Coptic Cairo, Egypt

In the few remaining hours left in Egypt we decided to quickly visit Coptic Cairo, which forms part of Old Cairo. We visited the large Church of St. George and Hanging Church.

Church of St. GeorgeGreek Orthodox Church flag, Egyptian flag and Greece flagInside Church of St. George
Church of St. GeorgeWall in Coptic CairoLaneway in Coptic Cairo


When leaving we picked up some Keys of Life (Ankh) a medium and small one for 5 EGP for souvenirs. Its shape is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character meaning eternal life.

Alexandria – founded by Alexander the Great

We arrived in Cairo in the early morning; a train to Alexandria wasn’t for a few hours, so we decided to use a minibus for 25 EGP, which ended up being faster.


After checking in our hotel in Alexandria we decided to walk along the Corniche, when we were approached by a horse and carriage who offered to take us around for 40 EGP to three of the main sights, Amud El Sawari (Pompey’s Pillar), Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa and Qaitbay Fortress. The tour would end at the modern Alexandria Library and cost 40 EGP, though he naturally wanted more at the end.

Amud El Sawari (Pompey’s Pillar)

A single piece column from red granite standing at over twenty metre high, there really wasn’t much else to see, that and two sphinxes which flank it on either side.

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

Now, this was the highlight for me. Unsure what to expect, we paid the entrance fee and made our way onto the grounds, there wasn’t much, a few sarcophagus and tombs. Then we found an entrance to a spiral staircase, and on it we descended deep into the underground. We were presented with an open rotunda ambulatory with passageways that lead to a maze of catacombs leading to galleries and tombs; all that we were missing was a fire-torch in hand. Throughout the catacombs were Roman statues, paintings and even an altar which had rays of sun shining onto it from above. Unfortunately, like most tombs in Egypt, photography was not permitted.

Qaitbay Fortress

Qaitbay Fortress is situated at the tip of a peninsula extending into the Mediterranean Sea, the original location of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Qaitbay Fortress is an irregular concentric castle with the lower fortifications protecting the inner citadel (or castle). The inner castle in a beautiful square design with rounded towers on each corner. It was what one would imagine a Arabic fort to look like.

Modern Alexandria Library

The modern Alexandria Library (Bibliotheca Alexandrina) was unfortunately closed, being a Friday.

Looking over Alexandria Bay towards Pharos IslandStart of the horse drawn carriage tourBoy selling poultry
Street markets on Haret Al ShamsSphinx at the location of Pompeys PillarPompeys Pillar with one of the two Sphinxes
Entrance to Catacombs of Kom el ShoqafaEastern harbor with the Citadel of Qaitbay in the backgroundCitadel of Qaitbay
Sonya in a hallway of the Citadel of QaitbayLooking over Alexandria BayCitadel of Qaitbay
Sonya in front of the Citadel of QaitbayBoats moored in Alexandri BaySonya and Travis in the horse drawn carriage with El-Mursi Abul Abbas Mosque in the background
Sonya at the Bibliotheca AlexandrinaLooking over Alexandria BayView from the hotel


That night we ate fresh seafood at Kaddoura Restaurant, which was recommended by the Lonely Planet. Probably the best fish we’d had for a while.

Karnak Temple – the largest ancient religious site in the world

On our last day in Luxor we planned to visit Karnak Temple, a complex containing a large group of temples. It is situated two kilometres north of Luxor Temple, and the two temples were originally connected by the “Avenue of Sphinxes”. We arranged a horse and carriage for 6 EGP to Karnak Temple; this was surprisingly cheaper than a taxi. On arrive we organised a one hour tour for 60 EGP, the tour guide shared a few unknown and interesting facts, but a tour guide isn’t necessary.

We entered the temple complex from the west and were presented with a small avenue of ram-headed sphinxes which lead to the first pylon on the inner Temple of Amun-Re. The first pylon is incomplete with temporary mud-bricks still remaining behind, providing an insight into its construction. After the first pylon was the Great Forecourt which housed a large number of open-air artefacts. After the second pylon was the Great Hypostyle Hall, a forest of one-hundred-and-thirty-four columns, initially constructed by Seti I and majority completed by Ramesses II. Between the third and fourth pylon was a large obelisk from time of Thutmose I. In all, there are ten pylons with the last being built by Horemheb.

One of the interesting things within Karnak Temple is the Sacred Lake used by priests to purify them. At the corner of the lake is a sculpture of a scarab beetle which the ancient Egyptians worshipped as a representation of the sun god Ra, due to the similarities between the rolling of the dung and rolling of the sun across the sky.

The rest of the time we enjoyed exploring the temple complex, with its hundreds of artefacts scattered around. There were hardly any other tourists which made for good photographs.

Ram-headed sphinxesHieroglyphs on one of the columns in the Great Hypostyle HallStatue of Ramesses wearing double crown
Workers enjoying a breakSonya next to the Granite Scarab BeetleEgyptian worker
Egyptian statue modified to form a Christian crossStatues near East GateSonya with remains of two sitting statues
Red granite RamessesColumns of Great Hypostyle HallSonya at the obelisk of Thutmose I
Travis in front of the Great Hypostyle HallClosed papyrus bud columns of Great Hypostyle HallTravis and Sonya at the Great Hypostyle Hall
Great Hypostyle HallGreat Hypostyle HallTemple of Ramesses III
Temple of Sethos IISonya outside the First PylonAvenue of Ram-headed sphinxes


After visiting Karnak we headed back to the heart of Luxor.  Unsure what to do for the rest of the afternoon, we stopped at an outside restaurant that enticed us with 8 EGP bottles of Egyptian ‘Stella’ and which overlooked the Luxor Temple.  Cold beers on a hot day, it was a relaxing way to spend the rest of the afternoon that reminded me of Australia.

That evening we caught the sleeper train back to Cairo.

Luxor – The West Bank Funerary Temples and Necropolis

Across the Nile is the world famous Valley of the Kings housing Tomb of Tutankhamun, however, the more impressive and little known are the associated Funerary Temples and Tombs of the Nobles.

View of West Bank from the NileColossi of MemnonSheikh Abd el-Qurna village

I initially thought we could walk the site the whole day; after all it was only two kilometres from the hotel. We started our journey towards the ferry crossing, and were followed by a taxi driver who tried to convince us to hire his taxi, we politely declined. We caught the 1 EGP ferry and continued up the road.  The same taxi driver drove up alongside us and offered to take us to the ticket office for 2 EGP, and eventually we accepted. After some discussion, he had made business, we arranged 80 EGP for 8 hours of taxi hire, quite a bargain, I thought.

The following were the tickets we purchased that day (and this didn’t even include the Valley of the Kings!)

  1. Temple of Deir El-Madina (30 EGP)
  2. Medinet Habu Temple (30 EGP)
  3. Ramesseum Temple (30 EGP)
  4. Deir el-Bahari Temple (inc. Hatshepsut’s Temple) (30 EGP)
  5. Temple of Seti I (30 EGP)
  6. Tombs of the Nobles
    1. Tomb of Userhat and Tomb of Khaemhet (25 EGP)
    2. Tomb of Rekhmire and Tomb of Sennofer (25 EGP)
    3. Tomb of Menna and Tomb of Nakht (25 EGP)


Temple of Deir El-Median

Deir El-Median was a village home to Egyptian artisans that worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.  One of the main features in the temple dedicated goddess Hathor. When drawn from the front Hathor has a very distinguishable wide face with pointy ears.

Deir el-Medina - Looking over ancient village of Deir el-MedinaDeir el-Medina - Image of Hathor, located in the Temple of HathorDeir el-Medina - Deir el-Medina workers village


Medinet Habu Temple (Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III)

We entered through the Migdol Gate which brought us to the magnificent first pylon with decorated walls of Ramesses III defeating the Nubians and Syrians. Inside the first court are statues of Ramesses III as Osiris. Throughout the complex the walls were covered in amazing carvings and hieroglyphs, many with vibrant colours.

Medinet Habu Temple - First PylonMedinet Habu Temple - Travis standing at the Main GateMedinet Habu Temple - Entrance to the First Court front the First Pylon
Medinet Habu Temple - Second Pylon with inner Terrace visibleMedinet Habu Temple - Ramesses IVMedinet Habu Temple - Close-up of hieroglyphs, notice distinguishable Hathor
Medinet Habu Temple - Travis at the feet of the colossal Osiris statuesMedinet Habu Temple - Second Court inner TerraceMedinet Habu Temple - Travis under the inner Terrace
Medinet Habu Temple - Coloured hieroglyphsMedinet Habu Temple - Sonya with some deep-cut hieroglyphsMedinet Habu Temple - Brightly decorated walls of the inner Terrace
Medinet Habu Temple - Brightly decorated columnsMedinet Habu Temple - Coloured hieroglyphsMedinet Habu Temple - Sonya under the inner Terrace


Ramesseum Temple

The Ramesseum is the memorial temple of famous Ramesses II. We entered the first court from the north; in front of the second pylon were the remains from a giant statue of Ramesses II. In the second court were eight statues of Ramesses II. Moving from the second court was the Great Hypostyle Hall, where once stood forty-eight columns with capitals of closed and open papyrus flowers.

Ramesseum Temple - The Ramesseum TempleRamesseum Temple - Looking towards the Portice and Great Hypostyle HallRamesseum Temple - Sonya standing on the ramp to the Great Hypostyle Hall
Ramesseum Temple - Travis taking a rest in the Second CourtRamesseum Temple - Amun giving Ramesses II ankh (key of life)Ramesseum Temple - Great Hypostyle Hall
Ramesseum Temple - Decorated open papyrus bud columnsRamesseum Temple - Sonya with some deep-cut hieroglyphsRamesseum Temple - View of Ramesseum Temple from Tombs of the Nobles


Deir el-Bahari Temple and Hatshepsut’s Temple

One of the most amazing monuments is the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, hidden beneath and in the relief of cliffs known as Deir el-Bahari. Approaching from the ticketing-booth were small caves carved out of the valley’s cliff face, similar to what we had seen in Petra. Turning the valley corner you see an enormous cliff face with the Hatshepsut Temple sitting at the bottom, in the centre a cause-way leading all the way to the lower terrace of the temple. The ramp to the middle terrace was flanked by two statues of sitting god Horus. On the left side was Chapel of Hathor, bearing columns featuring the head of Hathor.

Hatshepsuts Temple - Road to Temple of HatshepsutHatshepsuts Temple - Temple of HatshepsutHatshepsuts Temple - Egyptian man
Hatshepsuts Temple - Osirian statue of HatshepsutHatshepsuts Temple - Osirian statues of HatshepsutHatshepsuts Temple - Sonya in front an Osirian statue of Hatshepsut
Hatshepsuts Temple - Travis and Sonya at Temple of HatshepsutHatshepsuts Temple - Column of Hathor at Hathor ChapelHatshepsuts Temple - Hathor Chapel Festival scene


Temple of Seti I

As one would have guessed the temple of Seti I is the memorial temple of Pharaoh Seti I. Though the temple wasn’t very impressive, it now had lush palm trees interspersed throughout which was nice.

Temple of Seti I - Sonya at Temple of Seti ITemple of Seti I - Wall carving of Thoth Temple of Seti I - Seti performing rituals to Amun


Tombs of the Nobles

The Tombs of the Nobles are the burial tombs of priests and officials. While we were there we were the only tourists, however just as we left a tour bus of Egyptians arrived.

Tombs of the Nobles - Looking over the Theban NecropolisTombs of the Nobles - Sign pointing to tombs of Rekhmire and SenneferTombs of the Nobles - Entrance to Tomb of Sennefer


Tomb of Userhat (TT56) and Tomb of Khaemhet (TT57)

Both tombs had beautiful paintings of daily Egyptian life, hunting, fishing and agriculture. In the Tomb of Userhat is a famous painting of man getting his haircut.

Tomb of Rekhmire (TT100) and Tomb of Sennofer (TT96)

The Tomb of Rekhmire had beautiful animal paintings of a giraffe, monkey, baboon and cheetah from Nubia. The Tomb of Sennofer or known as the Tomb of Vines, due to the walls and ceilings or the Lower ‘Burial’ Chamber covered with paintings of grape bunches on vines.  The Tomb of Sennofer had amazing artwork throughout.

Tomb of Menna (TT69) and Tomb of Nakht (TT52)

The Tomb of Menna had beautiful paintings of rural life and agriculture. The Tomb of Nakht had the famous painting of three female musicians representing the ‘Beautiful Festival of the Valley’.

Valley of the Kings

After having seen the most amazingly decorated tombs in the Tombs of the Nobles, we were questioned whether we should visit any of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Also, all the recommended tombs by the Lonely Planet were closed on our visit. Normal entry is 80 EGP for three ‘plain’ tombs.

Valley of the Kings - Walking towards the Valley of the KingsValley of the Kings - Entrance to Valley of the KingsValley of the Kings - Walking back from the Valley of the Kings


Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62)

Even though Tutankhamun is a ridiculous 100 EGP, and is one of the least grandeur, we decided to see it due to being such an iconic tomb. The tomb also included the inner wooden sarcophagus and mummy of Tutankhamun.

Tomb of Ramesses V and Ramesses VI (KV9)

The other tomb we saw was the unique jointly shared Tomb of Ramesses V and Ramesses VI (entry 50 EGP), it gave us an idea of the grandness of a tomb of a pharaoh, over one hundred metres in length with a very wide and long entrance way. The walls and ceilings picture the story of the origin of the earth and include astronomical drawings.

We finished the day off resting on the side of the valley talking to the young local Egyptian sellers, who wanted to find out everything about our lives.  One of them even asked Sonya for advice about how to woe his online Brazilian girlfriend.