Your Guide to Having a Blast in Luxor & Aswan

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If you’re into Social Media and usually have FOMO seizures, you’d probably have noticed that there’ve been huge waves of Egyptians heading to Luxor and Aswan to spend their Winter Mid-Year vacations. Whether this has to do with the fact that the raving USD exchange rates that will probably keep a whole amount of wandering Egyptians at home discovering their own homeland, or because some Egyptian destinations are unfortunately begging for some touristic attention since 2011 and the upheavals that we’ve been witnessing and have tarnished our image worldwide, the point is thankfully Egyptians are getting closer to their own roots.

Luckily, I’ve been one of those lucky ones who finally got to travel all the way from Alexandria in the top north to Luxor which appeared to me in the other side of the world. In this article, I will try to sum up my 5-day experience there and give you some tips related to the Dos and DONTs if you make up your mind and decide to get a little glimpse of our ancient civilization.

Transportation & Cost

It is no secret that internal flight tickets are so pricey, especially Egypt Air which ironically has always been ridiculed for their awful service. One thing that helped me get some reasonably affordable tickets was that I was part of a large group from my own work-place and that we got the price-offer back in 2016, as there were predictions that prices would even go crazier in 2017. One other crucial element was that I got my plane from Cairo not from Alexandria. Yes, that has been very hectic and tiresome, especially that my mother was travelling with me and I was so concerned that she’d be exhausted, yet still that was a much better option than travelling by a train from Cairo and spend over 14 hours crippled in a stifling place. For the whole trip, I paid EGP 4750 per person (double room for 4 nights, full board accommodation and all tickets to the sites we have visited). Just make sure that when you contact a travel agency that you bring about a bunch of your friends, so as to make a good deal and reduce the price as much as you can.

Accommodation

So many people fall into a trap of staying in conventional hotels either in Luxor or Aswan and then move either by train or plane between both cities and cause extra fees, but one key element to enjoying your trip and getting to see as many gorgeous places as possible is getting yourself on a cruise ship. I have been on Farah Cruise ship that started from Luxor and landed in Aswan eventually. The cruise ship was a deluxe one, with high-quality service and very nice rooms. It was like being in a 5-star hotel, but with even a better ever-changing view. If there is one downside to being on a cruise is that you’d have to stick to very intense schedule. I usually started my day at 6:00 AM, as the bus was waiting to drop us off at the touristic sites around 7:30 AM. Sticking to the clock is very crucial as for the navigation schedule.

Shopping

This is an integral part of any trip, huh? Your family and friends expect you to bring them some exotic souvenirs. Luxor is known for the alabaster and papyrus. However, in Luxor you have to haggle and negotiate the price everywhere you go. If you want to have some alabaster monuments, avoid by any means those little factories recommended by your tour guides who take a commission of every purchase done at those points. Usually, the owners of those primitive factories charge 10X of the actual price after trash-talking the other vendors you see around the city to convince you that you get the real thing. Believe me; you’d get an authentic alabaster souvenir anywhere you go. Just remember to haggle.

As for Aswan, you’d be able to get peanuts, spices, henna and some nice jewelry especially if you’re a fan of precious stones. The haggling is not very crucial in Aswan, but once you start visiting some shops, you’ll get a better idea about the price range for each product. Just go to the local market in front of the railway station where you will find lots of small spices shops. If you’re lost and feel that you don’t know where to shop, ask any of the locals and ask them where they usually buy their daily stuff.

Whereabouts

Typically, Luxor is known for the temples and tombs, so make sure you bring good walking shoes, a back-pack, water bottles as you’ll be very thirsty due to the dry weather, and a camera as you’ll be amazed to see so many places that are worth-capturing. Probably, your tour guide will shower you with information, numbers and lots of data that you will probably find a great difficulty to grasp, yet you will notice is that each tour guide says different stories of the same place and carvings. The point is try to enjoy the view and beautiful artworks all around you, as you will surely need more than one single visit to fully enjoy everything from recognizing all the details, enjoying the beauty and taking some photos to capture the moment.

On the other hand, Aswan is more of a relaxing retreat with beautiful nature and delightful scenery. Like Luxor, it has a lot of temples to visit, but if you want to head to an unforgettable place, then you should definitely go to Philae Temple. For me, the High Dam was not a big deal. Maybe, I enjoyed the documentaries about the establishment process more than seeing the final output. The Botanical Island was overrated too, in my opinion. For someone who visited Montazah Gardens in Alexandria, there was no wow factor about the island except for the fact that it is surrounded by the pure and majestic Nile.

The Nubian Village is a thrill, not just because of the beautiful and colorful houses overlooking the Nile, welcoming people, and wandering camels, but the road to it is quite an experience, as well. We took some motor boats from the port in Aswan and headed to Nubia. The route is full of enchanting scenes and along the way, you will see residences of Egyptian and global celebrities who once discovered this exotic beauty and decided to get a piece of it.

Weather

I have started my trip on 30th January. If you’re a native Alexandrian, comme moi, you’d expect the weather in any place inside Egypt to be so damned cold. But, Alas! Luxor and Aswan are very tricky when it comes to this part. In the early morning, you’d find the weather to be very chilly, then midday, you’d feel the absolute heat and start sweating, by night you’d start shivering.  The most important thing is that you need to forget about the weather applications and they will mess you up. Listen to your tour-guide when s/he tells you that you need to bring in a jacket or a coat. They know better!

Ambiance

If you have never to both cities, you’d probably think that Luxor and Aswan are twin cities in terms of everything; the Nile, temples and weather. However, each city has its own vibes which you can feel the moment you step into any of them. Luxor is primarily relying on tourism. The city is still raw. Yes, the roads are paved and you can a lot of green areas which make the whole place very enchanting.

Aswan, on the other hand, is more of an urban destination that brings in the rawness of the nature along with civility of other big cities, such as Cairo and Alexandria. You can easily spot pharmacies, restaurants and cafes where locals including women go out and spend some time, along with other stores as well. In Aswan, you’ll not feel self-conscious as a woman walking down the street; something that you can feel in some parts of Luxor as I cannot remember seeing many local women out there.

In the end, I hope I was able to give you a glimpse of a mystical world that you might have seen on a postcard, read about in a book or even saw in a Hollywood movie. Believe me, the reality is even more enchanting and surreal.

 

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Noha Rahhal

Noha is the Founder & Editor in Chief of Sans Retouches. Apart from her obsession with glossy stuff, Noha is a hardcore bookworm and a music addict. If you happen to spot her in any of Alexandria’s hot spots, you’d find her either pouring her thoughts on a chic notebook, picking a political argument with some fellas or even enjoying an exotic meal to keep her full for days.

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