Arts & Culture

Lingering Over Luxor: Egypt’s Hot Air Ballon Culture

mm
Lingering Over Luxor: Egypt’s Hot Air Ballon Culture

people in hot air balloon during daytime
Valley of the Queens in Luxor, Egypt | Photo Credit: Jeremy Bezanger

“Rumors flew thick and fast among the Egyptians that the French were going to raise a giant, airborne ship that could travel from one place to another,” writes novelist Rasha Adly in The Girl with Braided Hair (2020). It is a vibrant vision of one transitional moment in Egyptian culture: the introduction of the hot air balloon.

It was during the Napoleonic era that hot air balloons were first lifted to Egyptian skies—a moment often romanticized and glorified in literature both fictional and empirical. Today, hot air balloons are an essential form of tourism across Egypt. Upper Egypt, predominantly Luxor and Aswan, boast the highest number to date, with skies almost always punctuated with color as a result.

Photo Credit: Michael Starkie
aerial photography of hot air balloon floating on air
Luxor, Egypt | Photo Credit: Pradeep Gopal

While hot air balloons have seen a resurgence in Cariene popularity—seen hovering over mythical sites such as the Giza plateau and the Cairo Citadel—the practice has taken on a life of its own in Upper Egypt. With tour companies offering sunrise rides across views of ancient Thebes, the Karnak complex, and both the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, it comes as little surprise that a self-sustaining economy has manifested around hot air ballooning in Luxor, “the world’s greatest open-air museum”.

The first commercial balloon trip took off in Luxor, 1988, by British pilots operating under the banner of the British Virgin Company: the first hot air balloon company in Egypt. Since then, Egypt has been considered one of the “leading countries in the field of flying balloons,” second only to the United States. Its stable weather and impressive landscapes make Egypt an ideal destination for air-enthusiasts and avid sky-adventure seekers.

red yellow and blue hot air balloon
Valley of the Queens in Luxor, Egypt | Photo Credit: Jeremy Bezanger

Still, there is something to be said about safety regulations and their evolution across the years. From 2009 through 2013, Egypt saw an unnerving increase in hot air balloon accidents. Despite continued attempts at improving security, hot air ballooning in Egypt has been subject to harsh criticism and reform. After a short ban in 2019, hot air ballooning was resumed across the country due to its economic contributions and its service to the archaeology communities, who use flights to map historic sites in lieu of drones.

Present day legislation ensures a more safe and secure culture, but it remains vital to research locations and background check companies in advance to booking slots.

For those, however, who have experienced Egypt from above, it is like no other. Best said by Journey to Egypt Tours, “You have not seen the land of the Pharaohs until you have looked down on it from the heavens – or as close as [can be] in a hot air balloon.”

In Photos: The Majesty of Aswan's Botanical Gardens
A Look Into Egypt's Peaceful Nuclear Philosophy

Subscribe to our newsletter


Arts & Culture
mm

With a heart for radio and an appetite for culture, Mona is a writer and illustrator based in Cairo. At the Erasmus University Rotterdam, she obtained a BSc and MA in Media, Culture, and Society, while actively writing for the faculty magazine. After graduating, Mona was an academic advisor at the American University in Cairo, as well as Managing Director of a small, campus-based advertising firm. Gears shifting, her knack for cultural research took over - enter: Egyptian Streets. Mona’s focus is tapered to issues of identity politics, culture, and social architecture.

More in Arts & Culture

How Beyoncé’s Egyptian Tour Photographer Found Courage in the Shadow of Cancer

Mirna Abdulaal30 June 2022

Oaks and Corks: The Brief History of Wine in Egypt

Farah Rafik29 June 2022

Old Egyptian Songs that Scream Summer

Farah Rafik28 June 2022

“Obelisks in Exile”: The Ethics of Obelisks Abroad

Mona Abdou27 June 2022

In Photos: Discovering the Dazzling Art of Sham’adan Belly Dancing in Egypt

Farah Rafik24 June 2022

Master Traditional Egyptian Crafts at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization’s Art Workshops

Marina Makary23 June 2022

Egyptian Amir El-Masry Cast as Mohamed Al-Fayed in Season 5 of Netflix’s ‘The Crown’

Seif Saleh23 June 2022

Soad Hosny: From Egypt’s ‘Cinderella’ to Tragedy

Farah Rafik23 June 2022