When I visited Luxor last summer I arranged to have a hot air balloon tour of the city. As the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world's greatest open-air museum”, since the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city on the east bank of the Nile. Immediately opposite, across the River Nile, lie the monuments, temples and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Hot air balloons are a special treat, required to happen in the early morning since they depend on hot air to rise. Because these experiences begin in darkness followed by twilight and the early dawn, it is as if the city is revealed like the raising of a curtain in the theater, revealing its charms in a quiet succession of rose and gold. When available, balloon adventures are the perfect introduction to a new locale.
Since modern hot air balloons are usually made of materials such as ripstop nylon or dacron (a polyester), which is quite flammable, there is usually a sizable ground crew to move everything into position and inflate the balloon. A hot air balloon is inflated partially with cold air from a gas-powered fan, before the propane burners are used for the final inflation. Increasing the air temperature inside the envelope makes it less dense than the surrounding (ambient) air. The balloon floats because of the buoyant force exerted on it. This force is the same force that acts on objects when they float in water. So the greater the difference in temperature between outside air and the air inside the balloon, the more lifting power is developed, explaining why these flights are usually done at the coldest point in the day, very early morning.
In my experience, when the passengers arrive the balloons have already been laid out, residing in pools of light caused by the roar of propane fire filling them with hot air. This always reminds me of a collection of campfires with everyone huddled around trying to stay warm. A crowd of ground crew mixed with passengers wait with nervous energy as the balloons slowly lift off the ground and become ready for flight. Finally everyone piles in and you slowly rise and begin to see the night lights of the city with rose along the eastern horizon. Even this early in the morning it is pleasantly warm in Luxor and the only sound is the whoosh of the propane burners.
When the sun begins to rise we were treated to the intense green fields along the Nile with a morning fog catching the rose colored horizon. The river caught the colors from the sky and looked like a yellow snake slithering through a very green pasture.
As the light improved, we were able to make out some of the world famous landmarks of Luxor. The huge Marak Coptic Church is relatively new and is located near the train station.
The Luxor Temple was dedicated to the Theban Triad of the cult of the Royal Ka, Amun, Mut, and Khonsu and was built during the New Kingdom, the focus of the annual Opet Festival, in which a cult statue of Amun was paraded down the Nile from nearby Karnak Temple (ipet-isut) to stay there for a while, with his consort Mut, in a celebration of fertility.
The Colossi of Memnon (known to locals as el-Colossat, or es-Salamat) are two massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. For the past 3400 years (since 1350 BC) they have stood in the Theban necropolis, west of the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor.
The Ramesseum is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of Pharaoh Rameses II. Rameses II modified, usurped, or constructed many buildings from the ground up, and the most splendid of these, in accordance with New Kingdom Royal burial practices, would have been his memorial temple: a place of worship dedicated to pharaoh, god on earth, where his memory would have been kept alive after his death.
The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the Djeser-Djeseru (“Holy of Holies”), is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. The mortuary temple is dedicated to the sun god Amon-Ra and is located next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, which served both as an inspiration, and later, a quarry. As a small aside, it is an amazing but accepted fact that only a hundred yards from the greenest irrigated fields I have ever seen is a complete and utterly dry desert complete with sand dunes.
Aside from the famous landmarks, it was just fun to silently glide along with the birds, seeing everything from a new perspective.
All good things must eventually end and as the morning became day, we made preparations to land. At the top of all hot air balloons there is a parachute vent to release the hot air when descending or turning. The next time you visit an area with hot air balloon adventures, consider signing up, you will get a new perspective and have some fun. Be sure your operator is certified; in 2013 there was a crash with serious injuries in Luxor but standards have been tightened since then. As always I hope you enjoyed, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.
Sinbad Hot Air Balloons: http://www.sindbadballoons.com
Luxor Hot Air Balloon Crash: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Luxor_hot_air_balloon_crash