An Expat Traveller's Guide to Making the Most of Your Egypt Trip
Luxor has long reeled in travellers, as an epic destination where the ancient and modern combine...
2 June 2022
Authored by David Dunn.
As the most famous of Egypt’s pharaohs, the very name Tutankhamun plays on the imagination.
Little prepares you for actually meeting the legendary boy king, however.
Like chancing upon a high profile celebrity - albeit this megastar of ancient history is many thousands of years departed - goosebumps rise on entering his discreetly signed tomb in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings.
While smaller and less extensively decorated than some neighbouring chambers, to witness the royal’s modest mummified figure within his final resting place is surreal; and a humbling hint at Howard Carter’s thrill on first finding this most coveted of tombs exactly 100 years ago this November.
Having seen Tutankhamun’s unmistakable death mask, lavishly ornate coffins and numerous artifacts in Cairo’s sprawling Egyptian Museum, the Valley’s rugged hills feel incongruous with the treasures they yielded - and probably still contain.
Perhaps dodge the AED 18 buggy ride to the first tombs to spend on another exhibit as the walk is shorter than guides might have you believe.
Much of what was discovered beneath this dusty landscape has or is being relocated to the capital’s National Museum of Human Civilisation and Grand Egyptian Museum, opening in November 2022 opposite the Giza pyramids.
While the Pharaohs' original resting places were indisputably opulent by today’s burial standards, modern observers can ponder this ancient civilisation’s brilliance in 2022-level luxury at Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa.
Perfectly positioned on the east bank of the River Nile with views of lush countryside and the illuminated Valley beyond, this is much more than a comfortable place to recharge.
A sense of calm prevails, from the gentle tinkle of water features and pleasing sculptures seemingly born of the near environment to the preened gardens beyond the main pool.
This tranquility extends to the spa where the nearby river is framed by treatment rooms delivering massages from hot stone and pregnancy treatments to traditional Balinese therapies. Beauty services cover waxing, facials, and nailcare within a stunning sanctuary twice voted Egypt’s best resort spa.
The Nile is best viewed from a dedicated infinity pool that gives the impression of flowing into the mighty waterway while a well-stocked gym below comes with a view with which few treadmills can compete.
The Hilton features eight food and beverage outlets, including main restaurant Rosetta for international buffet by day and breakfast until 11am.
Upstairs, Sunset lounge and terrace connects with Silk Road, which serves high-end Asian cuisine from Indian curry to Malaysian soups.
The main pool also indulges the resort’s position by the Nile and includes a smaller top pool and a sunken bar, perfect for happy hour sundowners.
Olives - which offers a mix of dishes spanning pizza and Mediterranean dishes to oriental and Egyptian - delivers glimpses of night-time Nile traffic and the pool as you enjoy hearty local favourites such as koshari, beef fata tagine, and fish singari.
The hotel has 236 colonial-style rooms, from standard and deluxe to suites, all offering river or landscaped garden views.
Overlooking the former and the pool from a triangular balcony, our comfortable king bed space was modern with warm wood finishes, including a coffee table and desk area, alongside a bed to please the weariest of explorers.
A compact bathroom includes a walk-in shower reviving enough for early sight seeing starts.
Luxor, like much of Egypt, is branded by contrast. Beyond the hotel’s short tree-lined drive, Karnak is a traditional neighbourhood where livelihoods are earned in simple fashion.
After the relentless car horn chorus of Cairo, streets are comparably quieter - and walkable if you are prepared to fend off the pitches of taxi drivers and horse-drawn carriages.
The Nile here is as wide as it is peaceful and locals talk of the capital like a raucous relative they visit reluctantly.
Nearby you will find Luxor Temple and the superior Karnak Temple, host to a nightly sound and light show. Both are once again linked by the Avenue of the Sphinxes that has been undergoing recovery and renovation.
Luxor’s central tourist souk offers mementos of varying quality, and opportunities to exercise haggling skills.
The city rightly describes itself as an open air museum; nestled beside newer developments more ruins punctuate the landscape to remind residents and visitors alike that history is never far.
Beyond the town, the drive to the Valley of the Kings and its Queens counterpart reveals busy villages and lush countryside populated by farmers and livestock.
Some lesser profile tombs are among the best and most budget friendly if you wish to witness more without blowing you budget.
The nobles’ tombs, such as Rekhmire and Sennefer, contain visual surprises and less crowds, but it’s largely a question of research, luck and having a driver who knows his way.
We struck lucky with our airport cabbie - Abo Hassan - who like most drivers negotiated the price to the hotel and suggested a sights tour the next day, including the imperious Hatshepsut and Medinet Habu temples.
Availing his services saved us money (USD 30 or AED110 for two, plus entry fees, against about USD 85 inclusive each with a company tour), and gave flexibility as we saw numerous sights at a civilised pace, stopping on request.
Back at Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, excited chatter could be heard among guests processing similar experiences while the afternoon sun retreated slowly into the Nile west bank.
Hot air balloons dotted the same horizon as we packed at 5.45am the next day for our connecting flight to Cairo.
Silently ascending the Valley of the Kings, they offer an inspirational way to behold some of the most historically significant acreage in the world… a place which promises to continue yielding ancient secrets for generations to come.
Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa rooms in May cost from USD 99, including breakfast, excluding tax. Check-in is from 2pm; check-out at noon. Visit their website for more information.