Luxor. Upon landing, we both immediately felt the stress of Cairo melt away. The air was clear and quiet. The airport was tiny and it only took us 15 minutes to arrive in downtown. Sure, upon arrival we were hassled every 30 seconds to jump in a horse carriage, take a taxi or ride in a felucca, but at least it was Luxor hassle and not Cairo hassle.
Without much effort we found our way on the ferry and over to our hotel on the West Bank. Our first experience on the Nile was peaceful and quite authentic, as we shared the ride with families, teenagers and men selling fresh dates.
The next morning we drug ourselves out of bed at 5am and rode back across the river to explore Karnak Temple in the (relative) cool of the day. We were first on site and had the place to ourselves for nearly an hour. The magnitude of the structures and the quiet amongst the columns save for the birds chirping was indescribable.
Twelve of the 134 columns are nearly 69 feet high and 10 feet in diameter. The amount of effort to form, build and then carve and paint every single one must have been immense.
This combined effort of nearly 30 pharaohs included obelisks, colossal statues, a sacred lake, ram statues and more. By the time we left, the place was filled with tour groups, couples, and vendors selling cold drinks.
But for the first 60 minutes it was just us, the guards and the birds.