Safaga, Egypt

                                                                     Karnak Temple

April 4-5, 2012

We sailed into Safaga harbor around 4:00 PM and dropped anchor.  After zooming across the Arabian Sea and into the Red Sea at speeds up to 23.3 knots (who knew the Amtersdam could go that fast!), we arrived in Egypt without known incident.  The captain gave us free wine when we got to the Red sea, to celebrate our safe passage.  This afternoon the only people who could get off the ship were those who had signed up for the overnight trip to Luxor.  We had a wonderful greeting from the Egyptian Authority for Maritime Safety boat that was doing donuts.  It then moved away and came back to do more donuts.  That was a fun and unexpected experience.  There was already another welcoming committee there:  a harbor full of white jellyfish.  We have never seen so many jellyfish anywhere.

Safaga is a coastal town; its main activity is phosphate mining.  It has a small resort, and a small tourism business.  The area is very barren, especially the mountains to the west.

We ended up moving over to the dock during the evening.  In the morning we boarded a bus bound for Luxor.  The excursion we had chosen was called ‘Karnak and Luxor Temples’.  The bus ride to Luxor is approximately 3-1/2 hours.  We’ve done it before, but opted to do it again because we wanted to see Karnak temple in daylight.  On our previous visit we had only seen it after dark, as part of a sound and light show.  It was clearly a magnificent structure that deserved a closer look.  As on our previous visit we passed through several checkpoints.  However, on this visit, despite the unrest that has been seen in the country, the checkpoints are far more relaxed than they were four years ago, and there are very few soldiers in the guard towers.  Along the way we passed quite a few Bedouin dwellings.  In addition to the checkpoints we had the joy of driving through areas of road construction.  The construction didn’t seem too bad on the way out to Luxor, but on the way back when we were tired and the traffic was significantly heavier, it was an issue for us.  The other relic of past times was the armed guard who rode on our bus.  Although they are no longer needed, nobody has the heart to eliminate those jobs. 

As you can see from the last two linked photos, once you get past the mountains the landscape is very flat.  Amazingly, there is a significant amount of agriculture going on here, despite the extreme aridity.  We passed farms growing things like onions, tomatoes, and dates.

At last we arrived in Luxor, a city situated along the Nile River in the floodplain.  Outside the city they grow crops such as wheat, corn and sugarcane.

As with any city in Egypt, there is a wide range of levels of modernity - you still see donkey carts, but also trucks and automobiles, and modern buildings.  On several occasions we saw crowds of cars, trucks and motorcycles at gas stations

The first stop on our tour was Karnak Temple.  In the visitor’s center there is a model of the entire temple that helps to orient you to what you will be seeing.  If you look at the photo at the top of the page it will give you an idea of the scale of the building.  Getting this temple built was a feat at least as great as building the pyramids.

Not only were there great walls and columns, the columns and many of the walls are covered in hieroglyphics which are carved into the stone.  In addition there are beautiful paintings done in natural dyes, some of which survive to this day.  Our guide told us that the carved hieroglyphics were painted at one time, also.

As you can see from the photos, Karnak Temple is still magnificent, even though it is no longer in great repair.  

When we finished our tour of Karnak Temple, we boarded our bus again and headed to the Sonesta St. George Hotel for a buffet lunch.  This is a luxury hotel that sits right on the Nile.  They have a nice buffet with excellent food.

The views of the Nile from the back patio area were nice.  The photo on the left, above, shows the Valley of the Kings in the background.

After lunch it was on to Luxor Temple, a smaller temple that was once connected to Karnak by an avenue lined with sphinxes. If you look carefully at the Avenue of the Sphinxes photo you will see Karnak temple in the distance.  The avenue was about 3 Km. long.  This photo is a view of Luxor Temple from the street.

All of the ancient Egyptian temples were built with two obelisks.  One from Luxor Temple is missing because it was given as a gift to France.

Part of what makes Luxor Temple unique is that a mosque was built almost on top of it, in the days when the temple was still covered with sand.  Our guide pointed to the doors so high above ground level and asked if anyone knew why the doors were so high off the ground.  Susan won a can of Egyptian Pepsi for knowing the answer.  The other part of the uniqueness of Luxor Temple is that a Christian church occupied part of the temple at one time.  The two photos directly below show that part of the temple.  We were told that the Christians plastered over the hieroglyphics before adding their paintings.

The last photo again shows the Avenue of the Sphinxes.

When we completed our tour of the temple returned to our bus for the long ride back to the ship.  Our guide for this tour gave us a huge amount of information about the temples, most of which we don’t remember.  But getting to see Karnak Temple in the daylight was an experience we won’t soon forget (Luxor Temple during the day was a repeat visit for us).  Luxor is well worth at least one visit.  Some people we know took the overnight trip, which took them to the Valley of the Kings as well as to the two temples during daylight hours.  They told us it was much easier to do all that when they didn’t have two bus rides in one day.  

We had an Egyptian Culture Show in the Queens Lounge in the evening.  The first performer was very good, but everything following could not compare so we left early.

There are additional photos in the album that have not been previously linked.

© Susan L. Stone 2015