The Souks, or the local markets, and the larger bazaars are among the most remarkable attractions of Egypt. Unlike Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, Egypt doesn't really have a restaurant culture although it does have an exciting street food scene. Located behind and around the Temple of Luxor, Sharia el-Souq was converted into a charming, yet unauthentic, covered pedestrian zone. The newly paved and renovated street accommodates many shops that sell that same Egyptian merchandise, catering only for tourists. While items are the same, the pleasant surroundings make for a generally better shopping experience, albeit highly artificial. For a more authentic experience, however, continue north onto Sharia Ahmos where the local Luxor souk is located and where these pictures were taken.
Luxor was an important political and religious center since it was the ancient city of Thebes, the capital of Egypt. “Luxor” derives from the Arabic al-uksur, meaning “fortifications”. That name in addition was adapted from the Latin castrum, which referred to the Roman fort built around the temple in the later third century AD. The temple of Luxor has, since its inception, always been a sacred site. The Temple of Luxor, located on the east bank of the Nile, was dedicated to the veneration of Amon/Amun (who was associated with Mut and Khonsu, the Theban triad). It was known in the New Kingdom period as Ipt-Rsyt, which means the southern shrine. This was to differentiate between this Temple and Karnak Temple, which was the northern house of Amon Ra. The first pylon is over 70 feet high, originally fronted by massive statues and two obelisks. There are several open areas, once used for various forms of worship but now empty. Later additions include a shrine to Alexander the Great, a Roman sanctuary, and a thirteenth century Islamic shrine to Abou El-Hagag. Built largely by Amenhotep III (ruled 1388-1351 BCE) and Ramesses II (ruled 1279-1213 BCE), it appears that the temple's purpose was for a suitable setting for the rituals of the festival of Opet. The festival itself was to reconcile the human aspect of the ruler with the divine office. Hence, Luxor Temple was the power base of the living divine king, and the foremost national shrine of the kings cult.
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.