Touring the Non-Royal Tombs of Luxor

Last Updated on: 12th January 2021, 09:16 am

Luxor (or Thebes) was the religious capital of Egypt throughout the entire New Kingdom period. Accordingly, this is where most of the important nobles’ tombs from the era can be found. And many of them still retain their vibrant color today. Even if you’ve spent considerable time at places like Saqqara, the tombs of Luxor offer a fresh experience.

Many traditional tomb scenes from the Old Kingdom, such as agriculture, fishing and shipbuilding, continue to make appearances. Traditional hunting scenes, on the other hand, are less common, while new scenes like the ‘Weighing of the Heart’ have become prevalent.

The tombs of Luxor were mostly painted rather than carved, giving them a different feel to the older tombs of Lower Egypt. And you’ll find that many of them also feel distinct from each another, having been personalized to suit each nobles’ tastes.

The various groupings of non-royal tombs are spread throughout Luxor’s west bank, and it’s difficult to see them all without several days of exploration. Tombs are opening and closing all the time, and with no official lists online, you never quite know what you’re going to get.

If you only have a short time in Luxor, you can’t go wrong with the groups known as Tombs of the Nobles and Deir el-Medina.

Before you start exploring, understand that each group of tombs requires its own ticket which can only be bought at the main ticket office – not at the tombs themselves. To save yourself lots of time, hassle, and also money, getting a Luxor Pass is highly recommended (more below).

Deir el-Medina Luxor

The Deir el-Medina Workers' Tombs

The Deir el-Medina tombs are unique among non-royal tombs in Egypt. Rather than high-ranking officials, they belonged to the craftsmen and artisans who created the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

The Deir el-Medina community dates back to at least the time of Thutmosis I (r. 1506–1493 BC). And it lasted until the reign of Ramesses XI (r. 1102 BC–1073), the last pharaoh to have been buried in the Valley of the Kings.

Deir el-Medina Tombs

The tombs here are bright and colorful and the paint appears surprisingly fresh. Yet they’re also considerably smaller than the typical noble’s tomb. 

Another unique feature of Deir el-Medina is the pyramid-shaped tomb entrances. Interestingly, these workers were utilizing the pyramid design long after the pharaohs had abandoned it!

During my visit, only three tombs were open to the public. The popular tombs of Pashedu and Ipuy were closed, but there were some recently opened tombs to see in their place.

Across from the tombs, you can still see the remnants of the mudbrick houses where the workers and their families lived.

The area is also home to an interesting little Ptolemaic-era temple which you can read more about here. Also, as we’ll go over below, it’s here that a multitude of artist’s sketches were discovered, many of which are on display at the major museums.

Sennedjem (TT1)

Sennedjem was a worker during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II. His official title was ‘Servant in the Place of Truth,’ which was a reference to the Valley of the Kings.

Known for its vivid, fresh colors, the tomb was discovered untouched in 1886. Inside were the coffins of Sennedjem and multiple family members, in addition to a wide array of furniture and other objects.

Tomb of Sennedjem
Tomb of Sennedjem
Tomb of Sennedjem

Scenes include agricultural activities, Sennedjem with his family, and Anubis attending to the mummy of the deceased. The writings, meanwhile, come from Chapters 72 and 17 of the Book of the Dead.

Sennedjem’s tomb also happens to have the coveted codename of TT1, or Theban Tombs 1 – the very first of hundreds!

Ammenakht (TT218), Nebenmaat (TT219) & Khaemteri (TT220)

This joint tomb of a father (Ammenakht) and his two sons just opened up to the public a few years ago. These men were also ‘Servants in the Place of Truth’ during the reign of Ramesses II.

The scenes here are fairly typical, and they depict the family engaging in daily activities in addition to scenes from the Book of the Dead. And as usual, there are numerous depictions of Anubis together with the mummy of the deceased.

Nebenmaat (TT219)
Nebenmaat (TT219)

One of the most beautiful images is located in Ammenakht’s tomb, which shows what seems to be the sky goddess Nut carrying a sun disk beside a seated Osiris.

While typically, the scenes of the Deir el-Medina tombs were painted over a yellow background, Nebenmaat’s has a white background with the figures in yellow.

Inerkhau (TT359)

Yet another ‘Servant in the Place of Truth,’ Inerkhau served during the reigns of Ramesses III and IV. Apparently, he was the chief of the workmen in his time.

Inside the tomb, you’ll see scenes of two lions representing ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Tomorrow,’ the ba (human-headed bird) of the deceased and a cat killing the serpent Apep. The scenes, however, are mostly obscured by the protective glass and are tricky to photograph. 

The Ostracon Pit

Like all artists, the artisans of Deir el-Medina needed some way to hone their skill. 

While the ancient Egyptians, of course, had papyrus, slabs of limestone that one could pick up from the ground were much easier to use for basic sketches. Today we call these slabs ‘ostracon’ or ‘ostraca.’

At Deir el-Medina, the workers once tried to construct a huge well for the village, but it turned out to be a failed endeavor. The pit they created, though, came in handy as a garbage dump for their sketches.

And in the early days of Egyptology in the 19th century, excavators found a huge collection of ostraca in the pit, many of which are on display at the Cairo Museum.

Subject matter largely includes drafts of paintings that one can go and see at the nearby royal tombs. There are numerous sketches of pharaohs and gods such as Isis, Amun and Hapi.

Additionally, records, lists and letters were also written down on these limestone slabs and pottery shards. They’ve given us valuable information on things like shifts and duties of the workers and also ingredients for medicinal remedies.

Also among the ostraca were things like caricatures and even political cartoons! This shows us that Egyptian artists enjoyed experimenting with other styles besides the conventional format we see at all tombs and temples.

Deir el-Medina Ostracon
Deir el-Medina Ostracon
Deir el-Medina Ostracon

The Tombs of the Nobles

From here on this guide will entirely focus on nobles’ tombs from the New Kingdom era. Confusingly, while there are several groups of tombs with different names, only one group goes by the generic title of ‘Tombs of the Nobles.’ But this collection of tombs is also the best. 

If you can only visit one group of non-royal tombs in Luxor, make it this one. Not only is the quality of every tomb excellent, but each one has unique features which make it distinct from the rest.

Ramesseum Luxor
The Tombs of the Nobles, as seen from the Ramesseum

For this single area alone, you’ll need more than one ticket to see every tomb (which at the time of my visit, was only 5). And you’ll have to decide which ones to visit at the ticket office, some distance from the site. Even more confusing is that not all tombs of each set are going to be open at the same time!

Frankly, the whole tomb ticketing system at Luxor is a mess. That’s all the more reason to get the Luxor Pass, which allows you automatic entry to all attractions (more below).

The Tombs of the Nobles site is situated just across from the Ramesseum. Be wary of ‘guides’ by the entrance who will offer to show you the ‘essential’ tombs out of the dozens that are there. As mentioned, only several are open at a single time.

Rekhmire (TT100)

Rekhmire was vizier under Thutmosis III and then his son Amenhotep II, making this the oldest tomb in this guide. And it’s one of Luxor’s most remarkable for a number of reasons.

The tomb is entirely covered in detailed scenes from daily life, providing us with a unique insight into many practices that would otherwise be unknown. Many of the scenes depict crafting and construction – subject matter that was rarely ever portrayed in Egyptian art.

But even though some portrayals of temple construction were drawn here, very few of the actual building techniques have been revealed.

Tomb of Rekhmire (TT100)
Tomb of Rekhmire (TT100)

The tomb is T-shaped, and the burial chamber is not where one would normally expect. Rather than deep underground, it was carved just below the ceiling!

Other scenes include excerpts from a law book, one of the world’s first examples of written law. In the texts, Rekhmire claims that he never took a bribe and was a fair and balanced judge.

Also throughout the scenes are portrayals of various foreigners and exotic animals.

Tomb of Rekhmire (TT100)
Tomb of Rekhmire (TT100)

Userhat (TT56)

Userhat worked under Amenhotep II as the Royal Scribe, not to mention the ‘Counter of Bread in Upper and Lower Egypt.’

The tomb is well-preserved and incredibly detailed. While the tomb is relatively small, just about every square centimeter is adorned with artwork. And much of the art utilizes a beautiful color scheme featuring gold and turquoise.

Hunting, fishing and fowling scenes are a throwback to the popular tomb scenes of the Old Kingdom. These scenes are typically symbolic of taming the mind and conquering the darker aspects of one’s self.

Tomb of Userhat (TT56)
Tomb of Userhat (TT56)

Sennefer (TT96)

Sennefer was the overseer of the granaries and gardens of Amun under Amenhotep II. Furthermore, he was also the mayor of Thebes.

His tomb immediately stands out from the others, as the ceiling is entirely adorned with grapevines. Accordingly, the tomb has been dubbed ‘Tomb of the Vineyards.’

The art is very well-preserved but sadly, the protective glass is a big distraction. It’s unclear why some tombs have glass while others don’t, but it can really take away from the viewing experience.

Tomb of Sennefer (TT96)
Tomb of Sennefer (TT96)

The Tomb of Khaemhet (TT57)

Khaemhat was the ‘Overseer of Granaries’ under Amenhotep III. In contrast to the painted tombs above, this tomb was entirely carved in low relief. While a lot has been damaged, the art which remains shows amazing detail. 

Consisting of three chambers, the various reliefs depict port and agricultural scenes, the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and  Amenhotep III himself. There are also two sets of statues of Khaemhet and his wife.

Tomb of Khaemhat (TT57)
Tomb of Khaemhat (TT57)

Over to the right, there’s a peculiar scene of a sleeping chariot driver awaiting the return of his master. Why would Khaemhet want to remind himself of this scene in the afterlife? It must hold a deeper symbolic significance, but what?

In his book The Traveler’s Key to Ancient Egypt, symbolist researcher John Anthony West compares the scene with Sufi parables and imagery from the Upanishads.

The master here likely represents the ba, or individual spirit of the deceased. The chariot represents the physical body and the horses the emotions. The sleeping driver, meanwhile, represents the ego. With the master gone and the driver asleep, the horses are free to get into all sorts of trouble.

Ramose (TT55)

Ramose’s tomb is not only one of the most remarkable tombs of the group, but also in all of Egypt. Ramose was the vizier to both Amenhotep III and his son Amenhotep IV, who’d later become known as Akhenaten.

The tomb contains a series of pillars, which is especially rare among nobles’ tombs in Thebes. And aside from the pillars, each wall contains a remarkable feature.

Tomb of Ramose (TT55)

Along the wall closest to the entrance are numerous portrayals of Ramose and his wife. Notice how no paint has been added except for the eyes. While the tomb was never finished and Ramose was never buried here, some people think this may have been an intentional artistic choice.

Tomb of Ramose (TT55)

This elegant, minimalistic image resonates with many today, and replica carvings of the scene are sold at souvenir shops throughout Luxor. 

Given the timeline and the style, the original artist may have been the same person who worked on Khaemhat’s tomb.

Tomb of Ramose (TT55)
Tomb of Ramose (TT55)

The left wall, meanwhile, is the one that’s been painted. And it’s here you’ll encounter another iconic scene that you may have seen in photographs before.

Tomb of Ramose (TT55)

Among the larger funerary scene is a famous image of wailing women. The women with outstretched arms all have two right hands, signifying an active gesture. 

But the women with bent arms have two left hands. The girl hugging her mother, meanwhile, has one left hand and one right hand.

Tomb of Ramose Luxor

As mentioned above, Ramose was the highest-ranking official during both the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. While most of the tomb reflects the traditional style of ancient Egyptian art, there’s an entire wall that was done in Akhenaten’s new Amarna style.

While it was never finished and images of the pharaoh were later etched out, you can still clearly make out the Aten sun disk. The Aten and its long rays were the focal point of Akhenaten’s new yet short-lived religion.


The tomb group of Asasif is situated near the car park of Deir el-Bahari. Therefore, you can easily stop here on the way back from the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

At the time of writing, there are three open tombs which are spread quite far apart from one another. But the local guards should be able to take you to each one of the back of a motorbike.

While not the most essential group of tombs on this list, the tomb of Kheruef is a must-visit for those who were especially impressed by Ramose’s tomb (see above).

Tomb of Kheruef (TT192)

Kheruef’s tomb is the main highlight of Asasif. He lived during the 18th Dynasty and was the steward of Queen Tiy, wife of Amenhotep III. The tomb is entirely carved in bas reliefs and the guards told me it was done by the same artist who carved Ramose’s.

Tomb of Kheruef Asasif
Tomb of Kheruef Asasif

One of the main themes of the tomb is Amenhotep III’s Heb-Sed Festival. Egyptian pharaohs could only celebrate this festival after thirty years on the throne and then every three recurring years. 

On the walls, you’ll see a number of dance scenes related to the festivities. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if the characters are doing a strange dance or mourning the deceased! 

On one side, there’s a large carving of Amenhotep III wearing the blue khepresh crown. While the tomb doesn’t feature any Amarna art like Ramose’s, it does feature a rare depiction of Akhenaten from before he became Akhenaten!

Tomb of Kheruef Asasif
Tomb of Kheruef Asasif

The cartouche mentions him by his original name, Amenhotep IV. And he’s depicted in the traditional style like his father. 

However, the double images, which show the king making offerings to Re and Atum, are badly damaged and almost impossible to make out. If you want to look for them, they’re on the lintel above one of the doors.

Pabasa (TT279)

The other two tombs at Asasif are both from the 26th Dynasty, around 700 years after the reign of Amenhotep III. But this was an interesting dynasty, as they tried their best to revive many of the old styles.

Pabasa was an official during the reign of Psamtek I and his tomb is surprisingly grand for a Theban noble’s tomb. It features a large columned hall and many of the reliefs remain in good condition. Other portions are entirely blank, however.

Tomb of Pabasa (TT279)
Tomb of Pabasa (TT279)

Ankh Hor (TT414)

Ankh Hor was another 26th Dynasty official, and his spacious tomb is rather similar to that of Pabasa’s. But it’s considerably cruder. Supposedly, it was torched at some point in antiquity. 

And given the tomb’s size, numerous later inhabitants of Thebes used the tomb for their own burials.

Tomb of Ankh Hor

Dra Abu el-Naga

On the way back from the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, there are two 19th & 20th Dynasty tombs in an area known as Dra Abu el-Naga. 

On the road which connects Deir el-Bahari with the main road of Luxor’s west bank, you’ll pass by Emperor Coffee. And from there you should head toward the hills across the street.

During my visit, there was no signage on the road indicating that there were open tombs to see. I only discovered them after getting off my bicycle to check out the white paved path I saw in the distance. And sure enough, as I got closer, there was a small silver sign pointing to the tombs up ahead.

Dra Abu el-Naga Tombs Luxor

Based on the art that survives, the tombs would’ve originally looked incredible – possibly some of Luxor’s finest. Sadly, though, the damage is quite extensive. A stop here is only recommended for the true tomb enthusiast.

Raya (TT159)

Little information exists about Raya, other than that he was the Fourth Priest of Amun during the 19th Dynasty (but some sources say 20th). 

As mentioned above, the paintings here are amazing, but little of the artwork survives overall. Apparently, the tomb has only been open for visitors since late 2019.

The Tomb of Raya
The Tomb of Raya
The Tomb of Raya

Niay (TT286)

Niay was a scribe in the 20th Dynasty. His ornate tomb was almost entirely painted in yellow and red. Scenes include daily life and funerary scenes, though a lot of the most important art is entirely missing.

Niay (TT286)


Accessible from the west bank’s main road, not far from the Mortuary Temple of Thutmosis III, are the Khokha tombs (also spelled el-Kokha). There’s normally a group of three open, but only two were accessible during my visit. 

While the artwork is well-preserved, the protective glass combined with the harsh fluorescent lighting really diminishes the experience. This makes the Khokha group the least essential of this list.

Djehutimose (TT295)

Djehutimose was an 18th Dynasty priest under both Amenhotep II and Thutmosis IV. There’s some very nice artwork here, including depictions of the priest and his family along with the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony. 

You can also see the Weighing of the Heart, a scene which implies that those who are full of guilt will have a difficult time in the next life (or may not make it there at all!).

Djehutimose (TT295)
Djehutimose (TT295)

Neferrenpet (TT178)

Neferrenpet worked under Ramesses II, under whom he was ‘Chief Scribe of the Treasury for the Temple of Amun-Re.’ There are some rare scenes of craftsmen producing statues, in addition to the deceased and his wife playing a board game (similar to Nefertari’s tomb).

Neferrenpet (TT178)
Neferrenpet (TT178)

Roy & Shuroy

The tombs of Roy and Shuroy are also accessible from the main road of Luxor’s west bank that connects many of the mortuary temples. Confusingly, these tombs are considered to be part of Dra Abu el-Naga geographically. However, they function as their own group.

But in spite of the name, there are actually three tombs to visit in this group. And several others are currently being excavated.

These overlooked tombs maintain their vivid color and are worth seeing if you have the time.

Roy (TT255)

Roy was an 18th Dynasty scribe under Horemheb, the dynasty’s last pharaoh. 

The colorful tomb scenes depict Roy’s funerary procession and the Weighing of the Heart scene.  In the back, meanwhile, is a stele inscribed with the Hymn to Ra. 

Tomb of Roy (TT255)
Tomb of Roy (TT255)

Shuroy (TT13)

Shuroy was a 19th Dynasty official whose full title was ‘Head of the Brazier Bearers of Amun.’ We can see the deceased lighting braziers for Hathor along with depictions of numerous other deities.

The tomb is rather dim and damaged, but the artwork is impressive nonetheless.

Tomb of Shuroy (TT13)

Amenemope (TT 148)

The last open tomb in the area belongs to Amenemope, a priest of the 20th Dynasty. In fact, he served under three different pharaohs from Ramesses III to Ramesses V.

While there are a few well-preserved sections, much of the tomb has been damaged and is completely void of decoration.

Tomb of Amenemope
Tomb of Amenemope
Tomb of Amenemope
Tomb of Amenemope

The tomb, however, is unique among nobles tombs in Luxor for containing its original stone sarcophagus. But it’s not where it’s supposed to be!

Originally, it was situated much deeper in an underground burial chamber. When explorer Lord Belmore encountered the tomb in the early 19th century, he intended to drag the sarcophagus all the way out, but gave up part way. 

During your visit, you can also have a peek into the subterranean tunnel.

I had a little look around other parts of the site where I came across what seemed to be a large shared worker’s tomb. There were numerous depictions of construction and statue making, much like the tomb of Rekhmire. And there were even a couple of skulls lying around!

Hopefully, these other tombs will officially open up for visitors in the near future. With so much being excavated and restored throughout Luxor, you’re always going to get a slightly different variety of tombs to see. 

It’s no wonder then, why so many people feel compelled to visit Egypt again and again.

Additional Info

To fully explore Luxor’s west bank, including its tombs and mortuary temples, set aside three full days. But you can still see the main highlights if you only have two. While I planned for three, I ended up having an extra day in the area, which I used to revisit some of my favorite tombs and to check out the Roman Isis Temple.

I stayed on the west bank and got around each day by bicycle. Also, I had the Luxor Pass which gave me unlimited access to every site in town. This also made exploration much easier and hassle-free.

With so much to see in Luxor, there are lots of different itineraries you could arrange, but I’ll go over what I did. The routes should also be applicable for those hiring a driver for the day.

DAY 1: Bike (or drive) down the main road from the ferry port area toward the desert. Stop at the Colossi of Memnon.

Head west to visit Medinet Habu. If you get there early enough, you should be the only visitor there. Conveniently, there are some cafes out front if you missed breakfast.

Next, head further north to the Valley of the Queens. There are only four tombs to see here, including the extra special (and expensive) tomb of Nefertari.

Then head a bit east down the road to the workers’ tombs of Deir el-Medina. See the few tombs that are open in addition to the Ptolemaic temple.

Next, ride back to the main road connecting most of the main temples. Head toward the Ramesseum (though you can stop at Merenptah’s temple along the way if you wish).

After the Ramesseum, just across the road are the ‘Tombs of the Nobles.’ Only around five tombs are open here at any given time. (There are many other tombs scattered throughout the west bank that belonged to nobles, though each little cluster aside from this one has its own special name.)

This would be a good place to call it a day. But if you only have 2 full days in Luxor, then see whatever you can nearby before things close around 4PM.

Departing at around 7:00, expect to finish at roughly 14:30.

DAY 2: If you’re getting around by bicycle, this is going to be a tiring day. But it’s definitely possible if you’re reasonably fit. If you’re not feeling too energetic, you may want to hire a driver.

Wake up early and get to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut as early as possible. The site opens from 6:00. (I only managed to get there as early as 7:45, and there were already groups of people there. It starts to get real crowded from around 8:30. If you don’t care about photographing the temple without other tourists in the way, the afternoon is a better time to see the reliefs.)

If you’re really into tombs, you can stop at the nobles’ tombs of Asasif on the way back to the main road. There are three tombs here with some nice artwork, but they’re not essential.

Next, head to the Valley of the Kings. You’ll first have to return to the main road and then head further north before making a left. Thankfully, the signage is pretty adequate around here.

It’s a long uphill bike ride to the valley, though the ride back down is a lot of fun. If you have the Luxor Pass, you can see every tomb (around 12), but normal tickets only allow visitors to see three. If you don’t have the Luxor Pass, visit three regular tombs and also buy the extra ticket for Ramesses VI’s tomb, which is the best after Seti I’s.

On the way back, you can stop by the nobles’ tombs of Roy and Shuroy. These are some of the best nobles’ tombs in Luxor.

DAY 3: Start with Seti I’s temple if you haven’t seen it yet. This is the northeasternmost temple on the west bank. You can then head back along the main road, stopping at various places on the way.

At the intersection nearby the Seti I temple is the Carter House which includes a full replica of King Tut’s tomb.

If you like, you can revisit the Valley of the Kings. Or keep heading down the main road, checking out various minor mortuary temples (like that of Thutmosis III) or nobles’ tombs (such as Kokha and Drabu el-Naga – see our guide for a complete list).

DAY 4: If you find yourself with yet another day to explore the west bank, this might be a good time to have a leisurely bike ride over to Malkata Palace and the Roman Isis Temple. And if you have the Premium Luxor Pass, you might also want to revisit the tombs of Nefertari or Seti I.

With the Luxor Pass, it’s also worth revisiting Luxor Temple or Karnak over on the east side as well. And while in Luxor, also be sure to set aside a day trip for Abydos and Dendera temples.

***If you don’t have the Luxor Pass, you’ll have to buy the individual tickets at the official ticket offices. This can sometimes be quite far away from the sites themselves. (The Valley of the Kings has its own ticket kiosk.)***

During your visit to Luxor, it’s well worth getting the Luxor Pass if you plan on spending more than a few days there. There are two versions of the pass and both are valid for five consecutive days.

The PREMIUM version costs $200 and allows access to every site in Luxor, including the tombs of Nefertari (1400 EGP) and Seti I (1000 EGP).

The STANDARD pass costs $100 and includes everything in Luxor minus the tombs of Nefertari and Seti I. Together, those tombs cost around $150, so the PREMIUM pass is worth it if you’re interested in seeing them. (Learn more about prices HERE)

Adding up the individual ticket costs of all the attractions I visited in Luxor, I saved a significant amount of money with the pass. The best part, though, was the convenience. The ticket system for sites around the west bank is confusing, with the ticket booths often far apart from the sites themselves. 

Without the pass, if you ride past something that looks interesting, you can’t just go in. You’ll have to find the ticket booth and then ride back again. The pass is perfect, then, for those who like to explore. 

Furthermore, the pass allows for multiple visits to each attraction. You can visit the expensive tombs multiple times, while photographers can freely return to temples to get optimal lighting conditions.

Note that if you’re coming from Cairo and already have the Cairo Pass ($100 USD), you can get 50% off the Luxor Pass! The deal even works with the PREMIUM Luxor Pass, allowing you to get it for $100! 

Considering all that I visited, with both passes I saved over $250 in Cairo and Luxor.

To get the Luxor Pass, you’ll need to bring your original passport, a copy of your passport, a passport photo (exact size isn’t so important) and USD in cash. And be sure to bring your Cairo Pass for the discount. 

At the time of writing, the Luxor Pass can only be purchased at Karnak Temple and possibly near the Luxor Museum. (For whatever reason, many locals in the tourism industry don’t seem to know about this pass. Check the Egypt Tripadvisor forums for the most up-to-date information.)

I bought mine at Karnak and annoyingly, the guys at the desk are running a little scam. They claimed that I needed a photocopy of the Cairo Pass even though I had the original. They wanted an extra 200 EGP for them to make a simple photocopy. Just eager to get on with my day, I haggled it down to a 50 EGP ‘fine.’ At least I still got the 50% discount.

I don’t think a photocopy of the Cairo Pass is an actual requirement, and they were probably just making it up. From what I read online, they told other people completely different reasons for why they needed to pay more.

Egypt can be a difficult country for independent travelers. The tourism industry has primarily relied on package group tours for decades. For some reason, it seems as if the government doesn’t really want tourists to take public transport. But it’s thankfully still possible.

The easiest way to get from Cairo (or Aswan) to Luxor is by public train. The train from Cairo to Luxor takes about 9 or 10 hours and there are both day trains and night trains. Strangely, the night train (which the government prefers tourists to take) can cost over $100!

Yet the day train only costs a couple hundred Egyptian pounds, or roughly $13 USD. But if you go to the train station and try to buy a ticket in person, they will NOT sell it to you. They will only offer you the expensive night train tickets.

Luckily, even though they don’t sell tickets to foreigners in person, it’s still perfectly legal for foreigners to ride the day trains. The trick is to just buy them online from the official Egyptian National Railways site and print them out before departure.

It seems like you can’t reserve more than a couple of weeks in advance. Furthermore, you will need to create an account on the web site and agree to the terms before searching. If you’re not signed in, the search will turn up blank.

Here is an excellent resource for all train timetables in Egypt. It’s worth going for the nicest AC1 trains, which are still quite cheap. Snacks and coffee are sold onboard. But expect the entire cabin to reek of smoke, as people constantly use the space in between the train carriages as a smoking lounge.

If you’re not able to book online for some reason, here’s another solution: simply show up at the station, hop on the train and sit down. When the ticket inspector comes by, pay him. Strangely, while you can’t buy tickets from the ticket booth, this method is completely acceptable.

In Luxor, the east and west banks of the Nile River couldn’t be more different. The east is the bustling city center where most of the hotels and restaurants are located. This is where you’ll find the train station and the Luxor Museum. And of course, Karnak and Luxor Temples.

The west bank is much quieter and less developed. But overall, the west bank has more tourist attractions. Not only are all the tombs here, but there are plenty of mortuary temples to visit as well. While you can see everything on the east bank in a single day, you’ll need two or three full days to explore everything on the west bank.

That’s why I recommend staying on the west bank. And as the area gradually develops, there are a lot more hotels to choose from nowadays.

Overall, the west bank is pretty spread out. But if you stay close to the ferry port, you’ll get the best of both worlds. Not only will you get a head start on visiting the west bank attractions each morning, but getting to the east side and back will be easy as well.

To really make the most of your time in Luxor, I recommend staying on the west bank, getting the Luxor Pass (see above) and renting a bicycle. You can rent a bicycle for the day from numerous west bank shops at somewhere between 30 – 50 EGP.

I stayed at a place called Sunflower Guest House which was right by the ferry port. The rooms were spacious and clean and I had no issues with my stay. But after my arrival, I discovered that there are plenty of other accommodation options right nearby.

For those who still want to stay on the east bank, Bob Marley Guest House seems to be the most popular place for backpackers. And those with a much bigger budget tend to stay at the Winter Palace.

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