The Nile is the lifeblood of Egypt. It's tied with the Amazon for the distinction of being the longest river in the world. It begins near Lake Victoria in central Africa and empties almost 3,000 miles later into the Mediterranean Sea. It flows from south to north so Upper Egypt is considered the southern part of the country while Lower Egypt is the northern part of the country. The Nile figured prominently in Egyptian history and mythology. It was critical to the development of ancient Egypt, providing water for crops, people and livestock as it still does, and it remains an important transportation route in Egypt. We stayed on the Nile in each city, but nowhere did we feel its effects and its power more than in Luxor.
The contrast between irrigated and non-irrigated land is striking.
With a population of about half a million, Luxor was a stark and welcomed contrast to the frenetic pace of Cairo and it was our home base for most of the temples and tombs we visited during our trip. We spent four days in Luxor which was the right amount of time to take in all the temples and tombs and other activities, although there was very little time to relax.
There are two major markets in Luxor; the tourist market and the local market. Since we knew we'd visit Khan al Khalili, the famed market in Cairo, we opted for a ride through the local market in Luxor. It was so interesting and we enjoyed watching the local people doing their daily shopping.
The children were so cute throughout Egypt and they seemed to love seeing Westerners.
The market was largely devoted to produce and other food, but there were also shops selling clothes and household items.
Soaring over Luxor in a Hot Air Balloon
One early morning we took a break from temples and tombs and soared over Luxor in a hot air balloon. It was another "pinch me" experience.
We were picked up from the hotel and driven to the Nile where we boarded a boat that took us on the short trip to the west bank, then we were transported to Ground Zero of the balloons, all in the pre-dawn darkness so we could be airborne by sunrise.
If you've ever taken a hot air balloon you know that it's very quiet except for the occasional burst of fire that gives the balloon its lift. It was pretty surreal to be floating silently above the ruins of the west bank of the Nile on a perfect February morning!
As the balloon turned, it provided an incredible 360-view.
Video credit @kcorradini
It was a morning we won't soon forget!
Life in Rural Egypt
We were fortunate to see a bit of rural life on the 3 1/2 hour drive from Luxor to Aswan and on the 3 hour drive from Luxor to Abydos temple. Most of these photos were taken from a moving car, so the quality isn't always the best.
Sugar cane is a major crop in Egypt. We were there during the harvesting season. We saw both trucks and donkey carts taking it to the refineries.
Girls coming home from school in Abu Simbel.
Our guide told us that many children, especially in rural Egypt, don't go to school so they can help on the family farm.
Busy Nile between Luxor and Aswan.
We stayed at the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa and it was as magnificent as it looks. And we were as close to the Nile as we could have been without actually being on it.
➜ Top Tips
Four days in Luxor was adequate, but didn't allow for much if any downtime. We could have easily spent another night there.
Try to see some of the countryside while you're there.