Luxor on a budget
The political tremors of 2011 didn’t do much to help Egypt’s reputation as a holiday destination. However political tensions aside, Angela Torpey finds there’s lots to love about Luxor – the site of ancient Thebes. Read Angela’s guide to exploring Luxor on a budget, here
Luxor is divided into the East bank (home to the major hotels, banks, and the Karnak and Luxor temples) and the West bank – site of the Valley of kings and Valley of the Queens. Over the last few years a number of small hotels have opened on the West Bank – could these alternatives to the luxurious yet expensive East bank options, be the way to woo back tourists in these tough times? I decided to find out.
My first consideration was how to get to Luxor. After careful thought, I decided to fly out of Manchester with Monarch. The overall cost came to just under £210 and included in-flight meals. The one drawback? The flight times (9am outbound, 10.45pm inbound) meant an early morning start and an equally early morning return!
On arrival at Luxor, a lift had already been arranged. The journey from the airport to the village of El Bairat El Gezira on the West bank, took approximately 50 minutes. As this was the first time I had stayed on the West Bank, I had only booked a hotel for one night: this would enable me to look at other available hotels to decide where I wanted to stay. The hotel I chose was the Nile Valley and I actually ended up staying there the whole week owing to the fact that the Nile Valley boasted a swimming pool, was close to the village and a tad cheaper than so called competitors.
My room was pleasingly decorated in white with grey floor tiles and well appointed boasting both a small balcony and ensuite equipped with a bath, shower and good-sized white basin. The bed was comfortable and the room cool,with new remote controlled air conditioning.
Meanwhile the rooftop restaurant afforded wonderful views of the Luxor Temple. The plated breakfast, included in the price, was simple but adequate: expect bread, cheese, tomatoes and cucumber, honey, yoghurt and small pots of jam along with a choice of fresh lemon juice or kharkade (boiled dried hibiscus flowers). If you missed a meal tho, eating out in Egypt is easy. My favourite restaurant was El Fayrouz although the Amon, with its delightful garden restaurant, came a close second.
Part-way through the week, nostalgia took me to the East bank. The national ferry runs when it’s full, so can be slow, but at one Egyptian pound (approximately 10p) is a bargain. A more fun option, at around four Egyptian pounds, is to choose one of the gaily painted little tourist motor boats. Privately owned, most owners now operate a straightforward ferry service between each bank. Taxis are also easy to secure, although do agree a price before you start and only pay at the end of the journey. ‘Baksheesh’ (a Turkish word meaning ‘gift’), is expected.
Luxor is rich in archaeology and so a good guide book is a ‘must’. Sites on the West Bank include the Valley of the Kings, the wonderful painted Nobles’ Tombs, the Workman’s Village of Deir el-Medina and the ‘mortuary’ temples’ of Deir el-Bahri. Cafes offering welcome shade from the midday sun can be found throughout the West bank.
Sitting on the balcony on my last evening I realised this, for me, was a perfect mix. Although I love the luxury of five star hotels, to be a part of village life – even if only briefly – was just magical. Would I do it again? Definitely.