The small non-star family-run hotels of old Gurna in Luxor in Upper Egypt have always been the choice of travellers, mostly those on a tight budget, who like to spend an untraditional vacation in the midst of the Theban necropolis surrounded by authentic rural life, lush green fields and mountains.
Thousands of travellers cross the Nile in Luxor every day from the east bank to the west, wandering around the temples and tombs of the Theban necropolis. After finishing their tour, the majority return back to the east. For those who opt to stay, however, their only choice has been to book a room in one of these hotels scattered around the village.
Most of them are clean, run by locals and are located adjacent to the ancient sites. Some have air-conditioned rooms, others have ceiling fans or have both, some have rooms with separate bathrooms, others have shared ones, some have TV’s and washing machines and others have not.
Marsam Hotel, founded by Sheikh Ali Abdel-Rasoul, who was a member of the clan who helped discover the Tomb of Seti I, tops the list of options. Situated in Gurna village itself, the hotel is situated directly beside the temple of Merenptah. It has a significant history. In 1920, the hotel was the site of the prestigious Chicago House, where American researchers did their studies and practical work.
When the Chicago House was moved to the city of Luxor, Sheikh Ali took over the whole area, including the building of the Chicago House- which turned to Al Marsam, a meeting point for artists, Egyptologists, and tourists from all over the world, where they discussed, exchanged their experiences in calm atmosphere and nice surrounding.
The hotel started with only ten simple rooms in the old Chicago building. But over the decades, Sheikh Ali’s place became so famous and demanded that he had to increase the number of rooms. In 1970, he built a new guesthouse with thick walls of mud bricks, small windows and domed ceiling, following the style of late Egyptian architect Hassan Fathi. This construction style keeps the rooms cool in summer and warm in winter.
Al Marsam is the oldest in the west bank area. It currently has 30 simple furnished rooms and a beautiful garden with seats in the shadow at the center of the hotel complex.
Most archaeological sites on the west bank of the Nile are within a walking distance from the hotel, except for the Valley of kings. The hotel can arrange excursions by bicycles, donkeys, horses, camels and cars to the ancient sites.
Double rooms without private bathroom are for LE100 per night, single rooms are for LE50 per person per night; double rooms with private bathroom are for LE150 per night, single rooms are for LE75 per person per night. Rates are inclusive of taxes. Accommodation is based on bed and breakfast basis.
For more information, visit http://www.luxor-westbank.com/marsam_e.htm
Al-Gezirah Village, only few miles from the dock of the ferry in the west, accommodates a number of small hotels such as Amoun El- Gezirah Hotel, Al-Gezirah and Al-Gezirah Gardens.
Built in 1996, El-Gezirah Hotel is a family business that includes 11 air-conditioned rooms, a restaurant, a terrace, a roof garden overlooking the river Nile. Situated near the village of Gezirat El-Beirat, on an old branch of the Nile, guests would experience the traditional Egyptian village life.
Most archaeological sites on the west bank of the Nile are accessible from the hotel. Museums and temples of the east bank of the Nile are also accessible by ferries and motorboats.
Besides sightseeing, guests can enjoy visiting the local vegetable gardens and sugar cane fields. They can also go on donkey excursions, motorboat or felucca trips.
All rooms are located on the ground and second floors. They are equipped with a private bathroom, shower or tub and air-conditioning.
Single rooms are for LE100 per night; double rooms are for LE75 per person per room per night; triple room is for LE70 per person per night. Accommodation is based on bed and breakfast.
For more information, visit http://www.el-gezira.com/E/hotel.htm
If you look for a more sophisticated vacation, then the sister hotel Al-Gezirah Garden, adjacent to El Gezirah Hotel, is the place.
El-Gezirah Garden consists of 8 apartments and 18 double rooms. Each apartment on the upper floor consists of two rooms, a kitchen and a large bathroom. The apartments on the ground floor have two bathrooms and no kitchen. The apartment can accommodate four adults, or two adults and two children. All apartments and rooms are equipped with satellite TV, telephone and air-condition.
For entertainment, the hotel has a garden, a swimming pool and billiard facility.
Rates for an apartment is 60 Euros per day, including breakfast and taxes; a double room for two persons is for 35 Euros and 25 Euros for one person with breakfast.
For more information, visit http://www.el-gezira.com/E/garden.htm
At the edge of the desert behind the ticket office in Medinat Habu, lies Pharaohs Hotel. Opened in 1984, the hotel has 20 double rooms, 10 triple rooms, all with private bath room and air condition. No telephone, television or radio are available in the rooms.
The hotel has an indoor and an outdoor restaurant, large garden terrace, reading corners and a billiard table. The sun beds at the spacious roof terrace invite guests not only for a sun bath, but also for a magnificent view up to the mountains, to the Habu Temple, the second largest temple after Karnak, and over the agricultural land to the Colossi of Memnon. During the excavation season in the winter months the hotel frequently is booked by international archaeologists. Therefore it also is called by the ancient name Per Äao (big house) from which the word pharaoh was adapted.
Single rooms are for 18 Euros per night and double rooms are for 23 Euros per night. Rooms at the roof are a bit more expensive. Single rooms are for 26 Euros per night and double rooms are for 32 Euros per night. Accommodation is based on bed and breakfast.
For more information, visit http://www.luxor-westbank.com/pharaohs_e.htm
Whatever your budget and whichever your choice, if you opt to reside on the west bank and experience its riches, you will most definitely be residing in a hotel in a class of its own.