Trying not to let too much of my annual leave expire before 31 December, I booked a short tour of Upper Egypt (not a country I like travelling in independently due to the way the men behave towards foreign women). So I joined five other people - four retired Brits and one New Zealander - in Luxor, for a tour taking in Dendera, the Valleys of the Kings, Queens and Workers, Karnak, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae, Aswan, and Abu Simbel, plus a few other places I've already forgotten the names of.
To be honest I hadn't expected that much, having previously seen the pyramids which are rather underwhelming - but I was quite blown away by the quality and variety of the decorations in the various temples and tombs that we visited. It helped that we had a knowledgeable and passionate guide, who was able to explain the characters depicted in the reliefs and the meanings of the hieroglyphics (not that I can remember very much!), drawing our attention to all sorts of images that I would probably have overlooked if wandering around by myself.
There are so many pictures of this stuff available online, but I did want to just share an example of the detail and the way the reliefs differ - two different depictions of the face of the crocodile god Sobek, both from the Kom Ombo temple complex:
See how the first one is raised against its background, with the second cut more into the rock? (I'm sure there are technical terms for both) In other places there was still plenty of colour, especially inside the tombs at the Valley of the Kings and the nearby Valley of the Workers. But generally just so much to look at that I really could have spent a full day at many of the temples, not just the couple of hours allotted us. This slightly strange photo is looking up at the ceiling in the temple at Dendera, where you can see some preserved colour on the pillars and the ceiling.
Whilst motly spending time at archaeological sites, we also visited Aswan Dam, a few villages, and a couple of museums in Luxor and Aswan. We travelled for four days by dalabiya (a large, comfortable sailing boat) along the Nile, which was very peaceful and allowed time for rest and relaxation. I tried to do some birdwatching too, and did see many waterbirds along the Nile and hoopoes a-plenty in the hotel gardens, but nothing new. However it made me get up early a couple of times, and despite the lack of new birds there were some rather nice sunrises.