Paragliding high over ancient temples in Valley of the Kings

LESLEY Hammam is, she admits, a tad apprehensive. It’s not every day that you’re counting down the seconds until you soar high above the Theban desert in what she describes as “a fan with a parachute”.

And, to be fair, it looks a bit like that.

“I’m not scared,” she says defiantly. “I’m terrified…”

She’s being strapped in to a Paramotor, to give the flimsy-looking craft its real name. It’s a propellor-powered cage barely big enough for two that’s attached to a glider canopy overhead so the pilot and passenger can fly high up into the air currents.

Today she’s flying up over the Egyptian city of Luxor and out towards the desert, passing several sites of antiquity below. It’s a dream for anyone interested in Egyptology, offering a bird’s eye view of ancient temples and the grid of streets that surround them.

Lesley, an ex-pat Brit originally from rural Shropshire, lives on a farm on the outskirts of Luxor with views across the mighty Nile. She has flown over the region before but that was in the comparative comfort blanket of a hot air balloon.

Read more: Hot air ballooning over ancient Luxor on New Year’s Eve

“No, I’ve never flown in one of these before,” she says, looking each of the ground crew in the face. “I’m taking a good look at you in case anything goes wrong.” She’s joking, of course, gallows humour masking her jangling nerves.

Then, suddenly, the little craft is leaving the ground, climbing fast with houses and vehicles below soon looking like something out of a child’s playbox. Off to the right we can see the mighty Nile and, soon afterwards, a curious combination of ancient and modern.

As we fly over Luxor Temple, we can also see the impossibly blue swimming pools atop river cruise boats moored close by. It’s almost as if we’re on the edge of the sort of time warp beloved of science fiction fans. Ancient Egypt rubs shoulders with the 21st century.

Next, we look along the ramrod-straight Avenue of the Sphinxes, leading up to Karnak. The temple complex is impressive from ground level, but up here we can trace the intricate layout of the temples, pylons, chapels and other buildings like a latter-day town cartographer.

Karnak was developed over more than 1,000 years, principally between the Twelfth and Twentieth Dynasties and was, at its peak, the largest and most important religious complex in ancient Egypt. It is high on every travel bucket list and, as a professional tour guide, Lesley has visited many times.

After a couple of loops to get some remarkable views, we head off again, this time over green fields toward the line where they give way to desert sands. Out here, we get a first glimpse of the Mortuary Temple of Seti I, pictured above, a site we flew over with Lesley on her hot air balloon trips.

Next up in the Valley of the Kings is the Mortuary Temple of Hatsheput, built during the Pharaoh’s reign in the Eighteenth Dynasty, and recognised as a masterpiece of ancient architecture with its tomb and impressive terraces. From time to time we can see the shadow of our Paraglider below.

On the way back we pass the ruins of Medinet Habu, which contains the Temple of Amun and the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III, followed soon afterwards by a pass over the intricate tracery of The Golden City – built 3,400 years ago by Amenhotep III, and abandoned by his son, Akhenaten.

The twin Colossi of Memnon stand 60ft tall from ground level, but from up here they seem a more manageable size, now bordered by the modern day main road. They’re both modelled on the form of  Pharaoh Amenhotep III as well.

Then, all too soon, we’re heading back to the small airstrip field from whence we came, losing height until we touch down, knees bent, in a remarkably smooth landing. Lesley is beaming like the cat who got the cream. She’s on an adrenaline high after the 30-minute flight.

“That’s the best experience I’ve had in my entire life,” she says, immediately making plans to fly again and asking the ground crew what other areas they serve. It turns out that pretty much wherever you are, flights provider Sky One has a centre nearby.

“I’m going to fly over the Pyramids next,” says Lesley. “Just you wait and see!”

Read more: How a terrifying riding accident led to Lesley’s Egyptian life of adventure

I’ve been flying with Lesley thanks to her work with livestream travel trip platform Heygo, watching from the comfort of my armchair not far from her Shropshire home. Virtual travel, which boomed during pandemic lockdown, is still thriving and providing a taster for real-life travel.

Several tourists who initially joined Lesley online have since headed out to Egypt to enjoy the Blue Lotus face-to-face tours she and husband Saffy run, and business is brisk.

Read more: How holiday romance on the Nile changed tour guide Lesley’s life forever

Heygo offers free-to-join tours worldwide, although tipping is encouraged, complete with real time chat with guides and fellow travellers, interactive mapping and the facility to take ‘postcard’ souvenir shots, which I’ve used throughout this post. 

To see where Lesley is headed next, see her Heygo channel. For information on Sky One, see their website.

Categories:Africa, General, heygoTags: , , , , ,

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