Upper Egypt

 Luxor

Located in Upper Egypt Luxor has been described as the world’s biggest open air museum. Nowadays it has been elevated to the status of Governorate, though it is still classified as being in the province of Qena. It has a population of round about 230,000, most of who are employed in tourism somehow, though there are many who are employed in agriculture and commerce. It is one of the most popular destinations in Egypt, being one of those places that you must see. Because of this almost every tourist company has an office somewhere in the town.

It has been estimated that Luxor contains about a third of the most valuable monuments and antiquities in the whole world, which makes it one of this planet’s most important tourism sites. Monuments such as The Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Deir El-Bahri (the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut), the workers village at Deir El-Medina, the list goes on and on and on. Though most visitors will stay for just a few days, it would take a substantial amount of time to visit everything in this amazing town.

Once known as Thebes, Luxor’s importance in ancient Egyptian history cannot be denied. It was the religious capital for almost all of the Pharaonic period which is why the town is dominated by the two temples; The Temple of Luxor, and the immense Temple of Karnak; the world’s largest temple complex.

Dedicated to Amun Ra, the Temple of Karnak was constantly expanded by successive pharaohs, each adding his, or her, tribute to the god. The site dates back to the Middle Kingdom under the reign of Mentuhotep (11th Dynasty), but most of what can be seen today is from the New Kingdom. Other parts of the complex include sites dedicated to Mut, the wife of Amun Ra, and their son Khonsu

Most people know that Luxor was once Thebes, but “Thebes” was not what the ancient Egyptians called it. Ancient texts show that it was called t-apt, which means “the shrine”, with the ancient Greeks calling it tea pie. The Arabs had problems with pronunciation and so it became Thebes to them. The name vanished then as the area submitted to the desert and then by the 10th century Arab travellers thought the ruins were of grand buildings so started to call it Al-Oksour, or “site of the palaces” which slowly became Luxor.

Though it was never the capital of a united Egypt, Thebes was capital of Upper Egypt during the times when Egypt resorted to being split into two. This was especially true during the period of the Hyksos invasion when Avaris became capital in the North. Thebes was where the various pharaohs of Upper Egypt were based, and it was from here that the final campaign, under Ahmose I, to expel the Hyksos originated

Today Luxor is split into two, by the River Nile, and these two areas are known as the East Bank (where the town lies) and the West Bank. Though this was also true in ancient times, the two parts were called the city of the living (East Bank) and the city of the dead (West Bank). Like most of the River Nile, the western side tends to be more desert, with the eastern side having far more arable land, and so settlement sites tended to favor this latter side.

Luxor is situated 670Km (416 miles) to the south of Cairo, 220Km (137 miles) to the north of Aswan, and 280Km (174 miles) to the west of Hurghada. It is the second most popular place to visit in Egypt, behind Cairo, and is accessible in a number of ways.

By flight:

 

Luxor International Airport is located 6Km (4 miles) east of the city and can be reached from most countries around the world, though it is most popular for charter flights. From here you can also fly to most of the main cities and towns in Egypt, as well as arriving from them. EgyptAir runs daily flights 

from Cairo to Luxor, as well as Luxor to Cairo, which take, on average, about 50 minutes

By train:

Luxor is situated on the main Cairo to Aswan railway line and has a modern station in El-Mahata Square. Services to both Cairo and Aswan are very frequent, though restriction on tourists are in place right now which allows them to only use the sleeper service, or the trains either side of them.

By road

Though Luxor is connected by road to Cairo and has a good bus connection with the capital, tourists are asked not to attempt to use this mode of transport for this journey and are therefore left with only rail or flight as an alternative. The road to Aswan can be used though as it gives the opportunity to visit sites such as Edfu and KomOmbo. Hurghada is reachable by a 3.5 hour bus journey, opening up the Red Sea for those who wish a change. Please note: if you do intend to use this mode of transport you are best booking your seats at least 24 hours in advance to ensure you get the seats you want.

By Cruise

Nowadays you can only go to Aswan by cruise boat, though some operators do offer the opportunity of a one day sail to see Dendera. The River Nile has not been used for cruises between Cairo and Luxor since the late 1990’s.

Aswan

Aswan, and how to get there:

Egypt’s 3rd largest city, and the largest in Upper Egypt, is situated at the foot of the Nile Valley to the North end of Lake Nasser. It is a major mining area for aluminum and iron as well as also being one of the favorite places for tourists to visit due to it being a major stop for cruise boats; for the River Nile as well as Lake Nasser. It has a local market that is an excellent place to do your holiday shopping; this is especially true if you want spices as you will find the best types of fresh spices here.

 

 Aswan is capital of its own Governorate which has a population of about 1.2 million people. Most of these are Nubians, and local tribes of Kenzo.

The city became very important after the construction of the High Dam as it became a refuge for those Nubians who chose to flee to Egypt after the waters flooded their homelands, as well as becoming the worldwide rescue campaign of the Nubian monuments during and after its construction.

Aswan’s name is derived from the ancient Egyptian word “Swan”, which means “the market”! This is because it was located on the main trade route between Egypt and the southern lands; with gold, slaves and ivory passing into Egypt. The governors of the 6th Dynasty sent many expeditions to explore the many African countries located to the south, and most of these started from Aswan. It was also the major source of granite, sandstone and quartzite used in the construction of the various monuments throughout Egypt

 

In ancient times the God Khnum was the major God of the city, but he was later replaced by the Goddess Isis, Goddess of magic and maternity, in the Greco Roman period. A temple was built for her on the Island of Philae, which had to be moved, along with other structures, when the waters of Lake Nasser engulfed the island. Though still known as “the Temples of Philae, they can now be accessed on the nearby Agilika Island.

Because of the location of Aswan, just north of the Tropic Of Cancer, the city enjoys a very hot climate throughout the year and it is advised to cover your head when walking about and drink water constantly.

Aswan is situated 890Km (553 miles) to the south of Cairo and 220Km (137 miles) to the south of Luxor. It is the third most popular place to visit in Egypt, behind Cairo and Luxor, and is accessible in a number of ways.

The population of the Aswan governorate is around 1.2 million and mostly consists of Nubians and local tribes of Kenzo. The city became very important after the construction of the high dam, and the worldwide rescue campaign of the Nubian monuments during and after its construction.

 

Aswan is derived from the Ancient Egyptian word Swan, which means "the market"! It was located on the main trading route between Egypt and the southern lands, where gold, slaves and ivory passed into Egypt. The governors of the 6th Dynasty sent many expeditions to explore the many African countries located to the south, and most of these started from Aswan! It was also the major source of granite, sandstone and quartzite used in the construction of the various monuments throughout Egypt!
In Ancient times the God Khoum was the major God of the city, but in later periods the Goddess Isis, Goddess of magic and maternity, became the main patron God, with a temple being built for her at Philae.

Because of the location of Aswan, just north of the Tropic Of Cancer, the city enjoys a very hot climate throughout the year! It is advised to cover your head when walking about and drink water constantly.
 
How To Get To Aswan:
 
By road
Though Aswan is connected by road to Cairo and has a good bus connection with the capital, tourists are asked not to attempt to use this mode of transport for this journey and are therefore left with only rail or flight as an alternative. The road to Luxor can be used though as it gives the opportunity to visit sites such as Edfu and KomOmbo. Please note: if you do intend to use this mode of transport you are best booking your seats at least 24 hours in advance to ensure you get the seats you want.

By Flight
Aswan International Airport is located 25Km (16 miles) southwest of the city and can be reached from most countries around the world, though, like Luxor, it is most popular for charter flights. From here you can also fly to most of the main cities and towns in Egypt, as well as arriving from them. EgyptAir runs daily flights from Cairo to Aswan, as well as Aswan to Cairo, which take, on average, about 60 minutes. It is also possible to book flights to Abu Simbel, though this must be done in advance.

By Train
Aswan is the terminus on the main Cairo to Aswan railway line and has a modern station at the northern end of the city. Services to both Cairo and Luxor are very frequent, though restriction on tourists are in place right now which allows them to only use the sleeper service, or the trains either side of them.
Sleeper trains: From Cairo to Aswan /Cairo
 
By cruise
Nowadays you can only go to Luxor by cruise boat. The River Nile has not been used for cruises between Cairo and Aswan since the late 1990’s. Another popular cruise is one on Lake Nasser, which gives the only way to visit some of Nubia’s ancient monuments.
 

 

 

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