Thursday, February 24, 2011


TODAY: Libya is now a battlefield as supporters of Moammar Gadhafi try to halt a revolution that is spreading across the country. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 Luxor night light ends our day…..

We set the alarm and had the desk give us a wakeup call for 3:00 am; since we’d made such an issue about the balloon ride we wanted to make sure that we were up and ready for the bus! The chef had breakfast ready for us…seems like we just finished dinner! By 4:00 am we had the luggage in the hall and boarded the bus for our second bus trip to Luxor. Another nail biting experience of driving rapidly down the highway in the pitch black night without headlights most of the time!

Arrived in Luxor and headed across the Nile River towards the West Bank and the open desert where we found our Hot Air Balloon Company! There were two balloons being prepared in our spot. Soon we realized that there were at least nine balloons within the surrounding area getting ready for lift-off! Very exciting! The balloons and baskets were much larger than we’d ever seen. Our basket held eighteen people plus the pilot and all the gas tanks! We were disappointed when they decided that Rita was not going with us because the Captain felt the need to reduce the weight. She’d never been up in the balloons but because of the issues in planning this trip the tour company had requested that she go with us. We weren’t too sure whether she was happy or sad that the Captain made that decision at the last minute. We lifted off just before dawn and enjoyed a wonderful sunrise before rising up to over fifteen hundred feet for unbelievable views of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of Queens. We also had exceptional views of Hatshepsut’s Temple and the huge sixty foot statutes of Amenhotep III known as “Colossi of Memnon”. A phenomenal experience and we’re so glad that we had the opportunity. Captain Bob gave us a gentle landing about forty-five minutes after take-off near our ground crew of six sturdy fellows who lifted us individually out of the basket after securing the ropes. One potential mishap occurred when Josef jumped out on his own to take photos as soon as we’d touched down; the Captain was very upset as he needed all of us to stay in the basket for ballast until the crew secured us.

After a brief bus ride back to the Nile River, we boarded motor boats for a short trip across the Nile River to our new hotel known as the Sofitel Pavillion Winter Palace. During the boat ride we were presented certificates and tee-shirts from Captain Bob to verify that we had indeed completed our ride in his balloons while we sipped our coffee and tea. We arrived at the hotel about 8:00 am and Rita had made arrangements for us to get into our rooms when we arrived. That gave us an hour to rest before the rest of the group arrived and we began another day of touring in Luxor; it’s going to be a long day!

Our group of fifteen reunited in the lobby and we boarded our bus to go to the gigantic Temple of Karnak. It was built by a succession of rulers starting in the eleventh dynasty and was expanded and redesigned over a period of fifteen hundred years. It laid buried under sand for over a thousand years before excavation work began in the mid-nineteenth century; an on going process that will take many more years to finish. One wall was left in an uncompleted state; showing how the heavy blocks of granite were lifted into position with the aid of a ramp the length of the wall that continued to grow until completion. After completion the ramp was totally removed. Karnak Temple was connected with Luxor Temple by an avenue lined by Sphinxes that stretched 1.2 miles. Many of the Sphinxes have disappeared but many have been preserved. The plan is to eventually restore this broad avenue between the two famous temples. We viewed the tallest obelisk in Egypt, cut from a single piece of pink granite and raised by Queen Hatshepsut in honor of Amun. It still stands almost one hundred feet high. Many of us also walked around another relic located near the Sacred Lake the required three times for good luck. We made sure we walked counter clockwise, had we walked clockwise we would have been assured of fertility!

After two hours we were on our way to visit a private school in Luxor run by a community of Franciscan nuns. The school also has twenty-four orphans who live fulltime at the school. We were amazed at how crowded the classrooms were; then we were told that public schools are twice as crowded. The birthrate has increased rapidly and the majority of the population is very young. Most families have eight to ten children and they believe that their children will secure the future income and wealth of the family. The children sang for us and we were able to ask them questions as we visited several classrooms. Why were we allowed to visit? Our tour company donates to the school and we were also encouraged to bring some school supplies to give to the teachers and also donations from us were encouraged while we were at the school.

Lunch today was at the nearby Sheraton Hotel; buffet style with the opportunity to wander about the hotel and grounds for another view of life in Luxor. We enjoyed time for an afternoon nap for several hours before pairing off in our horse drawn carriages after dinner for a two hour tour of the back streets and bazaars of Luxor after dark. Comparing notes later we learned that nearly all of our drivers were named Abdul and the horse was named Sonja. I think we “was” had! But, it was a fun evening and included a stop at a coffee house where we enjoyed Turkish Coffee or hot tea and the opportunity to puff on a water pipe. Yep, we had disposable tips and at least ten of us partook with a few puffs…even Jim! I could still taste the tobacco two days later when I took a deep breath. Opps…maybe I inhaled a little too much but I felt it necessary to make the water bubble in the pipe! By 9:00 pm we were safely back in our hotel after completing a very fun but very long day in Luxor.

1 comment:

Mary said...

WoW what a basket ride you took.
Someday we want to do that also. Enjoyed your blog today. Phil spent the day at the cape and saw the shuttle go up.