Hello and welcome to fotofreen! About two weeks ago, I traveled to Egypt, marking my first footprint in North Africa. I posted some photos on Instagram and received messages from friends who were curious about traveling there and asked me questions related to the trip. While I had an incredible experience, there were some pros and cons that go beyond the photos I posted and that’s what I wanted to share. Not only did I want to share recommendations with my friends, but I also decided to create a guide to help anyone who plans on going to Egypt and is looking for information so that you can use your time wisely.

So, let’s start with Luxor, which is the first city we went to and also happens to be my favourite among the five I had the opportunity to explore. Two days is more than enough time in Luxor to see everything. After three flights and two transits in Jeddah and Cairo, we finally arrived in Luxor on a sunny, but chilly February morning. We made our way through the charming town to the Steigenberger Achti Resort where we were welcomed by Egyptian musicians at the door who played the lyre and lute and asked us to join them in a dance (so wholesome). Although we were tired from a day of traveling, that instantly lifted our spirits and we accompanied them for a while before crashing in our rooms. The hospitality and service at Achti Resort was wonderful and it’s a hotel I would certainly recommend to those visiting Luxor. After a quick nap, we got ready to explore the city.

Things to do

 

Incase you don’t want to read the descriptions for each, I’ve broken them down into one word so you can easily identify the must-visits. Read on for details.

Day 1

  • Karnak Temple (Must)
  • Perfume Factory (Maybe)
  • Luxor Temple (Must)

Day 2

  • Colossi of Memnon (Maybe)
  • Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple (Yes)
  • Alabaster Factory (Maybe)
  • Valley of the Kings (Must)
  • + Banana Island (Yes)

Day 3

  • (Day of Departure)
  • Hot Air Balloons over Luxor (Must)

Day 1

 

The temples in Luxor are amazing. It feels like you’re in some movie, or in a video game as I often like to think of it. We visited Karnak Temple during the day where the sun shone through the pillars and no picture can do justice to its beauty. I also may have spent awfully long trying to decipher the hieroglyphics because of how fascinating it is. And on a side-note, having lived in DC, the obelisks repeatedly reminded me of the Washington Monument.

Karnak Temple

As for Luxor Temple, try to go around sunset when the lights go on and the columns are illuminated. It really is a surreal scene. But dress warm if you go there during the winter like we did, because it is extremely windy by night.

Luxor Temple at sunset

If you are interested in Egyptian perfumes that are said to have the same essence as designer perfumes but with less alcohol content, you should check out the perfume factory. Otherwise, it isn’t necessary and the strong scents can induce a headache for some. Besides perfumes, there are also healing oils for a range of problems from sleeplessness to muscular aches. Be wary of too much hospitality such as offers for hibiscus teas and turkish coffees, because you will feel obligated to buy something if you agree. Been there, done that and the pattern repeats in other factories and cities too.

Perfume Factory

Day 2

 

The Colossi of Memnon is a cool photo op, but there isn’t much to see besides the two statues so it is a good stopover between other sites. Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple is quite cool because of the story of Queen Hatshepsut and how she ruled as a “king”. I won’t go in-depth about the history but it’s nice to check out.

Colossi of Memnon

The alabaster factory is one of those places you should go to only if you want to buy souvenirs made out of alabaster and get a briefing on how they are made. And since you are in Egypt, souvenirs are pretty important so you might as well get alabaster products rather than painted limestone which is the norm in other stores around town or tourist areas. While we are on the souvenir subject, haggling is a huge thing in Egypt. Tourists are subjected to prices that are way higher so you have to be wary of that too.

Alabaster Factory

Going to Valley of the Kings is essential if you are in Luxor because this city is the old pharaohs’ capital of “Thebes”. You get to see the tombs and the mummy of King Tut. It’s also a breathtaking view driving through the valley and venturing to the chambers. The climbs up can be steep so be prepared for some endurance challenges and dress accordingly. We didn’t get to see Valley of the Queens while I was there mainly because it wasn’t part of the tour, but it’s apparently very similar. Seen one mummy, seen them all right?

Valley of the Kings

Banana Island was not a part of our plan while in Luxor, but we decided to check it out when we saw boats right by the hotel that were heading there. I would definitely recommend this if you get the chance because you get to enjoy a sweet boat ride from Achti to the island, walk by banana plantations, chill with locals, enjoy fresh juices, and see crocodiles and monkeys.

Day 3

 

The hot air balloon is definitely worth getting up well before sunrise for. The aerial views of Luxor are amazing and you get to see the contrast between the East and West Banks, where the East Bank is “alive” and where residential areas are, whereas the West Bank is “dead” and where the tombs are situated.

Hot air balloon over Luxor

Food

Food in Luxor was a bit tricky for us. The tour-guide took us to these restaurants where there was no menu and a few food options with a set price per head. The food was not the best if I am honest, but that may just be because of our south asian background and our penchant for spices. If you enjoy Egyptian food or non-spicy food, you might like this. But by our third meal, we really wanted a change because it was essentially the same three courses in each restaurant, just different locations.

Although we had picked out some restaurants on our own, the guide insisted they were unavailable and took us to restaurants where of course, he knew the owners and the food was overpriced for the quality. I would advise you to explore restaurants of your choice in advance because I am certain there were other really good restaurants in Luxor that we just did not get to try.

Appetizers at El-Hussein


Luxor was definitely an experience that felt like we traveled back in time. There were old cars, horse-carts and donkey-carts as modes of transportation. There were farmers cultivating their land and craftsmen carving alabaster. There was less usage of technology around which was a pretty cool change. Life slowed down there for a while and it was a bittersweet goodbye before we headed to our next destination about four hours way: Aswan.