Archive | November, 2010

Off the Deep End, Part 12

5 Nov

By Eric Shipley

Luxor is in Southern Egypt (also known as Upper Egypt because it is higher in elevation than Northern Egypt) on the site where the Ancient Egyptian city Thebes once stood. It is a remarkable place—it encompasses the ancient temple complexes of Karnak and Luxor and lies on the banks of the Nile River across from the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens (where many of the royal tombs of Ancient Egypt were located, including King Tut’s).

It was indeed fascinating, but have I mentioned that it was hot? I misspoke. Imagine the inside of one of those clay ovens that reaches 450 degrees. “But isn’t it dry heat?” you ask. Yep, it sure was. And it didn’t help in the least. The heat was worse than when I visited Southern Mexico (the Yucatan peninsula) in late June when I was in high school.

Okay, so I’ve established the heat situation, which explains why we were profoundly grateful to get to our Hotel, the Old Winter Palace. Built in 1886 by the British during their occupation of Egypt, it was the first five-star hotel we’d ever stayed in. Both the service and décor were remarkable. Over the years, as we found out, it has hosted many notable guests, including Egypt’s King Farouk who used it as his Winter residence. (This is the same King Farouk who was overthrown and exiled in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.) The Old Winter Palace was also where Lord Carnarvon (The English aristocrat who funded the search for King Tut’s tomb) was the first to receive the stunning news that the tomb had been discovered intact.

Our room was spacious and elegant and had a private balcony that looked over a beautiful garden. And, vitally important to us, it had air conditioning! We arrived at about 7 a.m., exhausted from our not-terribly-restful train trip, so we checked in and took a nap before starting what would be an incredible day of sightseeing.

Next: The Luxor and Karnak temples

Lobby of the Old Winter Palace.

Rear courtyard of the Old Winter Palace.

Hotel staff member in front of Old Winter Palace.