The Egyptian city of Luxor (population 421 thousand people) has been considered a tourist Mecca since the time when in the 19th century steamboats began to sail along the Nile, inviting them to travel to the ruins of Thebes, the Egyptian capital of the New Kingdom, and the monuments adjacent to them. The concentration of attractions in the area is staggering. The city itself boasts the Luxor Temple – an elegant decoration of the promenade and the “business” quarter – and about one mile to the north is the temple in Karnak, a huge complex that has been under construction for more than 1300 years. On the opposite bank of the river are amazing tombs and funeral temples of Thebes necropolis. The above is already enough, but Luxor also serves as a starting point for excursions to the temples of Isna, Idfu, Dendera and Abydos, located upstream and downstream of the Nile.
It is not surprising that in a city where tourism accounts for 85% of the economy, you are pushed at every step with invitations to visit the shop, offer a taxi or clean your shoes. Faced with haunting and overpriced prices on every corner, some tourists become furious and start to hate Luxor. But if you call to help your composure and sense of humor, you can see real hospitality in the locals. When you get acquainted with several types and begin to understand the rules of the game, Luxor will turn for you into a stage for a luxurious soap opera with thousands of performers.
The deadpan felucca guys and bazaar barkers, nervous rich tourists and travelers with backpacks counting every piastre are almost as entertaining to watch their behavior as to inspect the monuments. Most foreigners come here from October to February (especially a lot for Christmas and New Year), when the street is fresher than you used to think, and even cold at night and early morning. By the end of March, the temperature rises to 10 ° C, so April is the most wonderful time to travel. The weather remains bearable until May, then strong daytime heat persists until October, when the temperature drops sharply. In summer, the flow of tourists decreases, and locals can afford to sleep during the day and have fun at night.
The name “Luxor” comes from the Arabic El Uksur – “palaces” or “castles” – and may indicate the existence of a Roman “castrum” or the appearance of a medieval city, when its buildings crowded among the ruins of Thebes. Thebes, in turn, is the Greek name for the city that the Egyptians knew as Wasset. At the time of the Ancient Kingdom, when the capital of Egypt was in Memphis, it was an inconspicuous provincial city. In the first transitional period, power passed into the hands of local rulers, and Thebes began to gain influence under Mentuhotep II (around 2100 BC), uniting Egyptat the beginning of the Middle Kingdom era. Although this state subsequently disintegrated again, the city remained the center of power of local rulers, who eventually freed Egypt from the domination of the Hyksos invaders, united the Two Lands and founded the XVIII dynasty (about 1567 BC).
The influence of Thebes as the capital of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, whose power stretched from Nubia to Palestine, grew simultaneously with the power of the cult of Amun, the Karnak temple of which became the greatest in Egypt. At the time of the heyday of the city during the XVIII and XIX dynasties, its population may have reached one million people; in The Iliad, Homer Thebes is called “ghostly.” With the exception of the brief Amarna period (1379–1362 BC), when the “apostate” Akhenaten moved the capital to the north and forbade worship of Amon, the royal dynasties – and the city – held power for five centuries. Even after the Ramessids dynasty was interrupted, the capital was again moved to Memphis, and then to Delta, Thebes remained the main city of Upper Egypt and again became the capital under the Nubian rulers of the XXV dynasty (747-645 BC).
Although Thebes continued to exist in the Hellenistic and Roman eras, their fame was only a shadow of their former glory. The city, most likely, would have fallen into desolation, like Memphis, if not for Christian settlements. In the Islamic period, the only reason for pride was the tomb of Sheikh Abu al-Hajjah (XII century). However, Napoleon’s expedition revived the interest of foreigners in Theban antiquities, which in the 19th century began to attract the attention of archaeologists and travelers. Honestly, not every tourist who visited Luxor, its monuments cause unequivocal admiration. During the filming of Death on the Nile, Hollywood star Bett Davis uttered her famous phrase: “These days we could build all this in the studio – and it would be even better.”