Luxor, famously dubbed “the world’s greatest open air museum”, is a city of incredible monuments, unrivalled both in number and splendor. Comprising three distinct areas, this 150,000 strong city is obviously a major tourist attraction for anyone visiting Egypt. To take a closer look, let’s deal with each district separately.
Just north of Luxor proper, the district of Karnak has much to offer. The oldest mosque in Luxor, El-Mekashkesh, can be found on the way to Karnak. The mosque contains the remains of a 10th century Islamic saint, purported to have been a monk before converting to Islam. Opposite the Mina Palace hotel (which comes highly recommended) sits the Mummification Museum, which has everything you ever wanted to know about mummies.
Further along the road to Karnak you will find the Luxor Museum, filled with local relics providing insight to the history of the area. This is a vital stop-off for anyone travelling between the city and Karnak.
In Karnak itself is an embarrassment of historical riches, including the main Temple of Karnak, and the Chapel of Achoris.
Situated on the west side of the Nile across the water from Luxor, Thebes was known as Waset to the ancients. The legendary Valley of the Kings is located in Thebes.
Populated since mid-paleolithic times, Thebes is a true historical landmark, which served as Egypt’s capital for much of the glory years of ancient Egypt. Apart from the Valley of the Kings itself, the mortuary tombs on the Nile’s west bank are generally considered part of Thebes.
In 1979 UNESCO declared the ruins of Thebes a World Cultural Heritage site. Without doubt, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are among the great achievements of ancient Egypt, and no trip to the region would be complete without seeing them.
The City of Luxor
Within Luxor, there are only three main streets – Sharia al-Mahatta, Sharia al-Karnak and the Corniched, which lies next to the Nile. Sharia al-Mahatta, which is what you find yourself on having emerged from the train station, runs away from the Nile and meets the Luxor Temple. Sharia al-Karnak runs along the Nile from Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple. However, Sharia al-Karnak is known as Sharia al-Lokanda once it runs south of the temple, and it is here you will find vibrant restaurants and cafes, exciting bazaars selling an exotic array of Egyptian trinkets and a general buzz pervading the air.