I never normally ‘do’ trip reports and indeed, after dozens of visits to Luxor, over many years, I have never done one yet as I had always questioned why anybody else would be remotely interested in what I got up to whilst there.
But, in these present uncertain and changing (in Egypt) times, I thought that upcoming or potential visitors to Luxor, new or regular, may find some of my information, or observations, useful or reassuring to them.
With my original direct flight to Luxor having previously been cancelled by the airline, due to the UK FCO travel advisories, I decideded to take the London Gatwick to Hurghada flight option and then travel from there to Luxor by road.
I had done this road trip a few times in the past (although initially going from Luxor to Hurghada or Safaga then back to Luxor) so had a fair idea of what to expect.
We were delayed for almost an hour at a checkpoint just outside Hurghada, whilst what seems to be the usual Egyptian custom of much shouting and arguing between my driver and the checkpoint guards took place, followed by a vehicle search, followed by much more shouting and arguing, whilst walking back and forth to the checkpoint ‘office’.
As anticipated, things were ‘smoothed along’ by a small payment (10LE) of some baksheesh and we were soon on our way again, though with another half a dozen or so more checkpoints to go thru between there and Luxor I was not relishing the same ‘pantomime’ at each one, but it was not the case and we were not stopped at any others.
The journey was also longer than it should have been due to the fact of having to travel thru the roadworks that are taking place along the road to Luxor, where we either had to slow down to about 10mph for quite a distance in some places, where the old road surface had either been removed, prior to its resurfacing, or our way was blocked by the roadworks machinery and we had to go off the road completely and across the desert, to rejoin the road at the other side of these obstructions.
These situations were made worse when it was dark and slowed things even more as there is no street lighting along most of the journey, no white lines, no ‘cats eyes’, and as regular or previous visitors will know, drivers in Egypt seldom turn their lights on, even on dark country roads.
That said however, when the road is finished then this trip will be very easy and indeed our return trip, during daylight hours and on a Friday (so no ‘works’ were taking place) was done a lot quicker travelling at much faster speeds.
We arrived into Luxor at about 8:30pm and immediately noticed how much quieter the streets appeared to be (especially around the ‘tourist’ areas) much more so even than our last visit 5 months ago.
For most of our stay we were the only tourists in our hotel and we saw no other tourists on the streets.
A brief summary of some of the currently most asked about subjects follows :-
Military presence - HEAVY. There were many army vehicles stationed around the town, the most prominent being 3+ (sometimes 5 or more) armoured troop carriers with mounted machine guns etc. and with about 8 soldiers aboard each one outside the Luxor Governate offices, 1 or 2 in the entrance to the Winter Palace, 1 outside the Iberotel, 1 outside the Sheraton hotel and others in the facinity of some Christian churches around town, with others, along with trucks etc. frequently patrolling the streets. An increase in army activity seemed to happen on Thursday evenings, possibly in readiness to prevent any disturbances, or public unrest on Fridays and obviously there was a more noticable army presence around the town after the latest events in Cairo. Although we saw these troop carriers moving very fast across town accompanying police vehicles on a few occassions, we did not witness, or hear about any incidents taking place. It seemed as though the military were adopting a ‘prevention is better than cure’ stance and this was clearly working. There is no reason why this military presence should be a cause for concern to anybody about to visit.
Police presence - FAIRLY STRONG. Although there were still not many ‘white uniformed’ Tourist police on the streets, there were far more police vehicles and police with black, or navy blue uniforms on the streets than we had seen for a few years, although some locals we spoke to complained that although the police were there, they did not do enough (in their opinion) to enforce ‘day to day’ laws and this claim was illustrated when we then saw 2 young boys, who were only 3 or 4 years old at the most, driving a caleche along the Cornishe !
Hassle - MINIMAL. I am not generally troubled by hassle from Caleche or taxi drivers, felucca men, or street sellers, due to the fact that as well as probably being recognised, due to my being there so often, as well as being able to easily dismiss or deal with any that I may get, on this visit the hassle factor for anyone is likely to be lower, as there were only about 10% of the usual number of taxis and/or caleches on the streets as there has been in the past. I also only ever saw 1 felucca on the river during my whole time in Luxor. Many of the shops in the main Souk were shut and as mentioned in another thread, the bazaars at the entrances to most of the archaeological sites (Luxor, Karnak and Hatshepsuts temples, the Valley of the Kings, etc) were closed most of the time, so if there, then you wouldn’t be hassled at all. Unfortunately there were still those (vendors) that were of the opinion that because there was ‘no business’ then the tourists that WERE there had ‘a duty’ to pay for those that weren’t and so expected everyone to pay triple price for anything. I spoke to a tourist couple who had arranged a private trip to Luxor from Hurghada, who were bullied by their ‘ranting’ caleche driver into paying 450LE for what (at most) was a 20LE caleche trip and after that they were then too frightened to leave the hotel. Some things will never change.
Street crime - NOT INCREASED to my knowledge, but that may be due to the fact that there are not any tourists there to be any potential ‘victims’, but I had no cause for concern personally although I was frequently ‘warned’ to ‘watch my bag’ by many youngsters on the street, who would then expect some baksheesh for issuing that warning and being concerned about my safety, but they didn’t get any ! The problem of ‘youths on motorbikes’ that tear up and down the streets, in large groups and at great speeds, I would say was worse now than on previous visits.
Archaeological sites - ALL OPEN as normal, but those that I visited had no other tourists there at all (which IMO made for a much better experience) and as said already, most of the souks or bazaars at these sites were generally completely closed with most of the stall holders not bothering to turn up due to the absence of tourists.
Hostility from locals - NONE. All locals I met, spoke to, passed by etc. were very friendly and welcoming and were saying things like ‘Thankyou for coming to Egypt’. I had no hostile comments or behaviour towards me whatsoever.
Availability of goods and services - NO PROBLEMS or at least no worse than usual. One of my concerns prior to this visit that there might be problems due to the hotel, or restaurants/cafes etc. not being able to provide what was on their menus because they would carry minimal stock, due to the obvious lack of customers. However, I found no problems in this regard, although I tend not to frequent the more ‘touristy’ places, which may have helped, but it was only when I tried to call into the Nile Valley hotel on the westbank for a drink one day, that I found that due to the lack of guests, it was closed completely. Other than that everything seemed fairly normal and there were also no problems with power cuts, or queues for gasoline, etc. with everything seeming readily available.
TO SUMMARIZE - In my opinion and taking the above observations into account, although nothing can be guaranteed, there is NO reason at the moment why anyone should not visit Luxor and I would go further than that and even say that now is a particularly GOOD time to do so, due to the lack of hassle, empty streets and empty archaeological sites, etc.
The main concerns anyone would have would be the extra complications and possible expense of getting there, due to flight cancellations because of various countries travel advisories and the possible travel insurance implications.
However, once you get past these ‘issues’ (which after all are not the fault of anybody in Luxor) and actually get there, then there is no reason, as far as I can see, why you should not have a completely safe and rewarding trip and because of the lack of crowds, queues etc. possibly in many ways a BETTER trip than at other times.
To those due to go there soon who have worries and concerns, I would say - RELAX, go and enjoy Luxor and all it has to offer while you have the place to yourself !Edited: 12 October 2013, 18:08