Located on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, the port of Safaga has a small but lively tourism industry, primarily centered on scuba diving and surfing. For most cruise passengers, the port will serve as an entry way to visit Luxor several hours away. It is also a port for ferries to and from Saudi Arabia, just across the Red Sea.
How to get to Luxor
Luxor is about a three and a half hour drive from Safaga, so you will likely visit as part of an organized shore excursion, often one that includes an overnight stay in Luxor. If you prefer to go independently, a taxi may run as much as $100 each way and must be arranged in advance. Either way, you will travel as part of a police-escorted convoy through the desert to Luxor.
One Day in Luxor
Most shore excursions will include Luxor’s three must-see sights: Luxor Temple, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings. Visiting all three will easily fill up your entire day.
Located in the heart of the city on the east bank of the Nile, Luxor Temple was built by pharaohs Amenhotep III and Ramses II in the 14th and 13th centuries B.C. Entering the temple, you will pass between two enormous seated statues of Ramses II on your way to the courts of the two pharaohs. Don’t miss the chapel of Alexander the Great toward the back of the temple, which includes images of Alexander as an Egyptian pharaoh.
Egypt’s second most visited tourist site, Karnak is a vast complex covering 2 square kilometers, making it the largest ancient religious site in the world. The primary temple, the Temple of Amun, is the largest religious structure ever built – St. Peter’s, Notre Dame and Milan Cathedrals would all fit inside. You will likely feel overwhelmed as you enter the complex through the massive Hypostyle Hall, lined with 134 columns, the largest of which are 21 meters tall and over 3 meters in diameter. Spend an hour or two at the complex exploring the array of smaller temples, sanctuaries and shrines.
The Valley of the Kings is located on the west bank of the Nile and contains the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs and nobles from the 16th to 11th centuries B.C. Many of the tombs were opened and robbed in ancient times, but extensive hieroglyphics and colorful frescoes remain in some, giving visitors an idea of how they may have looked centuries ago. An entry ticket to the Valley of the Kings generally allows you to enter three tombs of your choice, although they are not all open at the same time. Visiting the tomb of King Tutankhamun costs extra. No cameras are allowed inside the tombs, a rule that is enforced very strictly.
If you are staying in Luxor overnight, try a felucca ride on the Nile just before sunset and then head back to Karnak for an evening sound and light show. Alternatively, you might try your hand at bargaining in the market before returning to Luxor Temple to see it lit up at night.
There aren’t really any tourist facilities at the port and the town of Safaga is 1.5 miles away. If you have traveler’s checks, you should change them onboard your ship. The currency is the Egyptian pound, but many souvenir shops will accept dollars or credit cards. Arabic is the official language in Egypt, but most involved in the tourism industry speak some English.