Map of LuxorLuxor was Egypt's capital during the first part of the Middle Kingdom * and the New Kingdom *. The city was then not named either Luxor or Thebes, but Waset **.
* The Middle Kingdom started around 4000 years ago, and the New Kingdom around 500 years later.
** In ancient Egyptian the meaning of the name Waset is "the city", and this city had it's national influence not only when it was capital, as Egypt's largest religious centre was located here (the temples at Karnak). The Greeks called Waset for Thebes, a name often used today as well for ancient Luxor. Still it's not all correct to call Waset during Pharaonic times for Thebes as the Greek name was first used long time after the city had been Egypt capital. Today Luxor is foremost known for all its monuments, in fact there is no other place on our planet that have such a large monumental heritage more or less intact. When travellers from the Arab world came here they called the city for "the palaces" which in Arabic language is "El Uqsur". It's the name El Uqsur that has become today's name Luxor.
2. The city Luxor is located on the east bank of the Nile. Here you will find market streets, most of what you need in shops, restaurants and bars in all colours, and not at least all the hotels in Luxor. Accommodation covers all from the need of backpack tourists to the grand royal suite at Old Winter Palace.
1. The temple complex at Karnak is the largest temple area in the world. It is built in gigantic proportions, as the temple was a living ground for gods. In addition it was an education area for the different skills represented by the different gods and goddesses (from embalmers to lawyers and judges). One easily feels like a tiny insect among the gods and majestic column rows in the temples here.
3. In the middle of town you will find Luxor temple, and in front of the pylon (temple gate) there is one obelisk. Originally it was two obelisks, but the second was during the reign of Vice-King Mohamed Ali, given as a present to France. That obelisk now stand at Place de la Concorde in Paris. At this temple Pharaohs has built their parts during a period of nearly two thousand years - including Alexander the great which was honoured as a Pharaoh by the oracle at Siwa.
4. Since the time when TutAnchAmons tomb was discovered in Luxor, and Howard Carter first announced this at the Old Winter Palace in 1922 - the Valley of the Kings has had an fairytale like aura for visitors to Egypt. Just recently the largest tomb in the valley was found by Kent Weeks, the "KV5" tomb, more known as the tomb of the sons of Ramses II. KV5 tomb covers an area of more than 1260 square meters and is the largest tomb found in the valley. One of Ramses II son became Pharaoh (MernetPtah), and he has his own tomb just above the mentioned tomb of TutAnchAmons tomb. In fact, the debris from the digging of the tomb of MernetPtah covered the entrance to the small tomb of TutAnchAmon - most likely being the reason why this tomb never was discovered by grave robbers. The first tomb in the Valley of the Kings was built for ThothMoses I., the father of Hatshepsut.
5. The snake and scorpion goddess Meretseger lived in a natural pyramid mountain top on Luxors westbank. Behind this mountain top you will find the Valley of the Kings, and just in front of the mountain wall the unique terrace temple of Hatshepsut is found.
Lately this female Pharaoh has become as famous as Cleopatra the seventh, and here we honour Hatshepsut with a unique photo from a relief found at the second terrace at her temple. Here it's Queen Ahmose, mother of Hatshepsut while she is pregnant with Hatshepsut. This relief is unique as it show a pregnant woman - but then Hatshapsut was pretty unique (-:
6. The tombs of the Nobles is something of the most important visits you should do while in Luxor. Unfortunately (or luckily?) most of the mass tourism don't visits these tombs, but here you can find some tomb plans and information for the tombs of the Nobles, but these three tombs are just some tiny examples of what is here. A kings tomb has a standard, but the nobles tombs are much more free, and here you can as well find daily life presentations, from working in the fields to party with dancers and musicians.
8. The artists village (or the workers village as it's sometimes called) is locally known as Deir el Medina. This was the village for those who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, along with Nobles tombs and their own tombs. Since most here could write, and from all their daily writing we happens to know more about the daily life in this village that was established nearly 3500 years ago than any village in Europe just hundred years ago.
9. The famous Colossi of Memnon is in fact two grand statues of Pharaoh AmenHotep III which stood in front of his temple on the westbank. Unlike most other temples this temple was built on agriculture land and not in the desert area further west. Due to this fact the temple was flooded every year, and the stones of the temple was soon after used as material for new temples in the area. The statues of AmenHotep III was originally 21 meters high and are still standing here. Already during the Greek and Roman times in Egypt, tourists came in large number from all over the empire to visit these colossus. As a sound came from them when during sun set, this sound was recognized as the lamentation over the Greek hero Memnon from Troy - and that is how the Memnon name became connected with the statues of AmenHotep III.
10. Let us end this small walk through Luxor with our strongest recommendation, and that is to visit the temples at Medinet Habu. Firstly since it has some of the elements of both Karnak and Luxor temple complexes, but is far easier to "understand" as it has three separate temples within its walls. The temples are a small temple built during the reign of Hatshepsut and ThothMoses III, the large temple of Ramses III and a truly unique, although small, temple to two priestesses who during the Saite period ruled over Luxor. Secondly as the coloured relief's at parts of the temple of Ramses III is very much intact.
Lanny Bell, who over nearly twenty years was leading the Chicago House archaeological work in Luxor gives a perfect "thumb rule" for visits in Luxor: use one third of your time on monuments and the museum in Luxor city, and then two third for visits for all the monuments and tombs on the West Bank!