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Exploring Luxor and Karnak temples

After the WHIRLWIND of 2 days in Cairo, we left for the airport early in the morning to catch a 7am flight to Luxor. This drive from Giza to the airport which can take up to 2 hours in the infamous Cairo traffic took only 45 min at this early hour!

Even though people refer to NYC as the city that never sleeps, Cairo deserves this coveted title hands-down. Dinner and socialization starts pretty late and locals are still out drinking tea and smoking hookah into the wee hours of the morning. Another advantage of starting early was that the airport check-in process was quick and the 1-hour flight to Luxor was uneventful.

Our driver was waiting for us after landing and before we knew it, we were on our way to our docked boat. Unlike the bustling city of Cairo, we passed through beautiful quiet farmlands, and ended the short 30 min drive to our cruise The Sonesta St. George which was docked on one of the tributaries of the Nile. The location was great because we were the only cruise docked there, away from the other cruises and noise.

After an early start out of Cairo so we took a quick nap and were refreshed for the day out in Luxor after lunch on the cruise.

Karnak Temple

Luxor is rightfully referred to as the worlds biggest open air museum. We started our day in the Karnak temple around 2pm.

Our fantastic guide, Yasser, gave us a great history lesson of the site and kept us entertained. Beyond the visually jaw dropping structures, we learned a lot about the story of this temple. Karnak being the main place of worship in middle and new Egyptian kingdom covers over 200 acres and you can spend days if you want to see every part of this complex.

Karnak temple Luxor
Karnak temple entrance

Upon entering we were spellbound by the Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet and featuring 134 columns, and it is still the largest room of any religious building in the world! Some of these columns are over 68 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter! The carvings on each of these columns are equally awe inspiring.

Hypostyle hall Karnak
Hypostyle hall


We wandered across the temple and received a great history lesson about the gods Amun, Mut and Khonsu who were worshipped at this temple mixed in with the politics between pharoahs that led to new temples being made and old ones being destroyed.

Resisting the urge to take pictures of everything we saw, we decided to absorb the temple first and then take pictures on our way back.

Karnak temple

We had enough time after our visit to wander around the temples before heading off to the next stop, the Luxor Temple at sunset


Luxor Temple


Just the entrance of the temple stopped us in our tracks. The giant statues of Ramses II definitely make an impression!

Luxor was built between 1100 BC-1600 BC and is dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship; it may have been where many of the kings of Egypt were crowned in reality or conceptually (as in the case of Alexander the Great who claimed he was crowned at Luxor, but in fact may never have traveled south of Memphis, near modern Cairo.)

It was a little crowded but still a great time to go because the temple looks and feels absolutely magical when lit-up in the evening.

The 3km road to Karnak from Luxor used to be lined up with Sphinx statues. Only a short version of that remains now which was still impressive.

Road from Karnak to Luxor with Sphinx

After observing more fantastic stories that are hidden in plain sight as hieroglyphs, we returned back to Karnak temple for the light show.

Karnak temple sound and light show


It is best to show up at the light 15 to 20 min early so you are in front of the tourists as you walk through the different parts of the temple during the evening light show.

Showcasing Egyptian history and culture with a pre-recorded audio tour booming from speakers hidden in the complex is interesting, and at the end of a brief nighttime stroll through Karnak you get to enjoy a final 20 min show over the sacred lake in the back of the temple on cushioned stadium seating.


Wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking in the dark and take a sweater for the return walk because it can get a little chilly.

Some people didn’t like the show and found it cheesy. Even though the production isn’t first class and the sound quality / lighting could be improved, we immersed ourselves in the moment and really enjoyed the show.

We returned back to the cruise and had worked up an appetite for a meal. This night our cruise would continue to be docked as we will spend more time in Luxor the next day.

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Luxor temple at night


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