Sights

EAST BANK

The Luxor Museum (Corniche el-Nil; adult/student E£55/30; ® 9am-2pm & 4-9pm) has a select collection of Theban relics and an informative video presentation. To learn more about the ancient journey into afterlife, visit the Mummification Museum (Cornicheel-Nil; adult/student E£40/20; S 9am-1pm&4-9pm).

The town centre spills around magnificent Luxor Temple ( lg 237 2408; adult/student E£50/25, tripod E£20; ® 6am-9pm). Largely built by the New Kingdom Pharaoh Amenhotep III, it was continually added to over the centuries. In the 13th century, the Arabs built a mosque in an interior court.

Of the 730 human-headed, lion-bodied statues lining the Avenue of Sphinxes between the temples of Luxor and Karnak, 58 still remain.

Much more than a temple, Karnak ( §§ 238 0270; adult/student E£60/30; ® 6am-5.30pm) is a spectacular complex of sanctuaries, pylons and obelisks. Its crowning glory is the Great Hippostyle Hall, constructed around 134 lotus-blossom pillars. Begun in the Middle Kingdom, the complex was added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated over 1500 years.

If you can tolerate the crowds, lame script and long walk, then the sound-and-light show ( Bl 237 2241; www.sound-light.egypt.com; adult/student E£55/44) offers a nonetheless atmospheric introduction to Karnak. Check the website or tourist office for the current schedule.

Microbuses between Luxor town and Karnak cost 50pt. A calèche costs E£7; a taxi costs E£10 to E£15.

WEST BANK

The West Bank of Luxor was the necropolis of ancient Thebes, a vast city of the dead where magnificent temples were raised to honour the cults of Pharaohs entombed in nearby cliffs, and where queens, nobles, priests and artisans built tombs with spectacular décor.

The first monuments you'll see, 3km west of the ferry crossing, are the 18m-high Colossi of Memnon. These statues are all that remain of a temple built by Amenhotep III.

The main ticket office (®6am-4pm) is 500m west of the Colossi. Each monument requires a separate ticket. Students pay half price. To help decide which monuments to target, buy the user-friendly Egypt Pocket Guide to the area (E£30). The valleys of the Kings and Queens have separate ticket offices on site.

Couched in a sun-ravaged ravine of Al-Qurn (Horn) escarpment, the celebrated Valley of the Kings (§§ 231 1662;for3tombsadult/studentE£70/35; ® 6am-4pm) is the last resting place of the Pharaohs. Many of them weren't allowed much rest, however, as the pillage of tombs began before the last Pharaohs were buried. Only one tomb, the tomb of Tutankhamen (adult/student E£100/50), found in 1922 by Howard Carter, has so far been discovered intact. If you've seen Tutankhamen's treasures in the Cairo Museum, a visit to the simple tomb of this minor Pharaoh helps indicate what unimaginable riches once attended the tombs of more illustrious Pharaohs such as Tuthmosis I or Ramses II. The corridors and antechambers of the tombs of Sethos I and Ramses IX have some of the best wall paintings, while the tomb of Amenophis II, hidden in the escarpment, is the most exciting to visit. Many tombs are regrettably closed.

Photography is strictly forbidden and police won't hesitate to confiscate film/memory cards.

If you have water and decent walking shoes, you can hike across theTheban Hills from the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings to Deir al-Bahri. The walk takes 50 minutes and is extremely steep in parts.

Rising out of the desert plain in a series of terraces, the Funerary Temple of Hatshepsut (Deir al-Bahri; adult/student E£30/15; ®6am-4.30pm) is a spectacular sight. It was vandalised by Hatshepsut's bitter successor, Tuthmosis III, but retains much of its original magnificence, including elaborate friezes.

The tombs comprising the Valley of the Queens (for 3 tombs adult/student E£30/15; ®6am-

4.30pm) contain some exquisite wall painting. Disappointingly, the crowning glory of the site, the Tomb of Nefertari, remains closed.

The temple complex of Medinat Habu (adult/ student E£30/15; ® 6am-4.30pm) is dominated by the Temple of Ramses III. The largest temple after Karnak, with many colourful reliefs and golden stone that catches fire at sunset, Medinat Habu is a must-see.

A taxi from Luxor town costs E£100 for a three-hour tour. Alternatively, you can hire a bicycle and bring it over on the ferry. From the main ticket office it's 1km to the Valley of the Queens and 5km to the Valley of the Kings.

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