Luxor is often called the world’s greatest open-air museum and there might be nothing in the world that compares to the scale and grandeur of the monuments that have survived from ancient Thebes. After the pyramids of Giza, Karnak is Egypt’s most important pharaonic site. Excavations over the years have gradually uncovered the original structure of the temple complex, which was built over a 1,300-year period. Luxor Temple is an elegant example of Pharaonic temple architecture. The temple was largely completed by the 18th-Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III and added to during the reign of Ramses II in the 19th Dynasty.
Modern Luxor grew out of the ruins of Thebes, once the capital of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (1550–1069 BC). The Temple of Hatshepsut rises out of the desert in a series of terraces that merge with the sheer limestone cliffs behind. Discovered only in the mid-19th century, and still being restored by the Polish Mission.
Luxor has the greatest concentration of ancient monuments in Egypt. An hour’s flight from Cairo, one can spend a week here, although I was only able to spend a full day. The remote, barren Valley of the Kings was the necropolis of the New Kingdom pharaohs. The dramatic corridors and burial chambers are adorned with symbolic accounts of the journey through the underworld and ritual paintings to assist the pharaohs in the afterlife. The Valley of the Queens lies to the southwest of the Valley of the Kings and holds the tombs of many royal wives and children.