!
Maybe stolen off the internet (I have to show you SOMEthing!) Interior of one of the tombs
It was crazy how much the color some of the tombs still had. Every one (with the exception of King Tut's tomb) were pillaged by ancient grave robbers, so a lot of the statues, jewels, figures, mummies, etc. are missing.  So you can barely imagine how much more impressive it used to be back in the day.
I don't know where to put this photo. Randomly, these men are making alabaster pots

  • Next, we hit up the Hatshepsut Temple - built by the Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled around 1500 B.C. and was kind of a big deal because she was a woman and a pharaoh, and came into power because she was smart and shared the throne with her stepson.

Here is her temple, built under a cliff on the other side of the Valley of the Kings. Most of it is a reconstruction because the original temple was destroyed a couple times.
Some of the reliefs inside Hatshepsut's Temple

I like these because they're big. I don't know what they're of. I was having trouble paying attention.

And on the drive back, look how huge these Rameses II statues are! I think they're 20 meters high. Still under reconstruction.

  • That afternoon, my guide, Star (Real name. Or maybe a nickname. Useless parenthesis) and I took a felucca (traditional sailboat) down the Nile River. Just need to check off all those tourist activities, you know?

Felucca time!

Peacefully sailing. We sailed to an island called Banana Island (you cannot make these names up), where bananas grow aplenty. Though there are numerous kinds of fruit growing on the island, so why they don't call it "Mixed Fruit Island" makes no sense to me.

This is what a banana plant looks like

But there really were bananas everywhere!

And then my guide and I sat by the water and ate trays of bananas. I seriously can't imagine a more ideal activity. I nicknamed Star "Wheelin' and Dealin'" because he was always on the phone trying to negotiate things and sell me more activities to do. I explained his nickname to him, and he was very pleased.

Sailing back to catch the sunset


I had a serious problem choosing which out of the 13098324 sunset photos to post

These were the felucca rowers (because there wasn't enough wind to sail) - I helped row partway for the tiny one, who was really sweet.

Last one, last one I promise!  Cotton candy skies.

  • Another popular tourist activity in Luxor is to go hot-air ballooning during sunrise. I passed initially on this activity, just because I didn't think anything could compare to Cappadocia (and I also don't want people to think that all I do is go hot-air ballooning and paragliding every weekend, which is MAYBE TRUE). But Star convinced me, because 1.) It's only $25 ($25!!!! For the price of a fancy glass of NYC wine, you can go ballooning!! In comparison, I think Cappadocia was like $150 or something), and 2.) I'm helping Egypt tourism! I am!  Star swore I would regret it if I didn't, and he ended up giving me the lowest price I'd heard of anyone paying. Because Star is a boss.

3AM wakeup

Here comes the sun (doo doo do doooo) (Beatles)

Balloons rising over Valley of the Kings

Sunrise over the Nile!

Another rosy shot of the Valley of the Kings

And you could see all the ruins from the sky!

I shared a balloon basket with the cutest 60-year old man from Belgium. He had come initially with his best friend from home, but his best friend's wife had forbade his friend to get in the hot air balloon, so the man had to do it alone. He was seriously the nicest. Anytime I offered to take a photo for him, he would pull out these pensive side profile poses and such.

Our pilot was training a couple trainees, so we fake-landed about 6 times, and ended up floating way out of the way to land in the Valley of the Kings!  Not to mention we were in the air about 30 minutes longer than anyone else.

  • Overall, Star was right. It was amazing, and you can't ever hate on floating magically in the air during sunrise. It's always magical, no matter what's below you. Also, $25. 

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Two big things Egyptian men seem obsessed with: tea and smoking (shisha, cigarettes, whatever really). I think I've been offered a cigarette more times in the past week than in my entire life combined. The tea thing, I'm more than ok with because...tea.  And the shisha comes in very exotic flavors like strawberries & cream.  But seriously, you give an Egyptian man anything more than 10 minutes......and he will be beelining to the nearest cafe to gulp down a tea and puff away at a shisha, before heading to the next locale.
  • For some reason, it is downright impossible to get change here. Even for a small bill, vendors/restaurants/shops will hassle you to give exact change because they usually don't have change. Not sure where all the exact money I've been paying goes to.

MVP of the Day:
I've mentioned him several times above, but MVP goes to my guide Star for the day.  I guess he wasn't exactly my guide - he was the in-between guy who picked me up from the train station, would shuttle me to my tours (where there was a separate, actual tour guide), give me logistics information, etc. Star was the one who would try to sell me more tours, and who would always show up in a cab to take me from one place to the next. Really, he was more like my keeper for the time I was in Luxor.

Anyhow, Star and I became buddies. He began to take me with him to the cafes in between his stops and would always buy me tea while he puffed away on a shisha. He taught me Arabic words to pick up girls (so if any of you Arabic ladies are interested....). He noticed that I use the word "fancy" a lot, and when I taught him what it means, he began to use it just as frequently as I do (I was marveling over the seat cushions in one of our taxis, and he was like, "it's fancy, right??").

When I first arrived, Star commented on how many bracelets I have. He asked me where my Egypt one was, and I said I hadn't found one yet. The last day when I left Luxor, he showed up at my hotel to take me to the train station, and he gifted me a bracelet!  He said his mom had made it. Keep in mind this is like a 40-year old man.  It was the nicest thing ever, and I could not have had a better keeper than Star.

First things first, I realize this situation is completely out of control. But the black one is the one gifted from Star and Egypt. (Also, I kind of refuse to show you the other wrist....)

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