Luxor Marathon!

Luxor, Egypt

This might go down under “Seemed Like a Good Idea At the Time” in my book…. Egypt is cheap, and since I was staying with Megan I didn’t have to pay for a hotel room, but still, I was determined to be as thrifty as possible. If I was going to pay for the train to Luxor and back, I wasn’t going to spend money on a hotel. But while I remember sleeping pretty well on trans-European sleeper trains, Egyptian trains are not as smooth a ride. Still, it was an awesome day. I arrived in the cool early morning to see Karnak bathed in golden light.

From Luxor

Then I proceeded across the river and headed straight for the Valley of the Kings. You can’t take pictures inside, which is only one of many things that Petra could learn from the Egyptian authorities. Tourism is detrimental to archaeological sites, from flash photography, to litter and graffiti, to the very air they breathe. While Jordan has let the sudden increase of tourists in the last year trample right over the best interests of preservation, Egypt has not, forbidding photography of sensitive sites and restricting tourists to seeing only 3 tombs on a given day in the Valley of the Kings. As a result, the tombs are pristine and astonishing, most still brightly painted. It’s something I’d love to chat with Chris Tuttle about some day soon.

From Luxor

Then I saw the stunning Temple of Hapshetsut. By the time I got to lunch, I was starting to tire.

From Luxor

That was when the Arabic teacher I had hired to drive me had a brilliant idea, called up some of his high school students, and put me on a falucca on the river to see the sunset.

From Luxor

Two thoughts kept running through my head. From The Wind In The Willows:

There’s nothing more worth doing than messing about in boats.

and from my father:

A bad day on the water is better than a good day at work!

From Luxor

In the end, this was anything but a bad day!


  1. Someone should explain to me how flash photography would cause anything to archaeological sites?
    That would help me to promote the idea if it’s valid but would hurt my conscious for bribing guards at Cairo Museum to take photos inside 😀


  2. I don’t have my father here to explain, so I asked Google instead. This sounds very much like the explanation I’ve heard from my father in the past:
    “According to Carl Grimm, head paintings conservator for the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, the heat and light produced by flash photography speed up the chemical reactions that cause deterioration. Mr. Grimm said:

    In general, a 10-degree F increase in temperature doubles the speed of chemical reactions, so any increase in heat–even brief–speeds up deterioration. Heat is produced just beyond the red end of the visible light spectrum in the invisible, longer wavelengths known as infrared. The short, high-energy wavelengths of visible light at the other (blue) end of the spectrum, and especially the invisible ultraviolet radiation that is just beyond visible light, are very effective at breaking chemical bonds, which also produces deterioration. You can see this effect very quickly in newsprint that has been lying in the sun–it begins to turn yellow and brittle, eventually turning to dust. Flash photography produces a burst of light that contains both long and short wavelength radiation that injures the artwork. That’s why we request that photography be done using existing light.”
    Continued at
    Ignorance is bliss, eh?


  3. P.S. @Jad: Maybe you have some pictures of the stuff in the Egyptian Museum that I wish I could have photographed and couldn’t find on the Internet for my scrapbook! 😉


  4. I read such explanation before and I’m reading it again and again now but yet I’m not convinced.

    Most of the archaeological sites managed to stand against worse enemies, starting from weather ending with humans.

    Another thing, I have been taking self-portrait for quite good time and I noticed no changes in my face topography nor any chemical reactions. [I have some pimples but I can’t correlate them to flash light]

    I will search in my HDDs and email you when I find them.


  5. Yes, but your face is a living self-renewing biological organism, not a painted rock! 😉 I don’t have the details off the top of my head, but I have heard what I thought were compelling arguments as to why exposure to tourists – their cameras, their fingers, even their breath – has significantly increased the degredation of paintings and archaeological treasures. But then, I suppose I’m as easily convinced by science as some people are by religion….


  6. My father weighed in by email, and I thought I’d share:

    “It’s good that you accept science like some accept religion. Your friend should do like-wise when it comes to those pesky rules for preserving antiquities. You should see what is being done for some of the big art items in Europe (like the Sistine Chapel) in terms of controlling the environment, up to and including severely limiting the presence of warm moist bodies for some places.”


  7. but we do question religion and most importantly religion does encourage questioning, anyway, I will not use the flash light! 😀

    Greeting to your dad.


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