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The Beauty of Luxor

posted on: Feb 23, 2022

The Beauty of Luxor

By: Lindsey Penn/Arab America Contributing Writer

When you think of Egypt, you probably think of the Great Pyramids and Cairo. However, there is more to the Ancient Egyptian archaeological sites than the pyramids in Cairo. One of these places is Luxor, which is a smaller city in southern Egypt. But after the revolution in Egypt and the Covid-19 pandemic, much of Egypt is struggling as the tourism sector of the economy has dwindled. Luxor’s economy depended nearly entirely on the tourism that the archaeological sites bring. As time goes on, the beauty of Luxor goes unappreciated and unnoticed, while many of the people in Luxor find themselves without a job.

The City of Luxor

The city of Luxor is 160 square miles, with a population of almost 507,000 people as of 2012. Luxor is on the eastern side of the Nile and is 313 miles south of Cairo. It is much smaller than Cairo. In the southern half of the city, there are archaeological sites, which were the ancient city of Thebes. The archaeological sites give the city most of its income and many people in Luxor work in the tourism industry in one way or another. Many people also work in the agriculture industry because the Nile is so close. Agriculture is the second largest part of the economy in Luxor, as people will grow their own food to make up for any decreases in income.

The Beauty of Luxor
The Hilton Resort in Luxor, Egypt

Even with the weather in Luxor, tourists usually flock to the city to view the ruins. It is extremely hot in the summer months with some daily high temperatures in the mid-90s or higher. For that reason, the popular months for tourism are in the fall and winter, when the weather is cooler, but not by much-daily high temperatures during November to March are usually still in the 80s. With the Nile nearby, though, there sometimes might be a breeze to cool down. Overall, the city is a place for tourists to come when trying to escape the cold in their own countries and to relax, as the city also has many resorts.

Archaeological Sites

The Beauty of Luxor
Map of the archaeological sites in Luxor.

The part that attracts the most tourists are the Ancient Egyptian ruins in Luxor. There are so many sites to see in Luxor that it usually takes many days or even trips to see everything. Between the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Temple of Karnak, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the Temple of Luxor, and more. All of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Valley of the Kings

The Beauty of Luxor

One of the larger archaeological sites, the Valley of the Kings is where the Ancient Egyptians buried most of their pharaohs. At some point, the Ancient Egyptians realized that having a big marker for the burial of their rulers (with tons of gold and other valuable items) was not a good idea, as it encouraged thieves to steal the items. To solve that problem, they started burying the pharaohs under large sand mounds where the tombs were more easily concealed (although they were arguably still not successful in keeping robbers out of the tombs). This is where Tutankhamun, Ramses II, and many other kings were buried. In total, there are more than 60 tombs discovered so far.

Tourists can visit the Valley of the Kings and go inside the tombs, however, pictures are not allowed (you might be able to buy a ticket specifically for pictures). One ticket will only allow for visiting three tombs. You can choose to add three more tombs to your ticket for more money.

Valley of the Queens

The Beauty of Luxor

Similarly to the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens is where all of the Queens of Ancient Egypt are buried. Archaeologists have discovered more than 90 tombs in the Valley of the Queens so far. The most well known of the tombs is Nefertari’s tombs. To see Nefertari’s tomb, you have to pay an extra fee. Pictures still may cost extra for a special ticket. Students do get a cheaper ticket.

Temple of Karnak

The Beauty of Luxor

The Temple of Karnak was dedicated to the Ancient Egyptian god Amun and covers about 200 acres of land. It got so big because each pharaoh would add to the complex. Each year, the Ancient Egyptians would hold festivals in the Temple to honor the gods. Today, tourists can visit the Temple of Karnak for a fee, although because of its size, it might be easier to get a guide.

The Current State of Luxor’s Economy

Egypt’s revolution in 2011.

As mentioned before, tourism is a big part of Luxor’s economy between the archaeological sites and the resorts. It is also a big part of the entire country’s economy. In 2010, Egypt as a whole received 14.5 million tourists. At that time, it was the second-biggest source of revenue for the country, second only to remittances from expatriates. The government predicted 16 million tourists to come to Egypt in 2011. Then, in January of 2011, the Egyptian Revolution began. Luxor had started off the year 2011 with 61% capacity in its hotels. By the first week of February, it dropped to 5%. As the revolution was happening, countries started issuing travel warnings for Egypt. Tourists started canceling plans as Egypt’s government became unstable.

The trend continued for a while, and tourism in Egypt was not nearly as big as before the revolution. People were finally starting to go in 2017, when there were 5.9 million tourists visiting Egypt between January and September. Starting in 2018, government officials predicted the hotels in Luxor would be at 90% capacity during the season. There were 9 million tourists in Egypt in 2018. At that point, the numbers still weren’t even at the 2010 levels, but were getting there. Tourism increased in Egypt again in 2019, totaling 13.6 million tourists.

Then the pandemic happened. Just as tourism increased, the country had to shut down. People were canceling reservations, and eventually, the Egyptian government shut airports down. The decision was not made lightly, especially because shutting down the airports (and in effect, the tourism sector) meant a $1 billion loss for Egypt each month. The government had a tough choice to make.

As 2020 went on and cases became manageable, Egypt began opening up again. But many other parts of the world were still having an increase in cases. In September, for example, the Temple of Karnak re-opened for visitors. On the first day, only twelve people visited the site. In addition, countries are going back into lockdown as cases are surging once again. This doesn’t bode well, especially since Egypt’s (and Luxor’s) big tourism months are October through January, when the heat is more bearable.

With tourism decreasing, people in Luxor are losing money and having to find other ways to keep themselves and their families afloat. Many hope that next year the tourism sector will be able to open up again and people will make reservations and visit. For now, though, people are staying home.

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