The capital of ancient Egypt, Luxor remains deeply rooted in its past, with grand monuments that have stood the test of time, towering high above this historic city
The meandering Nile running through the heart of Luxor splits this ancient Egyptian city into two equally captivating parts. The modern city to the east, Luxor Town is home to the historic Luxor and Karkak Temple complexes, while the west-bank necropolis boasts some of the most important archaeological sites in the world. It is these magnificent monuments that make Luxor one of the greatest open-air museums in the world. And even still, this description of the ancient Egyptian city comes nowhere near the true wonders that await travellers from all over the world.
Located to the south of Egypt, Luxor was formerly known as Thebes. It began to gain importance around 3000 BCE and became the political, military and religious capital of the ancient Egyptian empire for a period of 1,500 years. It is one of the oldest inhabited places on the planet and remnants of the rise and fall of various civilisations punctuate its landscape to this day. Beautifully preserved, they offer a window into the Egyptian way of life several millennia ago.
Discover the East Bank
Among the jewels of Luxor Town, Karnak is one of the most impressive temple complexes in all of Egypt. At its heart lies the Temple of Amun, with several smaller temples, chapels and sanctuaries dedicated to other deities scattered around. The vast grounds, which take about three hours to fully explore, also feature a sacred lake, obelisks and endless halls.
The Luxor Temple, which took over hundreds of years to construct, served as a significant religious centre in ancient Egypt. Today, remains of this vast complex include the Great Colonnade Hall, with its 21-foot-high columns towering over the city. Visit at sunset, as the soft glow of the sun illuminates the entire structure.
Explore the West Bank
Cross the Nile to the west and centuries of history come to life in Luxor's West Bank. At the Valley of the Kings – a royal burial ground for pharaohs from the New Kingdom of Egypt from the 16th to the 11th century BCE – some 63 magnificent royal tombs are dotted across the site, including the tombs of Ramesses V & VI, Seti I and Tutankhamun. While their contents are gone, visitors can still see the wall and ceiling decorations adorned with religious images and texts, designed to guide the pharaohs in their journey to the afterlife.
About 15 minutes from the Valley of the Kings lies the Temple of Hatshepsut, a mortuary temple built by the powerful female ruler Hatshepsut, which she dedicated to herself and the god Amun. The structure is built into a cliff face and appears quite different from the rest of the sites found here, but this is what makes it a must-see sight.
Head further south to the Colossi Of Memnon, where a pair of giant statues made out of quartzite sandstone, each 18-metres high, depicts Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Although they appear to be standing in the middle of the landscape, they used to guard the entrance of the first pylon of the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III.
Soak up the sites
For unforgettable views of the West Bank of Luxor, a sunrise hot air balloon flight is well worth waking up early for, as it offers a unique aerial view of the tombs and temples from the skies. Moreover, you can spend the rest of the day sailing aboard a traditional Nile felucca, which occasionally stops along fields, villages and smaller neighbourhoods to give guests a glimpse into the local way of life.
Rotana will soon expand its footprint in Egypt, with the opening of Luxor Rotana in 2024. Set on the Nile, the five-star property will be in close proximity to the city's historic attractions. It will feature 319 spacious rooms, including 48 suites and one exquisitely designed presidential suite, with a host of amenities catering to both business and leisure travellers.
At present, Rotana offers the five-star Grand Rotana Resort & Spa in Sharm El Sheikh. To book your stay, visit rotana.com