We arose for our last day on the Nile, now docked back in Luxor to head out for our last two temples. The docks seemed pretty busy as we had to walk through five ships deep just to get to the shore. On the coach, we drove a little while to the biggest temple in the world, Karnak. Again, highly impressive with its huge statues and intricate hieroglyphs, but as another member of our group stated, by this point you can begin to feel a bit 'templed out' - I felt much the same way in Cambodia, when each temple just seems to run into one another.
Bigger than Ankor Wat, Karnak had even bigger expectations as it was intended to be linked to Luxor Temple via a series of eight hundred sphinxes lining the road. Construction on Karnac was never finished so this dream never came to fruition, but it offered a good explanation for how some parts of the temple were erected as some of the mechanisms, such as ramps used to build walls, are still visible today, so we know more about this kind of construction than we do of that of the pyramids for instance.
On our way to our next stop, we paused for another shopping break at a papyrus gallery where we were shown how to recognise real papyrus from the fake stuff sold on the streets which is actually banana leaf due to the criss-cross pattern it makes when pressed. There was a decent selection of artwork ranging from desert scenes, pyramids and nature which I preferred to the more abstract art depicting hieroglyphs or the eye of Horus for instance. I left with nothing but a bookmark etched with my name in hieroglyphs in a cartoush - that'll do for me.
Then we were off to Luxor temple. This was a good example of Egypt over the millennia, as the temple itself was ancient Egyptian, but had been buried with sand for centuries so a mosque was built on top of it as they did not realise what lay beneath, and at the back of the temple, parts of the walls had been plastered over and painted for a Roman Temple, highlighting some of the many eras of Egyptian history. They're also in the midst of attempting to revive the temple by cleaning the millennia of dust and dirt off the walls to reveal the vibrant colours of the hieroglyphs beneath, which from what we saw will look stunning.
With nowhere to go for the rest of the afternoon, we ventured out into Luxor. One member of our group almost got duped by a man stating he was the boats baker (which boat, you ask? Funny, he didn't specify that) and was on his way to the market to buy saffron, and would take us there. Realising that this was a scam and would inevitably end with the request for significant repayment for his help, I suggested against it and we headed on our way.
We took a short walk up to the Souk which was very much built for tourists, with souvenir shops galore. I might have been tempted to head into some had we not been pestered so much. Granted, some had some good lines like 'I have some very good rubbish in my store' and 'Let me help you spend your money' but most were just pushy or a bit strange, with one asking to buy my hand in marriage for two million camels. I'll pass, thanks.
We'd been recommended taking a look into the Winter Palace Hotel, previous home to King Farouk. It's a very different world on the inside, stately home like and almost cold in feeling, like you shouldn't sit or touch anything. They do have a nice garden outside, with interesting birds like the hob-hob with its beautiful crown of feathers. We considered stopping for afternoon tea but decided three generous meals on the boat a day were probably enough for us.
It was an early dinner for our final night on the boat as we were heading out for a late night excursion. It was back to Karnak for their Light and Sound Spectacular - it both was and was not what I had expected, in that it was lights and projections projected onto the various parts of the temples, and we were directed around to different parts ending up at the Sacred Lake for the final section.
However, the 'sound' part was quite odd as it was intense narration from the point of view of the gods and Pharoahs who had been part of the temples creation, followed by lots of ominous music... Imagine 'I! Am the god AMUN! Welcome! To my Temple! Dun dun dunnnnn!' Or words to that effect. I thought it was better than the Petra by Night experience we'd had in Jordan, but with tickets costing nearly £30 apiece, it certainly wasn't worth the money.
And so we came to the end of our Nile Cruise experience with a belly dancer (who wasn't up to much) followed by a whirling dervish (which was quite cool as he twirled his light up skirts round and round and up and down) in the lounge bar. I said goodbye to the members of the crew I'd become friendly with over the week and headed to my riverside room for the last time.
Tips for a Nile Cruise: 1) Choose your boat carefully - this will be your home for quite a while, so if your room constantly smells like engine fumes or the catering staff can't cater for your dietary needs, this can be quite a problem. Our boat was decent, but we passed through plenty that looked especially nice, so do a bit of research before you pick. 2) Know the demographic of these cruises (and probably cruises in general) - the average age of guests onboard was definitely more than twice my age, so be prepared for a generational age gap between you and your fellow travellers. Some boats may cater more effectively to younger crowds, so if this is important to you, check out the reviews beforehand. 3) Prepare for a LOT of temples! The majority of the excursions we went on were to temples, so know your itinerary beforehand, and whether you're keen to add even more temples as additional tours. Our company was fairly flexible and didn't mind if people chose to skip some excursions, so long as you let them know in advance.
I hope you enjoyed today's travel blog! I'll be back with more very soon so make sure to stay tuned on my Twitter @CiarasCountry, and drop me a message in the comments below with any comments or questions you may have about my adventures - thanks for reading!