Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “L” is for Luxor

Modern Luxor. Once part of the ancient capital city of Thebes and home to the great temple complexes of Luxor and Karnak!

Entrance to Karnak (left) and Luxor (right)

Karnak Temple was the one I was most excited to see. Like Philae, it was part of my real-life The Mummy Returns excursion, as it is the first stop on the map to the fictional Oasis of Ahm Shere in the film.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of Karnak, so I will have to revisit it on my next trip to Egypt—whenever that will be.

You see, we had a tour guide who was very talkative. I mean very talkative. Any other time I would have happily welcomed his unceasing lectures, because I want to absorb as much knowledge about Ancient Egyptian culture as I possibly can, but 30 minutes into his long-winded monologue before we even entered the temple, I had to pee, like really, really bad.

Any ladies out there get anxiety/have PTSD about using the bathroom in public whenever they’re with a large group? Or am I the only one with men in my life who treat you like a freak of nature just because you have to go to the bathroom a little more often than they do?

Anyway, I was too nervous to interrupt him and ask where’s the bathroom, so I thought maybe I could hold it and wait until we were on the way out to stop and use the bathroom. However, I severely underestimated just how long that man would talk. Ten minutes in front of this monument. Another 15 minutes in front of this statue. By the time he finally let us go to explore the temple on our own for 20 minutes before returning to the bus, my bladder was about to explode.

The bathroom was back at the visitor center, past admission where we scanned our tickets (so there would be no reentry after my bathroom break), past the temple complex exit, past the mini-market full of hagglers attempting to flatter you into buying something that definitely wasn’t worth what they were charging with such phrases as “Ahh, Nubian queen!” and “You look like my cousin!” and the ever-tempting “Are you looking for an Egyptian husband?”

It was about a ten-minute walk one way, so even if we could reenter the temple, there wouldn’t be enough time to explore it before we would have to meet the rest of the tour group at the bus.

So much for me remembering my past life at the sacred lake…

And would you believe I had to pay a dollar for a fistful of toilet paper to use the bathroom? It was like that for the bathrooms at all the ancient sites. It really teaches you to appreciate the luxuries you have back home. Free, clean bathrooms. Toilet tissue waiting for you in the stall and not rolled up in some stranger’s hand who’s demanding payment.

(And in the middle of a pandemic!)

Karnak wasn’t a total loss though. I still managed to snap some incredible photos.

Many pharaohs contributed to the construction of this temple complex throughout the centuries (from the Middle Kingdom all the way to the Ptolemaic Dynasty, the last dynasty of Ancient Egypt), including Queen Hatshepsut, her nephew/stepson Thutmose III, Seti I, and Ramesses the Great.

Hatshepsut had twin obelisks erected at the entrance to the temple, which at the time were the tallest in the world. One has since fallen. Her father, Thutmose I, also has obelisks erected at Karnak.

The columns within Karnak temple were massive! Some still have color on them.

And of course the hieroglyphs.

In the end, it didn’t matter that I missed seeing all of Karnak because when we got to our next stop, Luxor Temple, I realized the temple depicted in the film was Luxor, as Luxor Temple has the obelisk and statues of Ramesses the Great at the entrance, not Karnak.

I wonder if the director and set designer knew they had the wrong temple. Both are located in the present-day city of Luxor, and an avenue of sphinxes once connected them, but I promise they are two completely separate temples.

The structures also look way more intact in the film than they probably would have in 1933 (when it is set), and they definitely don’t look like that now.

And the temples today are surrounded by a major city, not a desert. But you know Hollywood. No matter the time period, Egypt always has to appear as it did in ancient times, even in the modern era.

See for yourself…

Okay, I promise, I’ll stop posting clips from The Mummy Returns now.

Returning to Karnak to close, since I was obviously the first one back to the bus after my bathroom excursion, I was able to have a friendly one-on-one chat with our tour guide and get to know him better, and I eventually forgave him for making me wait to pee, though technically it wasn’t his fault, and I’m sure he didn’t have the slightest clue that I was even upset with him.


“A” is for Arrival
“B” is for Buyer’s Remorse
“C” is for Cruisin’ the River Nile
“D” is for Delays, Delays, Delays
“E” is for Empty Tombs
“F” is for Fragrance
“G” is for Great Pyramid of Giza
“H” is for Hatshepsut
“I” is for Island Temple of Philae
“J” is for Just Engaged!
“K” is for Kom Ombo

This April for the A to Z Challenge, I’m sharing my experience of traveling to Egypt last month. These posts likely won’t be in chronological order, depending on what memory each letter strikes up, but if you’d like to follow me on this journey, subscribe below.

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