LUXOR has been a tourist mecca ever since Nile steamers began calling in the nineteenth century to view the remains of Thebes, Ancient Egypt's New Kingdom capital, and its associated sites – the concentration of relics in this area is overwhelming. The town itself boasts Luxor Temple, a graceful ornament to its waterfront and "downtown", while a mile or so north is Karnak Temple, a stupendous complex built over 1300 years. Across the river are the amazing tombs and mortuary temples of the Theban Necropolis, and as if this wasn't enough, Luxor also serves as a base for trips to Esna, Edfu, Dendara and Abydos temples, up and down the Nile Valley.
In a town where tourism accounts for 85 percent of the economy, it's hardly surprising that you can't move without being importuned to step inside a shop or rent a calèche. Hassled at every turn, some tourists react with fury and come to detest Luxor. Provided you keep your cool and sense of humour, it's possible to find genuine warmth here. Once you get to know a few characters and begin to understand the score, Luxor becomes a funky soap opera with a cast of thousands, whose dealings and misunderstandings are as intriguing as the monuments.
Most foreigners come between October and February, when the climate is cooler than you might imagine, with chilly nights and early mornings. Around the end of March the temperature shoots up 10°C, making April the nicest time of the year to visit, though the weather remains agreeable until May, after which the daytime heat is brutal till late October, when the temperatures start mellowing out to April levels. During the summer tourism is well down, and the locals have time to sleep by day and party at night.
Nestled around gardens near the foot of the Pyramids, this bungalow village has received praise for its environment-friendly design. Rooms are casually ...