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Lingering Over Luxor: Egypt’s Hot Air Ballon Culture

April 22, 2022

“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. 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…

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