Full details of Luxor’s monuments can be seen in Kent Weeks excellent guide book to Luxor but here are some of my own thoughts on the sites and the special bits for me. In case you are wondering how I manage to get photos inside the tombs, it used to be allowed back in 1979 when I first came to Egypt.
Quick Links (Click on the following links to jump to the area you are interested in, or just scroll down to read them all).
– Valley of the Kings – Tomb of Ay – Carter House
– Valley of the Queens – Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir El Bahri
– Assasif Tombs & Tomb of Pabasa – Colossus of Memnon
– Mortuary Temple of Merenptah with Museum
– Mortuary Temple of Seti I – Mortuary Temple of Ramses II (Ramassseum)
– Mortuary Temple of Ramses III (Medinet Habu)
– Workman’s Village at Deir el Medina & Tomb of Pashedu
– Nobles Tombs – Karnak Temple and the Open Air Museum
– Luxor Temple and the Mosque –
– Outside of Luxor – Ankhitifi at Moalla – Tod Temple – Esna
In and around Luxor
It was recently announced that another tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings. Number KV63 was discovered by Dr Otto Schaden. Previously, the last tomb was discovered by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamen. It varies, but generally there are over 12 tombs in the valley that can be visited. It is best to check on the day you visit as you can be pleasantly surprised. Also, who knows who you might see, for example: Zahi Hawass, Sabri Azeb, and Mustapha Waseri.
This is a separate ticket and is located in the Western Valley of the Valley of the Kings. This site is often completely deserted by tourists as it is over 2km from the ticket office. The right driver will take you up the winding path where desert foxes roam. Did Ay murder Tutankhamen; the jury is still out on that.
Just outside the Valley is the house that Carter lived in whilst excavating Tutankhamen’s tomb, which was recently restored and is open to the public. It was built for him by Lord Carnarvon. There is a short viewing of Carter’s ghost talking about his work. It is open to the public and no ticket is required.
Although the tomb of Nefertari is closed, except to special groups with a lot of money, it does not mean there is nothing to see here. There are the tombs of two princes and a queen open and from here you can walk to the workman’s village past the shrine of Meretsegner and Ptah.
An iconic temple of a queen (or rather king, as there was no title for a female ruler so Hatshepsut was always called the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of king). The architecture of this temple, possibly inspired from its next door neighbour, is unique amongst mortuary temples. This is a very popular site with its own ticket office.
These two sites are surprising. The tickets are bought at the Hatshepsut ticket office, which is one of the busiest sites in Egypt, however almost nobody comes to these three tombs. Certainly not the big tour groups. Chat with the guards and have a cup of tea. The tombs are huge and there is a lot of excavation going on in the area, e.g. the tomb of Harwa (under the direction of Francesco Tiradritti).
Although almost everyone just looks at the big statues, take the time to wander along the road and see the excavations going on behind. Dr Hourig Sourouzian is excavating there and you have probably read about all the statuary she has found.
From the road it looks like there is nothing to see at this temple, but this is one of Luxor’s secrets with its museum and underground store rooms which have many pieces from the temple of Amenhotep III. Poor old Merenptah was the 13th son of Ramses II and must have given up expecting to succeed him. There was a need to build a temple quickly and he used many blocks from the temple of Amenhotep III which is behind the colossus of Memnon. The colour on these pieces is spectacular and I thoroughly recommend a visit to this site. The museum is open at a slightly later time around 8/9 am, although the temple opens at 6am.
One of my favourite sites in Egypt and one I love to take children to and re-enact scenes from the temple walls. The modesty of Seti is demonstrated clearly as the part of the temple dedicated to him is tiny and almost hidden. Totally unlike his more famous son Ramses II.
This was the big destination of many a traveller doing the grand tour and they left their graffiti here, including Belzoni. The poem Ozymandes is connected with this site and I like to stand viewing the giant statue and recite it. The fallen statue is massive, carved from Aswan granite and a testimony to Ramses II ego.
On the right hand side on the outside wall, you can see the only depiction of a sea battle in Egyptian art. Also on the right is the temple of Tuthmosis III. I recommend this temple for colour. The temples were not dull sandstone when built, but vibrant, gaudy and completely over the top. This temple gives you a glimpse of that.
The ticket for the village entitles you to visit two tombs, the village and the small temple so are a great value. Get an additional ticket for Pashedu, which is up the hill. It is fascinating to see the place where the elite that built the valley of the kings lived, worked, and were buried. There is also an excellent book stall here. You can walk or take a donkey from the village, over the ridge to the temple of Hatshepsut. I call this path the poor man’s hot air balloon.
- Roy and Shu Roy
- Khokha tombs Neferronpet, Dhutmosis and Nefersekheru
- Ramose, Khaemhet, Userhet
- Benji, Userhet, Khonsu
- Sennefer and Rekhmire
- Meena and Nakht
There are several sets of noble’s tombs. I love them all. These sites are infrequently visited and are much more interesting to the layman or children. My favourite is Rekhmire, which is a bit of a climb up the hill, there is so much detail of every aspect of Ancient Egyptian life. My second favourite is Roy. The colour is stunning and it overlooks Karnak temple. Location, location, location. The Beautiful Feast of the Valley would have gone straight past his door. The carvings in the entire Ramose group are wonderful and in the tomb of Ramose himself you can see the change of religion to Akhenaton and the Aton. There is also a lot of excavation going on in this area and sometimes the archaeologists are prepared to have a chat and tell you about their work.
Everyone goes to Karnak temple but no group goes to the Open Air Museum. Inside there is the Middle Kingdom White Chapel of Senusret, which is exquisite. As for the rest of the temple, the botanical room shows Tuthmosis III as a rival to Napoleon with his love of science. The temple of Ptah where the guardians do a little trick with a mirror and the Sekhmet statue, the priests houses at the back of the sacred lake, Sphinx Avenue, and the excavations taking place in front of the first pylon are all worthwhile viewing. Take at least 10 days going round this temple, well maybe not quite that much, but you could.
Like Karnak temple, Luxor temple also has its less visited area. The mosque built inside the ancient temple has recently been restored and Mansour Boraik has published a great paper on the decoration and it is all now on display. Luxor temple now also has a block yard that is open for viewing which is well laid out by Chicago House. This temple is open in the evening so is great for a floodlight experience.
Don’t forget there are great day trips from Luxor.
If you would like to see if a cruise would suit you, why not try the day trip to Dendera. I particularly like this as personally I couldn’t take an entire week on a cruise boat, although I loved being on a sailing boat or Sandal. The day trip was perfect for me and Dendera is a great temple to visit.
Within 20 km of Luxor there is the 1st Intermediate Period cemetery at Moalla with the tomb of Ankhtifi (tickets have to be bought at Luxor temple). Now that the convoy system has finished, this is a great place to visit for an hour. I call this a beta max tomb, poor old Ankhtifi chose the wrong side and it was the Theban princes who eventually won out and ruled. It is a very unusual tomb, with irregular columns and uses lots of turquoise colour.
Another site within 20 km, whose tickets have to be bought at Luxor temple, is the temple of Montu at Tod. In the block yard there is evidence from the 5th dynasty right up until Coptic times and everything in between. This was the site where the Tod treasure was found.
Finally also with the 20km range is the temple at Esna, a Ptolemaic temple but also the site of early dynastic excavations. A guest of ours, Dr Dorothy Downs has written about Esna. The temple is much lower than the surrounding town and indeed has not been fully excavated.