What does the Luxor look like?
Much of the lore about the Luxor's supposed hauntings are inspired by the pure . . . strangeness . . . of the Luxor's appearance.
Put another way, the Luxor is 30 stories high—10 stories taller than the failed Xanadu project. At the time of its construction, it was one of the largest glass-and-metal structures that’d been built. It contains 11 acres of glass. My eyes glaze over when confronted with a bunch of numbers like this, but the visual effect of the hotel is certainly striking. Wikipedia has an amazing interactive image that compares the size of the Luxor to other pyramid-shaped buildings, and it's close to the top.
When it first opened, there were 2,500 rooms, along with a 100,000 square foot casino.
The pyramid is topped with the world’s most powerful light, the Luxor Sky Beam. The illumination is so strong that you can see it from airplanes flying near LA. You can also see it from space. It’s 42.3 billion candela; one candela is about the equivalent of one normal wax candle, so it’s like . . . 42.3 billion candles.
When the lights are on, the temperature in the lamp room is 300 degrees F. Though the light has operated every night since the hotel opened, since 2008, they've only been lighting half the lamps to save money and electricity. Apparently the light even has its own ecosystem: it attracts months, which attracts bats and birds, which attract owls.
There’s also a single sphinx in front of the pyramid, which is actually larger than the actual sphinxes in Egypt. If they'd built it to proper scale, it would look too small next to the giant pyramid. So the sphinx is huge: 10 stories tall and as wide as 9 lanes of traffic.
There are over 100 “computerized fountains” in front, with laser beams that come out of the sphinx’s eyes to project onto a water screen. Because of course there are.
The carpet in the Luxor could cover 34 football fields. At the time of its construction, the atrium of the Luxor was the largest in the world. Apparently, nine 747s could be stacked on top of each other in the lobby.
Because the exterior walls are, of course, built at a slant, the elevators, or “inclinators” as they called them, had to go up at a 39-degree-angle along the sloped slides of the pyramid.
The rooms also have angled interior walls; they exit out onto hallways that look straight down over the atrium. So you can step out of your room and look down at all the cool stuff below. (Remember that architectural detail: it'll be important later in this series.)
The Nile River ride!!!
When they opened, there was also a Nile river ride, which I remember making my parents go on a number of times back in 1995, when I was a small child. I really, really liked that ride.
The original idea behind the river ride was to take people from the check-in desk to the inclinators so they could go upstairs.
Now, that's a level of excess that I find charming. It's what someone would come up with if they had all the money in the world to build a weird, wild, intense themed hotel. Which doesn't seem too off the mark.
I think that's what I like so much about the Luxor—they really went for it. It's lost some of its shine since then, but at one point, it was a bit of a moonshot.
I'm not saying that what Vegas stands for is great or that huge corporate construction projects are good, necessarily, but the original vision for the Luxor stands in stark contrast to how even (especially) the richest companies nowadays are famous for shaving every cent off project costs to maximize profits. Like, maybe there was a time when building something "cool" mattered. Even if the "cool" thing is a tacky hotel in Vegas. (And the disclaimer here is that I see the Luxor through big ol' nostalgia goggles.)
(To reference another thing from 1993, when I think of the Luxor, all I can think of is the scene in Jurassic Park when John Hammond is bragging about how no expense was spared.)
Anyway, in the end, the Nile ride was a sort of faux-archaeological tour. It would wind around the lobby on the river while the tour guide talked about some of their reproductions of Egyptian sites and artifacts.
One highlight I remember from when I was there: at one point there was a bridge with a waterfall that the boat passed under, and it was timed so that the waterfall stopped right before you went under it. The tour guide would say if a drop of water fell on you there, it was good luck. I don't know why, but my child brain was particularly charmed by that.
There was a really impressive attention to detail in terms of the ancient Egyptian stuff in the hotel lobby, including a recreation of a temple of Isis from 50 BC, as well as the statues at Abu Simbel, and a replica of King Tut’s Tomb. (I really liked the tomb recreation. So much fake gold!)
I also recall a pair of talking animatronic camels.
In 1996, there was a $240 million expansion of the Luxor, which added a Imax theatre, ice rink, and laser light show. (Sadly, I believe that they also got rid of the earlier sci-fi Egyptian films and rides to make room for those.)
And then in 1998, they added 2,000 rooms in ziggurat-style towers, for $675 million. It's wild that the first expansion cost 2/3 as much as the initial construction, and then the second addition cost almost double–that seems really weird.
The behind-the-scenes video that I mentioned in the last post, which talks all about the Luxor's splendors, is so positive. They quote someone saying “This place will never close, it’ll be here forever, it’ll be open twenty-four hours a day.”
Well, that might be a foolish and fate-tempting thing to say about an Ancient Egyptian-themed hotel.
Check out the rest of this series about the history and hauntings of the Luxor hotel:
This article doesn't link to sources as comprehensively as usual, because I wrote it based on my original episode notes, which I penned when I was worse at adding specific in-line citations. But all of the sources I used are linked at the bottom of the episode shownotes page. And I'm not proud of it, but I can tell you that a ton of this info is from Wikipedia.