Another ridiculously early morning as we get picked up from the hotel at 430am. The bus takes us to a boat to cross the Nile to the other bank of the river. It’s still dark, and they serve us coffee and tea to go with the breakfast box. A few of us nibble at some items from the box, but it’s way too early for that nonsense! I am trying to keep calm, because what we are about to do…. it’s something that I’ve wanted to do, but it freaks me out way too much. I decide that it’s an opportunity I just can’t pass up, because you know, you only live once!
We arrive at a large open field as the sun is beginning to rise, and the air is buzzing with excitement. Many beautiful colors are starting to fill the sky, and the heat from the open flames is becoming apparent…figured it out yet??
We are going hot air ballooning!! I am pretty overcome with emotion; partly from excitement, partly from fear, and because I’m really proud of myself for having the guts to conquer this fear.
We climb into the large basket; it’s a bigger one than I expected – it holds around 20 people. The sound of the fire shooting up into the balloon is quite loud, and the heat is undeniable.
The balloons are only flown by actual pilots, so it is very regulated and professional.
Karim is our guy today, and as we lift off the ground there is an immediate sense of calm and peacefulness, despite the loud open flames shooting into the balloon to keep it afloat.
I thought the floating sensation would feel much different but you hardly even realize you’ve left the ground.
Now that I’ve calmed down a bit more I can enjoy the amazing views of Luxor below. We can see Hatshepsut’s Temple (which we will visit later on), where grassland meets desert, the mortuary temple of Ramses II, caves and tombs of other kings, the Nile river, and some other sites.
And of course, the sight of all of the other balloons in the air is spectacular as the sun rises in the distance.
The ride lasts just under an hour and here is the thing with hot air balloons..they can’t be controlled as to where they land-the pilot tries his best but you may end up somewhere less desirable. In our case, we are not supposed to land in someone’s field!
At one point we are getting close to the houses, and many adults and kids are waving at us so that’s fun. I’m really hoping we do not land on a house -is that even possible??? But Karim is an expert pilot! When preparing for a ride in a balloon, they teach you how to brace for landing so we are getting ready to do so but Karim is like, hey guys no problem – hold my beer – and sets us down gently in the field. The balloon guys have tracked us and they are there to take the deflated balloon down and help us out of the basket.
And then we are swarmed by little kids asking for money. I say no and try to ignore them but then one (or a few) of them start throwing things at my legs, like chunks of hard mud I think. And I LOSE MY SHIT. They get scared and run away with guilty looks on their faces – guess they weren’t expecting that! Overall, an amazing ride that I got to experience with my new friends. I’m so glad I decided give it a try!
We are shuttled over to where our tour bus is waiting; it is parked right in front of the Colossi of Memnon. They are two large stone statues of the pharaoh Amenhotep III. These statues are huge – they stand 60 feet tall!
They are severely damaged and it is thought that they used to be identical. The colossi were put here to guard the entrance of Amenhotep’s mortuary temple (not much of this temple remains today – it was destroyed by earthquakes).
Fun Fact: after the statues collapsed, one was reported to “sing” – usually around sunrise and if you were to hear this sound, it would bring good luck. Too bad, no songs for us today!
Back on the bus for a short drive over to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut – this is the temple we could see from up in the balloon.
It is dedicated to Amun and Queen Hatshepsut, and is situated beneath the cliffs of the Deir el-Bahari complex of mortuary temples and tombs.
It is very impressive close up; there are 3 layered terraces with ramps that were once surrounded by gardens – the ramps also makes it easier to climb in the blazing sun. Hatshepsut was the 5th pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and it’s cool because it’s a rarity to have female pharaohs and she was regarded as one of the most successful. She needed to establish her authority and legitimacy, so the size and elegance of her temple reflects this. As you might expect, her reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Egyptian history. Also, some neat firsts that came with her reign were the transplanting of foreign trees(myrrh), and the grinding of frankincense to make kohl eyeliner. The temple is located near the entrance of the Valley of the Kings; hers was one of the first and because of its grandeur, the other pharaohs wanted to associate their complexes with hers. Arriving at the entrance I make the long climb up the ramps that lead to the large colonnades and the many statues of Hatshepsut.
It’s starting to get hot, so I’m eager to get to the inner sanctuaries of the temple. I have a look in what’s called the shrine.
It’s actually still very colorful, and you can see how old these walls really are. It’s pretty cool. But sadly, much of Hatshepsut’s memory was erased from this temple by her stepson Thutmose III – likely to discourage any future women from becoming pharaoh. Family drama! He took over the temple as his own, and no one knew about her until the translation of hieroglyphics. I find her history very fascinating, and come on, how fun is it to say Hatshepsut!
I head back out, down the ramps and over to the small café to grab a cold drink. Since we were behind in our touring yesterday, we have an extra temple to hit today so it’s a long day of exploration in the blistering heat! Next stop is around the other side of the rocks…. the Valley of The Kings……