When Moses stood up to Pharaoh in Exodus, he faced not only the ruler but also one of the most powerful civilizations of all time. To more fully understand the fascinating culture and extraordinary wealth of ancient Egypt, faith-based groups should travel to Luxor.
Often called the world’s greatest open-air museum, Luxor preserves the Egypt that captures the world’s imagination. Treasure-filled tombs hold the remains of legendary pharaohs and massive temples rise from the desert.
Luxor sits along the banks of the River Nile on the 4,000-year-old site of Thebes. Once described by Homer as a “city with a hundred gates,” Thebes served as the capital of Egypt from 1550 to 1069 B.C., when the kingdom stretched from Nubia to Palestine with a population of a million.
Biblical tours to Egypt almost always include Luxor, since pilgrims can walk the same path as Moses. The southern Egyptian city makes an excellent base for exploring northern Egypt or as a starting point for a Nile cruise.
Groups can tour the well-preserved remnants of this once-vast civilization starting at the Luxor Museum, one of the country’s top-rated museums. The Luxor Museum tells the story of ancient Thebes from the Old Kingdom right up to the Islamic Period.
Top Attractions for Church Groups
• Luxor Temple — The Luxor Temple is one of the world’s oldest buildings continually used as a place of worship, though over the centuries, it was gradually buried by shifting sands. Now uncovered and open for exploration, the grand temple still holds the remains of a Christian church and mosque once incorporated into the site. The Luxor Temple’s construction began in 1400 B.C. and continued during the reigns of two pharaohs, Amenhopis II and Ramses II.
• Valley of the Kings — Hidden below the desert floor lies the Valley of the Kings, a final resting place for many famous pharaohs, including the boy-king Tutankhamun and the recently renovated Tomb of Seti I. More than 60 tombs have been discovered, though the site rotates a section of 15 open to the public. Visitors love the vivid wall paintings depicting the journey to the underworld.
• Nile Cruise — The River Nile first became a popular tourist attraction for the wealthy in Victorian times. Today, many luxurious Nile cruises still explore the highlights of Egypt, such as Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo. Most start from Luxor and work their way north down the Nile.
• Karnak Temple — Many believe the awe-inspiring Karnak Temple served as the Vatican of its day. Egypt’s largest temple complex contains multiple temples, a sacred pool for offerings and the Temple of Amun-Ra’s forest of 32-foot-tall hieroglyphic-covered columns. Karnak underwent several renovations in its day with changes made by more than 30 pharaohs.
• Ramesseum — To ensure everyone knew of Ramses II’s greatness, the pharaoh constructed the mortuary temple Ramesseum. Though only half of the original structure survives, visitors can still see parts of the colossal statue of the king, which is estimated to have originally stood at 57 feet.
Must Have Experiences in Luxor, Egypt
Must-Do: To escape the heat, many visitors soar up in the early hours of the morning or just after sunset on a hot-air balloon ride, the town’s most popular activity, to view the temples, the village farmland and the River Nile from above.
Must-Taste: Aish baladi is the Egyptian version of flatbread. Made with whole wheat flour, the staple dish is traditionally baked in extremely hot ovens and has been produced since the times of ancient Egypt.
Bring it Home: One of Egypt’s oldest crafts, glass sand bottles are commonly sold by street vendors in Luxor. The artists fill the glass bottles with white and colored sand for decoration.
Photo Op: For a jaw-dropping sight, groups can visit the Temple of Hatshepsut. Build in honor of Egypt’s sun god, the grand archaeological marvel sits at the base of limestone cliffs with statues, pillars and hieroglyphs.