News from Luxor
News from the town
Part of the pedestrianised corniche, looking towards the museum
The country's change of direction that began in January 2011 may also have altered the scope of the alterations going on in Luxor. There had been a proposal to pedestrianise the whole of the Corniche, from the Iberotel, past the Winter Palace and past the Luxor Museum. We understand that these proposals have been curtailed and that the pedestrianisation may now stop where it is, which is between the Luxor Museum and the corner on the museum side of the El Luxor hotel.
That part of the pedestrianised corniche is potentially attractive, with planted and grassy areas and water features, but it is already looking sadly bedraggled and none of the shops along its edge have been occupied.
The Luxor Wena hotel, behind Sindbad and Hamees restaurants beyond the rear of Luxor Temple, is being refurbished. Slowly.
The rest of the centre of Luxor is still in a bit of a mess, especially along the route of the sphinx excavations. The work that has been ongoing since October 2005 is part of the grand plan of Dr. Samir Farag, president of the Supreme Council of Luxor. The plan is to restore the ancient link between Luxor and Karnak temples, to clear the skyline along both banks, so that ancient monuments are easily visible across the river and to improve the road network.
Linking Luxor and Karnak Temples
Police station, Mosque, Mina Palace and government buildings have gone.
A controversial part of the plan is to restore the 3km long road connecting Luxor with Karnak. The road is clearing a 60 meter wide open space between the temples, involved the demolition of huge numbers of buildings, mostly residential but also including the town centre police station, fire station and even a mosque.
Paving on the station side of Luxor temple
Progress is very evident. When you come from the airport you can see part of the new causeway as you go over a bridge coming into Luxor town. There are also open areas, especially to the north of the temple, where buildings have been cleared. The area on the station side of the temple itself is much tidier and largely paved, including a large decoratively paved area between the temple and the road to the station.
Clearing the vista
Buildings have also been cleared on the Nile side of Karnak temple, so the temple is visible from the west bank and Hatshepsut's temple is visible from Karnak. This has opened up the view of Karnak temple from the road along the Nile.
Some while ago most of the buildings were demolished in front of Luxor Temple, including the pair of old colonial style government buildings, the Mina Palace Hotel, the small shops and the old Jamboree restaurant. Just the old colonial house remains.
Station Road (see the central Luxor map) has been widened. Shops have been demolished along its length and some new ones built further back from the road's edge. From the station there is now a clear view to the temple complex. The station itself has been redeveloped. The kiosk near McDonald's and the clock tower in the roundabout near the entrance to the Old Market have gone. The roundabout has been rebuilt and paved.
The road that runs south from the station, once a busy, narrow road, has been doubled in width and is now a dual carriageway.
New Winter Palace has gone. Coptic Church towers to the left
New Winter Palace
The front block of the New Winter Palace has been demolished. The rear (Pavilion) block is still open and is now a stand-alone hotel called the Pavillon Winter (French spelling of Pavilion). The grounds at the back are all in use as normal. The building of a low-rise hotel in the style of the Old Winter Palace, on the site of the former New Winter Palace and the Marhaba shopping centre, was planned but stalled with many other proposals in January 2011. The original proposal is in the illustration towards the bottom of this page.
New Coptic Church
In contrast to the clearance of the skyline along the edge of the Nile, a new double-bell-tower coptic christian church is being built near the railway crossing to the north of the station. It can easily be seen from many parts of the east and west banks. The church is now in use although it is not finished externally.
The old tourist shops near the temple and restaurants, such as Amoun's, have moved to the new 3 storey Savoy centre near the Mercure hotel, which has also replaced the arcade that used to be there. The Jamboree has reopened in the middle of the market (see map). The Marhaba Centre that used to be next to the (now demolished) New Winter Palace has gone. There is a new Marhaba Centre behind the Luxor Wena Hotel but it is generally empty.
Old Market Street has been dug up and arches and trellises have been erected. Cars, horse carriages and other vehicles are no longer allowed through Old Market Street. At the southern entrance to Old Market Street (the tourist end) an arch announcing the market has been built. The market is still quieter than the old one, partly because caleche drivers can no longer drive through, so they try to convince tourists that the market is closed and to go to a 'local market' instead. The market is not closed - ignore anyone who says it is.
Many fruit and veg stalls have moved to a new fruit and veg market near the station, but fruit and veg are still available in the market - mostly beyond the tourist part.
There is no change (yet) on the East Bank side, but the National Ferry terminal on the West Bank has been redeveloped and moved slightly. The taxi car park has been converted into a garden which once had a cafe. Newish National Ferry boats are operating.
Many cruise boats still berth in the town centre. There was a move to relocate an increasing number of them close to the bridge on the south side of the town, but that may be put on hold or cancelled as part of the rethink after January 25th.
News from the tombs
Access to Tutankhamun's tomb is being limited to 200 visitors in the morning, then a break, and 200 in the afternoon. In practice, since the huge reduction in tourist numbers since January 25th 2011, the limit is largely academic.
News about hotels
Impression of proposed development next to the Old Winter Palace.
The Marhaba shopping centre, next to the site of the New Winter Palace has been demolished. It was to be joined with the site of the (also now demolished) New Winter Palace. Originally A new lower-rise hotel, a copy of the Old Winter Palace, possibly run by the Four Seasons group, was to be built there. (See illustration). Some foundation work was been done. We do not know if the final hotel will be as extensive as originally proposed and illustrated or, indeed, when it will happen.
Between the Sonesta and the Lotus hotels, the old public swimming pool has been demolished. The land is owned by the Sonesta but it has been undeveloped for several years now.
The Mercure Inn was operated by Swiss Inn for a while, but it has now been closed and demolished.
The Hilton hotel, which had been closed since October 2005, reopened after substantial refurbishment. It is positioned at the luxury end of the hotel market with better Nile views, separate group booking-in arrangements, a lounge apart from the reception, a separate spa area and very high prices.
The enlargement of the Sonesta hotel, by building upwards, has been going on for ages but is now complete.
The Mercure hotel has been bought by Misr Travel, an Egyptian government owned company and renamed the El Luxor. It is undergoing refurbishment.
The owners of the St Joseph hotel have started to build a new hotel on the roundabout opposite the Iberotel, but work has stalled and no progress has been evident for a long time.
Updated October 2012