Our journey to Egypt involved flying from Cork to Amsterdam, to Cairo, and finally to Luxor. Luxor is a city of about 400,000 people, so is just a bit bigger than Cork, and seemed like a good place to adjust to Egypt before tackling Aswan (population over one million) or Cairo (population around 18 million).

The city of Luxor won’t win any beauty contests, but we enjoyed our time there. Dust, sand and rubbish were everywhere, lots of buildings were empty, and most of the buildings in use looked unfinished because there were pieces of rebar sticking out of their roofs. I’ve seen different explanations about the unfinished buildings, but one explanation is that it makes it easier to add on to later if it‘s necessary. Sometimes it was hard to tell if a building was in the middle of the construction or destruction process. This is a bit unfair to Luxor, but I was most reminded of pictures I’d seen of war zones such as Beirut during and after the civil war in Lebanon.

Because Luxor is the smallest of the main tourist cities along the Nile, the ratio of tourists to locals is higher there than in Aswan or Cairo, so most hotel staff, taxi drivers, or really anyone who comes into regular contact with tourists can speak English. The touts at the tourist souq (market) were persistent, calling out to us trying to get us to stop. The touts would yell, “Hey, moustache” (I had grown a beard a few weeks before our trip), and when the they heard we were American, they usually responded with “Welcome to California,” or even more bizarrely, “Welcome to Alaska.”

For several reasons we extended our stay in Luxor, because despite the run-down appearance of the city, we really did like it.