Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Travel: Flying over Luxor

Sydney Morning Herald

I have been to Luxor so many times, and I have twice risen at ludicrous hours of the morning to visit the tomb of Nefertari before the day's allocation is sold, but I have never managed to find the time or energy to do a balloon flight over Luxor. I have never heard a bad report of it, and here is yet another positive review of the experience:

It is still pitch-dark when we reach the launch site, near the Ramesseum temple on the west bank. But before we know it about 20 of us are crammed into four compartments of Captain Bob's balloon and, with a few gusts of fiery air, are rising ethereally into the inky Egyptian sky.

After we've climbed a few hundred metres the darkness is already thinning and we begin to notice the patchwork of fields nearby, and the way that the blanket of green
extends about two kilometres from the curling river Nile, then stops abruptly. Beyond that, everything is desert. From up here it is easy to see why the Nile was the lifeblood of the ancient civilisation that settled here.

With only light winds blowing this morning, Captain Bob can steer us gently up and down. As we ascend, we have an eagle's view of the Ramesseum temple complex directly below, with its avenues formed by huge pillars and its series of rib-like arches. Then, as we drift back down, we are barely 100 metres above the equally impressive Temple of Ramses III, its walls lit pink by the sunrise. We are also close enough to the ground to see people clearly in the village below. One man is still sleeping on a backyard mattress, another is driving his donkey and trap into the fields to begin work.

The sun is rising quickly now, throwing a blaze of tangerine light over the desert hills and valleys.

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