Friday, 11 February 2011

Eye Witness Report of Tourist Life in Luxor during the Unrest

About the current situation in Luxor: I am staying in a penthouse at and have been here since 18 January, 2011. Consequently, I have seen how things looked like before and after the disturbances in Cairo and other Egyptian cities and I have to say that there has not been much of a difference in Luxor and vicinity. Beside a (pro-Mubarak) demonstration involving a dozen or so people last week there were no political activities. There is an army presence in front of the major historical sites and museums but it is simply a presence: no active involvement and it is reassuring. I have seen some jewelry and other stores with expensive articles closed shut but most of the stores are open and ATMs in high end hotels give cash without waiting.

However, there are some differences between before and after that are worth noting:

1. The Lonely Planet Guide writes that “Luxor is often considered the hassle capital of Egypt …”. As there are fewer tourists this has intensified. Naturally: people are very dependent on tourism and all of a sudden that source of income is gone. It may be harder to cope with this behavior politely if you do not have the experience.
2. The good news: fewer visitors means that the sites are not crowded as they were before. And these days it is to the extreme: this morning I had the Valley of the Kings essentially to myself. There were only two minibuses and a car on the parking lot but I have not bumped into the other visitors in the tombs I visited. Thus, I was alone with Tutankhamen’s mummy in his tomb as I was also lucky enough to come on a day when his mummy was displayed. And the same in the other tombs and the guardians were accommodating (but I am not supposed to tell).

Overall, the situation in Egypt may add an extra uncertainty and, therefore, stress to traveling here but if you can deal with it the benefits outweigh the costs.

Miro Benda
Seattle (currently in Luxor)

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