A Luxor Balloon Ride

Clockwise from Upper Left:  hot air balloon, west bank of the Nile, landing site, above Medinet Habu (Photos by Don Knebel)

            Today, on our continuing tour of Egypt, we spend the morning of our last day in Luxor sailing above the sites we visited earlier.

            One of the most popular attractions in Luxor is a ride in a hot-air balloon over the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings.  About ten companies provide ballooning opportunities, which include picking up passengers in Luxor and returning them at the end of the flight.  Each balloon carries up to 24 passengers in a basket suspended beneath the open-bottomed balloon.  A government-certified pilot in the middle of the basket controls the gas flame that heats the air above – the longer the flame is applied, the higher the balloon goes.  The typical cruising altitude is about 1000 feet.  When the flame is turned off, the balloon comes down gently.

            Flights are advertised as lasting at least 45 minutes and the route typically passes near or over the Valley of the Kings, Medinet Habu, Hatshepsut’s temple, the Valley of the Queens and places in between.  Passengers also pass over active sugar cane fields near the Nile, where they can usually observe workers tending to their crops.  Balloon passengers need to understand that the pilot controls the altitude of the balloon; the wind determines its direction.  A crew follows the balloon hither and yon as the pilot seeks a suitable landing site, which is almost certainly not where the ride began.  Pilots try to avoid destroying a farmer’s crop when they land, but a recently harvested field may be perfectly acceptable.

            For many people, the hot-air balloon ride is the perfect way to conclude the visit to Luxor.  The rides are safe, with the only real challenge being getting into and out of the basket with any semblance of grace.

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