EGYPT – Karnak Temple & Ramesseum, Luxor // The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
While Egypt still suffers an economic backlash from the 2011 revolution, the kindness of the Egyptians is unbroken. So its just the right time to travel the country – due to the lack big tourist crowds – and gaze in peace upon its history in everlasting Luxor.
Why Bond was here
To hunt down a submarine thief, James Bond (Roger Moore) and Russian agent Triple X (Barbara Bach) are forced to work together. A trail leads to Egypt, where both agents get in the way of hulky henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) first at the Pyramids of Giza and then in a night club in Cairo. When Jaws travels south to an ancient temple in Luxor, Bond and X secretly follow him. In the ancient site – the famous Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Karnak – a hide-and-seek game ensues. While, from Jaws point of view, it’s more of an use-and-throw game.
How you gonna get there
The Temple of Karnak and it’s huge Hypostyle Hall are one of Egypt’s finest treasuries. Almost every tourist agency will offer a trip – be it from capital Cairo or one of the holiday resorts at the Red Sea. However, getting there on one’s own is also possible. A sleeping train goes every night from Cairo and arrives at Luxor between 3 and 6 in the morning – depending on Allah’s will. Though a regular ticket is just between 30 and 100 Egyptian Pounds for a local, foreigners have to pay 100 US-Dollars, ten times the fare. It’s an experience though. Tickets can be bought at Ramsis main train station or Giza train station.
A cheaper but slightly longer way is to go by bus. Go Bus Egypt offers four rides daily, ranging from 110 to 180 Pounds. Be careful, when you check online: the destination Cairo is declared as “Tahrir” given to location of the ticket office close to Tahrir Square. It’s next to the Ramsis Hilton hotel tower at Abdel Moneim Riad square. The busses also leave in front of the office.
Once in Luxor, the Karnak Temple is two kilometers north of the city center. A taxi ride is around five Egyptians Pounds and a microbus costs two Pounds. As Luxor is a city infused with tourism, vendors and drivers will constantly try to raise the price. Four or five times the actual sum is normal, so don’t get confused, when a taxi driver talks about 20 Pounds at first. No subject to a bargain is the entry to the Karnak Temple: One ticket is 80 Pounds for the whole area including the Hypostyle Hall.
Parts of the scene with Jaws also had been filmed at the Ramesseum, a mortuary temple of Ramses II, also in Luxor. It is west of the Nile ahead of the Valley of Kings and the Hatshepsut Temple. There are regular bus rides from Luxor center to the west side. Or you can take a cab for roughly 30-40 Pounds. Just ask for Ramesseum. The scene had been filmed in front of the big fallen Ozymandias Colossus.
Good to know
Since the Arab Spring Egypt is in a big struggle – tourists are afraid of coming back and the new military rule in the country actually does its best to keep it that way. Many Egyptians get prosecuted and thrown into jail without any trial. New laws equip the army with outstanding power, soldiers are seen everywhere. The massive force – and an economic backlash on the other hand – push some Egyptians into the hands of extremists. The northern Sinai peninsula and parts of the western Libyan desert have become a battle ground between islamists and the Egyptian army – and are therefore no-go areas.
However, the main roads along the Nile and riding with big bus companies or the national train company are totally safe. The same goes for the big cities and touristic spots. Extremist attacks focus on police and military personell only – as it is a struggle over the country and not a higher religious cause. Egypt main land hasn’t yet seen the rise of a new Islamist group that aims at Western tourists as it was back in the 1980s and early 90s. Thus said, it will be more likely, a tourist gets harassed by an Egyptian police officer than abducted by an extremist.
How annoying the grip of the government can be, is a lesson the Bond crew had to learn back in October 1976, when filming took place in Egypt. Director Lewis Gilbert described it as “an absolute nightmare”. The crew had been kicked out of booked hotels to make room for Arab delegates, phones and fax machines were constantly broken and ministry watchdogs sneaked around the production all time. A joke about the reliability of the temple construction – when it crumbles down on Jaws – had been cancelled by the officials. Roger Moore dubbed his amusement about the “Egyptian builders” back in London, though.
Our entry about the military dictatorship might sound harsh, but the more we want to emphasize the warmth and kindness of the normal Egyptian people. Take every cup of tea you can get and join every conversation – when somebody says “t’fadal” (please), feel invited. You will learn, that there is a huge difference between Cairene politics and Egyptian daily life.
© 2015 Huntingbond (1,3,4), © 1977 Danjaq, LLC and United Artists Corporation (2)