When speaking of France’s grimy, gritty and gastronomic city, you probably first think of Paris, and with good reason too. However, the second oldest and largest French metropolis, and this year’s European Capital of Culture, is as rough around the edges and soft on the inside as Paris itself. Welcome to Marseille, the loud, littered and lively contrast to France’s more Provençal towns.
Founded by Greek traders some 2,600 years ago, Marseille France has rarely seen a moment of quiet since. Landscapes comprise of terracotta roofs and buildings the colour of sun-drenched wheat, reflected in the creamy white-blue sea, while treasured-filled alleyways, souk-like markets and chock-a-block streets create a decidedly worldly cadence. Neighbouring North Africa, the blend of cultures becomes most apparent in the crowded street markets. Here you’ll find everything from fresh catches of fish to ethnic fabrics and textiles.
Not to be confused with the stunning Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, (which is also amazing) this is the one in Egypt, perched right on the banks of the Nile offering the ultimate in history, holidays and sunshine. Either on its own, a stop off on a Nile Cruise or on your way to one of the stunning Red Sea Resorts like Sharm el Sheikh, Luxor is a city just waiting to be discovered. Enjoy Egypt this year with our Luxor travel guide.
Luxor’s been named the ‘world’s greatest open air museum’ with its stunning complexes of temples, tombs and history. Perched right on the banks of the infamous Nile River, its Indiana Jones appearance feels completely exotic and its show stopping antiquities are well worth the visit.
The city is more or less divided in two. On the West Bank sits major ruins including the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, that’s where you’ll find the likes of the tombs of Tutankhamun and Nefertiti, still standing vibrant against the blue sky after a 3000 whopping years. The town proper sits on the East Bank, home to the Luxor and Karnak Temples as well as tonnes of Hotels, restaurants, and nightlife.
It’s not just the history that draws people in, but the extensive city, that is absolutely made for exploring. It’s a group of districts that come together to create a bustling environment of nightlife, accommodation, eateries and sightseeing. It’s ideal for families who want to share the discovery of ancient times, couples who are looking for romance or anyone looking to simply soak up the sunshine.
Valley of the Kings archaeologists are *still* finding new tombs in this vast complex. The Valley of the Kings is where you’ll find the extraordinary tombs of the boy king Tutankhamun and Ramses the Great.
Sound and Light show at Karnak Temple The aim of this is to bring the ancient city of Thebes to life through the magic of sound and lights. It’s also said to be one of the largest religious sites in the world. Everything is lit up and it’s a great way of viewing the historic monuments in a different way way, plus the reflection of the temple on the Sacred Lake makes a great finale.
Memnon Colossis these are two huge figures depicting the famous god Amenhotep III and featured in front of his temple.
Museum of Mummification This is a small museum but is devoted entirely to the mummification process. So, if that’s something you’re into, this is the place to go.
Go to the Egyptian Museum Kids will absolutely love this and mum and dad will get some preparation for years worth of school projects here. Luxor is where the ancient capital of Egypt Thebes once stood and the museum is home to the great finds from the (cursed?) tomb of Tutankhamun and the Royal mummies of the pharaohs Ahmose I and Ramesses I. There’s even a double statue of the crocodile god Sobek. If that doesn’t impress the kids, nothing will.
Afternoon tea Agatha Christie style at the Winter Palace Hotel Agatha Christie stayed here while she was working hard on her famous Poirot detective story Death on the Nile. So what better place to indulge in a little tradition, than in her footsteps with tea and sandwiches? There are macaroons, fruit scones, assorted cakes and custard along with proper brewed tea. It really is a home away from home.
Horse drawn carriage These cost about £1 and kids will love it. A great way to rumble around the city, stop and get your picture taken or just take in the breathtaking sights.
Felucca rides These are traditional Egyptian sailboats that float up the bustling banks of the Nile. It’s a great way to see the cities that dot the shore. Just one thing to remember, it’s best to haggle over a price, it’s totally expected.
For something extra special (honeymoon anyone?) a hot air balloon trip is a stunning way to enjoy the beauty and history of Luxor. Flights usually start before dawn and last about 40 minutes, so you can totally indulge in the beautiful surroundings of this ancient city.
Buy stuff The old Luxor market is great for an afternoon out. Here it’s all about the ritual, find a seller you like, sit down, have a cup of tea and put your bartering hat on. It might seem a little intimidating at first, but haggling over the price of even the smallest item is all part of the experience. There are spices, scarves, and sheesha (water pipes) to be had here.
For a honeymoon Maritim Jolie Ville Kings Island this 5 star is proper luxury, set on its own private island and surrounded by lush gardens. There are ten restaurants on site andevery possibility amenity you could imagine.
For a little luxury Iberotel Luxor, The 4 star Iberotel Luxor is home to a heated floating pool on the Nile and overlooks the Theben Hills for a great holiday, with spacious rooms and a relaxed atmosphere.
For all the family Gaddis Hotel Luxor The 3 star Gaddis offers hotel and apartment accommodation and is in a peaceful neighbourhood as well as within walking distance of the main sites.
For something a bit different Bob Marley House Hotel Bob Marley might not be synonymous with Luxor, but this relaxed hotel has a certain charm. This budget friendly hotel is within walking distance of lots of amenities and even offers horse riding lessons.
Luxor is a paradise for vegetarians. Restaurants usually offer whatever they have in season, so you get beautiful extra fresh tomatoes or cucumbers. Mezze dishes are a big deal in Luxor, these are small dishes that give you a taster of Egyptian style food. It’s usually traditional pieces of pita, with baba ganoush or taboule. You can of course get meat in the form of simple kebabs in plenty of the street shops and if you’re really missing home there are plenty of chain restaurants downtown to pick up a Big Mac.
Jamboree Restaurants on Market Street, inside the souk. This one is child friendly, with lots of choices and is great value.
Sofra has a great terrace where you can enjoy delicious, traditional Egyptian food.
El Kebabgy Reasonably priced, decent quality food, offering pasta, kebabs or mousaka. Snobs in the East Bank. Worth it for the name alone really, Snobs servers Western style food at great prices.
The Lantern, Al Roda Sharifa Street, good quality English style and Egyptian food at good value prices.
With plans for the Discus Hotel in Dubai well under way, we felt it appropriate to give a little nod to the latest craze in hospitality. We’ve christened it, marine tourism. Sure, space tourism will be on the horizon soon enough, but until that day, the more audacious of tourists are checking themselves in to that great other beyond – the deep blue sea. Here ‘ocean view’ and ‘on the beach’ should be taken in their most literal sense; enter the new division of incredible underwater hotels.
Jules Undersea Lodge
Named after the author of 20, 000 Leagues under the Sea, Jules Undersea Lodge was the world’s first underwater hotel. Located in Key Largo, Florida, the Lodge began life as La Chalupa, a groundbreaking research facility, when it was originally built in the ‘70s. It was later transformed into a hotel in 1986, catering especially to lovers of the marine world. Set about 21 feet under water, the hotel can only be reached through diving. Visitors who are not certified divers must first complete Jules’ three hour crash course in scuba diving before they embark on their underwater adventure. Then, after diving down through the mangrove habitat of the Emerald Lagoon, guests resurface through a wet room entrance, and find themselves in a treasure trove of modern day life conveniences. Escapism is taken to extraordinary new heights (or should we say depths?) at this secret underwater clubhouse. When taking a break from marvelling at unobstructed views sea life in their natural settings through 42-inch windows, guests can enjoy all the creature comforts anyone could ask for. Expect to find air-conditioning, hot showers, a stereo, a DVD player and the world’s only underwater chef, who will serve breakfast at 8am every morning and dinner at 6pm, promptly. Jules really is the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure. On an average evening the hotel is shared by two different couples, but it can accommodate a group of six friends in the congenial living quarters, designed by the award-winning firm of Richard F. Geary Interior Designers. However, exclusive use of the hotel can also be arranged for couples and the Lodge is even available for underwater weddings.
Not every undersea resort requires its guests to dive, or even to get wet. Poseidon Undersea Resort, located 40-feet below sea level in a 5,000 acre Fijian lagoon, can be reached by the convenience of an elevator. The $200 million Poseidon development, which includes seaside bungalows above the waterline, begins on a mile-long, palm-shrouded crescent of Fijian island. The elevator takes you down to the two dozen luxury suites, and also the restaurant, library, conference room and a convertible wedding chapel. Poseidon undersea is the first ever 5-star luxury underwater resort, and the brainchild of is L. Bruce Jones and his company, U.S. Submarines, renowned builders of deep-diving mini-subs and submersibles. Each of Poseidon’s suites is encased in a clear acrylic shell, four inches thick and a simple press of a button on your control console will feed the outside fish. Pretty impressive, right? However, guests looking to get in on this James Bond-style adventure will have to cough up a whopping $15,000 per person for seven days and six nights.
Utter Inn is styled like a retro Swedish house, all painted brick red, with white trimmed windows. Primarily an art project by Mikael Genberg, Utter Inn offers underwater accommodation to the public (and by that we mean at affordable prices). After pulling up to the Inn by an inflatable boat that picks you up from the port of Vasteras, guests can step down into their room, which is three metres below water level in Lake Malarenl, Sweden. Then, after receiving all the instructions guests need, they are then left completely alone to enjoy their unique experience. Although alone, guests are also welcomed to use their inflatable canoe to visit the closest uninhabited island. Or if they prefer the ‘deluxe’ package, someone can deliver dinner by boat in the evening – hey, we’re talking about what an artist considers deluxe here, not a billionaire submarine company owner.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant
Ok so you won’t be able to spend the entire night underwater here, but at the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, you’ll get a taste of the general idea. The restaurant serves up Maldivian-Western fusion cuisine, in the world’s first all-glass underwater restaurant. Offering unobstructed 180-degree views of the surrounding reef, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant offers diners the chance to marvel at 180° views of reef and marine life, whilst sipping on champagne cocktails. And located around 16 feet below sea level in the Indian Ocean, there are some truly spectacular sights to behold.