Departure from Athens was much easier than from Genoa. Our flight agent picked us up at the hotel and drove us right through the security checkpoint. After a short stop at his office to settle the account, he drove us to the airplane and held up vehicular traffic while we taxied away from the parking area. Although the Athens Jetport is similar in size to JFK or Miami, there was very little traffic at 8 AM and we were airborne without delay. What a great way to start the day!
It was a clear day so we could easily see the Greek Islands. Their names came up on the multifunction display as we passed over them. It is too bad we did not have time to stop this time but they will be there for a future visit. Like those in Italy, they consist totally of mountains rising from the sea. The island of Crete is comprised of two long larger mountains connected by a smaller one. The inhabitants don't walk anywhere, they climb.
As we approached Egypt, the contrast between the dark blue Mediterranean and the brown, dry coastal area was quite striking. One would think that some of the water would filter in from the sea but that was not in evidence. We will never again complain about the rain.
For the next three hours of southerly travel, there was nothing but obviously parched desert. The Red Bearon, sitting in his spot at the front of the instrument panel, kept his eyes peeled for an oasis but did not find one. He was hoping we could drop in for a cool lemonade.
The night before our departure, Sherry and I had discussed our preconception of Luxor and we concluded that we really did not have any. We had initially planned to stop at Alexandria and had not researched Luxor. However, the Avgas promised in Alexandria turned out to be not acceptable so the destination was changed only about two weeks ago. No matter what we would have thought, the first views of Luxor still would have been a surprise.
In totally opposite contrast to the coast, the narrow strip of land along the Nile is amazingly lush and verdant. Luxor capitalizes to the max on that location as water is pumped from the river to irrigate its farms and other areas. Hotels situated directly on the Nile have ponds with fountains, white pelicans and flamingos. The Bearon finally found his oasis.
With our arrival at the airport, one would have thought we were flying a Boeing 727. Seven airport workers came out to meet and greet us--from the station manager to security guards, baggage handlers and fuelers. It was just like our airline days. The payoff, however, was the transportation. They rolled out a gigantic bus, probably fifty feet or longer, to carry us and our luggage to the terminal. When we expressed our surprise at such a large vehicle, they stated that they only wanted to make us feel welcome. They succeeded!
Luxor is best known for its tombs. Pharaohs for many centuries prepared for their eventual demise and afterlife with burial vaults burrowed into the mountains over the years of their reign. There are more than sixty such tombs in the hills west of Luxor and not all have been found. There is a Valley of the Kings as well as a Valley of the Queens for those who ruled. We toured a few of the many tombs and found them very interesting and educational. Experiencing such historic sites first hand is always quite memorable. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The real thing is worth a thousand pictures.
We are enjoying our time here. Luxor may not be as modern or as cosmopolitan as Genoa or Athens but it will be a good stopover. We had a short sail on the Nile for tea and English cake. Also, some horse drawn carriage rides and a nighttime sound and light tour of a gigantic ancient temple. However, having smelled their breath on a previous encounter, I think we will forego the camel rides.