Al-Ahram Weekly Online   4 - 10 February 2010
Issue No. 984
Travel
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Luxor again and again


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There are plenty of activities awaiting you at Luxor, whether you prefer to pay a visit to history's iconic Karnak temple, enjoy a cruise by the Nile or just chill by your hotel's beachfront

I can't recall how many times I have visited this city, but one thing I do remember is that Luxor doesn't cease to surprise me each and every time I come back. Thebes was the capital when Ancient Egyptian civilisation reached its zenith, where grand temples were built in the name of the gods and extravagant tombs glorified the Pharaohs even in the afterlife. These monuments are one reason why one trip to Luxor is never enough; they are abundant and discoveries are ongoing.

One of the most recent restoration efforts in Luxor has tackled Carter's House, where Howard Carter lived during his years in Luxor. The name of this English Egyptologist and archaeologist is etched in history for famously discovering the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. And the house where he lived is equally intriguing. Professionally restored, it features some furniture used by Carter as well as a handful of memorabilia, including period pieces of décor, a very old fan and a huge photography camera. The recently installed wall hangings shed light on the history of the residence and the life achievements of its owner.

No visit to Luxor could circumvent the Karnak Temple, and the classical attraction has had a facelift. Recently, the front area was completely overhauled, with an organised floor plan for a pedestrian area and bazaar section with proper shops, rather than ramshackle stands. Another area is utilised as a food court, but rather oddly the biggest eatery is a Lebanese restaurant. The famed Karnak Sound and Light Show now offers any language at any time, through the use of audio devices which simultaneously narrate in nine different languages, including Russian and Polish.

On this trip, I decided to enjoy the same monuments but from a bird's eye view. While hot air ballooning has become a common excursion activity on almost every tourist itinerary in town, more recently, flying has conquered the skies. Instead of hovering above Luxor in a hot air balloon, with the wind essentially deciding which temples you will visit, a flight in a small Cessna plane gives you control over your sightseeing. Lont Group offers a 30-minute flight over Luxor for about $120 per person, with a minimum of two pax. While not as classic a trip as by balloon, the small planes have their own charm. From Deir Al-Bahari and the Ramesseum to the Tempe of Seti I and Madinet Habu, the bird's eye view is spectacular.

Luxor is one of the most congested places on earth, but I'm not talking about unruly traffic; it's the number of monuments. The wealth of historical sites to visit leaves you worn out by the end of the day, especially if you are on a short visit. There is, of course, a relaxing way to enjoy the city. The recently renovated Hilton Resort and Spa is ideal because it combines sightseeing with world quality repose. The entire hotel is built around the concept of relaxation and rejuvenation, with claming music in the background, a slow- dripping water fountain in the lobby and a colour theme which helps set the right mood. At the same time, the main restaurant offers an easy to use calories calculating system to keep you eating healthy.

The resort houses the only spa in town, which offers a thermal area free of charge to resident guests. This area is divided into a hot section and a cold one, where in the former you can enjoy a steam or herbal bath (a steam both with the addition of herbs), as well as a laconium in a steam room equipped with a salt sprinkler. In the cold section, you can enjoy the rain shower, the ice fountain or perhaps the reflexology basin for a foot treatment without a therapist. After you are done with this bundle of pampering, experience the water beds move in the relaxation area or the annexed outdoor lounge.

The Nayara Spa offers a long list of treatments and therapies from algae body wrap and aromatic mud bath, to deep active cleansing and facial scrubs. Nayara Spa signature treatments are exclusively offered at the Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa, since they are inspired from the culture of the place and even named after ancient Egyptian gods and queens. The Cleopatra Ceremony, for example, is where posh pampering becomes royal with a precious milk bath followed by a celestial sandalwood and cedar massage.

Hilton Luxor also has a unique suite spa which redefines luxury, and might be the only place in Egypt pampering you in a room annexed to your suite. You can call the therapist at your convenience and enjoy relaxing treatments in private. If don't want to follow this with a soak in your private Jacuzzi, you can always go for a dip in the hotel's infinity pool with its majestic view overlooking the great River Nile.

The list of what is new in Luxor is not restricted to tourist- oriented facilities and attractions, but covers the interests of ordinary Egyptians who call Luxor home. The ferry service, which is the main method of transportation connecting the city's two banks, was recently overhauled. The old wrecked ferries were replaced with brand new ones shaped like Ancient Egyptian barques. So you are certain to enjoy every minute of your stay in Luxor, even when crossing the Nile in a public ferry.

For prices and details concerning the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, please call 095 239 9999 or log on to www1.hilton.com

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