May 29: Luxor

The least popular optional (i.e. extra cost) excursion on this tour was the US$200 balloon ride over Luxor.  Only 6 people ended up getting up at 5:20 AM for the ride, and during breakfast I chuckled at the hazy sky that must have ruined their flight.  But apparently it wasn't too bad.  Wakeup time for the rest of us was 6 AM; I was in bed last night at 10 PM but didn't sleep much because of intestinal soreness and yesterday's extra sleep.  The 6 floaters rejoined the rest of the group here:

Colossi of Memnon.

From the Colossi we continued on to the Valley of the Nobles and then the Valley of the Kings.  We entered 4 tombs in the Valley of the Kings, including the one pictured below.  In one tomb the guard shined his flashlight on the ceiling to show me paintings of guys with extended penises, and we both laughed naughtily.  The moment was worth L.E.5 of baksheesh.

My camera was seized as I entered the following tomb, but others had them hidden in their bags and took photos.  The tomb was somewhat underwhelming in light of the hype.

"He gave his life for tourism."--Steve Martin

Next 7 photos are from the Karnak Temple:

Several obelisks.

One obelisk.

Some of the 134 columns in the Great Hypostyle Hall.  This is the oldest section of the temple, with the 12 central columns dating to 1375 BC.

The Sacred Lake, where priests used to purify themselves.


These three billy goats gruff demanded "baaaksheesh" for this photo.  Unfunny sons of bitches.  But when your sack is so big it's almost scraping the ground like that last goat's, you can make all the baaad jokes you want.

Great Court and outer pylon.  The mud ramp on the right is left over from construction in the 7th century BC.  It has barely rained since then.

Part of a mural at the McDonalds in Luxor.  Look in the boat and you'll spot the Fry Guys, not seen in US ads since the '80s.  The entire mural depicts all the characters in a Luxor setting.  What are those red drops?  Why did McDonalds trademark a generic ghost?  Why does serial sex offender Grimace appear to be in charge?  Egyptologists continue to search for clues.

According to Amadeus the high temperature in Luxor today was 48C (118F).  That beats my personal record of 117F (47C) set in the mid '90s in Baker, California (on the way to Las Vegas where I was probably--ironically--staying or playing at the Luxor Hotel and Casino).

We checked into a hotel (le Meridien) after 3 days on the boat.  Very classy place.  Finally got some Internet time.  The hotel TV had CNN, BBC World and al Jazeera.  The bathroom had half a roll, which I guess was a strong hint to use the freaking bidet like any civilised person.  I did, and ooh what comfort!

In the afternoon we took a camel ride through the back streets of Luxor.  My camel's name was Casanova.  About a third of the camels were named Casanova.  My camel's boy was named Mohammed (~13 yrs).  The neighborhood was full of goats, donkeys and tots saying "hello", cutely practicing their English.  Mohammed claimed that his boss can't afford to pay him anymore because of the downturn in tourism, so he has to live off baksheesh.  Dave had recommended no more than L.E.5, and I offered that to Mohammed, but he said it was "very small" and most tourists give 10-20.  I was gonna give him 10 because he actually did a great job pointing out sights along the way, but his insolence cost him.  I gave him 8.

I've noticed since the Pyramids that almost every baksheesh-seeker who asks "Where from?" starts out by guessing France, Holland and other completely wrong countries.

Luxor Temple.  There used to be two obelisks, but the one on the right was traded to Paris for a clock.  For real.  I've seen both the second obelisk (in Paris) and the clock (at the Alabaster Mosque).

There was an optional horse-and-buggy ride to dinner, but I skipped it since we had a 4:45 wakeup tomorrow morning.  Just had half a protein bar, showered and went to bed.