Hot Air Everywhere: Ballooning Over Luxor

The  anticipation was intense!

The anticipation was intense!

January 22, 2010 – Luxor, Egypt

We were expecting to see the famed Valley of the Kings during sunrise from the vantage of a hot air balloon. That was the plan anyway. As it turns out, the execution was a tad faulty. Five of us went up, piling in to the basket at 5:00 am, flames alighting the beautiful balloons as they filled with air. We were so excited as we waited for clearance from Luxor’s air traffic control tower (the airport was only 8 kilometers away.) But then we waited. And waited.

After 1.5 hours of standing in the basket and seeing a spectacular sunrise (from the ground), we were started to feel a bit deflated.

Our pilot said we’d give it 15 more minutes, then call it. In the meantime, a massive blue balloon was taken down and their group loaded back into the minivan.

Things were definitely not looking up.

The balloons were beautiful!
The balloons were beautiful!
We were chasing our shadow
We were chasing our shadow










Then the pilots got the call and came running: Clearance! The African drums started. The singing started. And before we knew it, we had lift off. Up Up and Away! As we gained more altitude, we drifted over the town of Luxor, out towards the Nile (basically, away from the Valley of the Kings.) But it didn’t matter, we were up in the air and sailing away.

Me, before assuming the crash position

Me, before assuming the crash position

The kids came out of their homes and gathered on the rooftops to wave and watch us float by. That maybe should have been a sign that it wasn’t everyday that balloons hovered near their satellite dishes.

We continued on our low rise ride, cresting just up over a small hill and descending down into a sugar cane field. Yep, we literally plowed through the sugar cane field in the balloon, only about 2-3 feet off the ground. I’m not sure the farmer would have approved. (Be sure and watch for the upcoming video of our cane field fiasco.)

We managed to gain a bit of lift again before unceremoniously landing in a vacant field, shaving off just a bit of the mountain with us as we went. By this time, we had all assumed the crash position, squatting down in the bottom of the basket and gripping tight to the side ropes. One bump, two bumps, then a long skid as we were dragged along the ground before coming to a complete stop.


The kids came running to meet us

The kids came running to meet us

Our ground crew pounced on us so we couldn’t float away again as the neighborhood kids stood around, witnessing our sloppy landing.

In the end, we didn’t see the Valley of the Kings from the air as advertised. What we got instead was a lesson in adjusting expectations and learning to simply go where the wind takes us…


even if it’s just a sugar cane field.


Additional Images


This entry was posted on Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 and is filed under Arab Region.

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