Valley of the Kings

Post

2 comments   |   Egypt, Travel

Valley of the Kings

We were supposed to receive a 4am wake up call. When I woke at 5 and looked at my watch I had a quiet moment of panic. I woke Anna and then the door knocked. They wanted our bags. 7 minutes later we were dressed and packed and on our way. We paid our tab and were in the bus only 15 minutes latex

We then had a long ride to Luxor with a short stop at a coffee shop mid-way. We were amazed at the number of locals hawking Arafatkas, hats, shawls etc. The highlight for me was a donkey with a goat kid standing on its back.

We went first to the Valley of the Kings. The visitor entry is a long way from

Valley of the Kings

the tombs along a bitumen road. It was already well over 30 degrees and approaching 11.30. It looked like our visit would involve a long hot trek in full sun as there was not a tree in sight.

Great news came from out Pilot. He was a native Egyptian who spoke fluent Polish. He spent 8 months studying at the Polish Embassy in Cairo. I found it amusing to see such an obvious Egyptian speaking perfect Polish. He also spoke English but not with confidence. The Pilot told us he was a Christian and showed us the tattoo of the Cross he has on his wrist. Fortunately, he told us to board a little road train. We would be ferried to the site.

No cameras or videos could be carried into the site but thankfully phones

Entry to Merenptah’s Tomb

don’t count. Still, taking photos inside the tombs is forbidden. Each tomb is “guarded” by a local. They were easily identified because they were wearing a long white dress which appear to be the Moslem custom.

Initially our Pilot took us to a shaded sign where he explained the valley. He told us that the tombs were essentially sequential. Each one was built above the next in sequence. This made it child’s play for the robbers to locate them. The reason Tutankhamun’s tomb was saved was because it was built in the wrong place. Conventional wisdom is that his tomb was appropriated from a lesser mortal as he died too young to have built his own.

Rameses IX

The valley itself is formed as a range of wadis in the absolutely bare hillside. The soil is composed of an alternating sandwich of dense limestone and other sedimentary and soft layers of marl. It is quite crumbly at the surface but very solid underground.

The tombs are generally long tunnels sloping down into the ground with chambers at varying points. The very end was reserved for the Pharaoh’s Sarcophagus. The tunnels were generally decorated with images and instructions from the Book of the Dead among others. They were in surprisingly good condition and the colour is often still quite vibrant.  I was appalled to see people touching the walls.

Inside Rameses IX Tomb

We went into a number of tombs. In the first, Rameses IX,  I was shooting my phone but was busted. The man said it was ok and pointed me to a number of other shots. I declined. At the end he asked for baksheesh. Anna gave him 5 Egyptian Pounds. He said to me he was a poor man. I pointed to Anna and said the wife controls the money. He walked off. He was extremely close to me when he spoke and his breath was from another planet. I cannot remember another smell so foul.

Inside Rameses IX Tomb

The tomb has a wide entrance and a large sloping antechamber decorated with the animals, serpents and demons from the Book of the Dead. There is a short pillared hall which leads into the burial chamber. There are figures of priests on either side. This was the last tomb in the Valley of the Dead to have its decoration completely and they are relatively well preserved.

Our second tomb was Merenptah, the 13th and final son of Rameses II.  It is the second largest in the Valley. The Pharaoh was buried in four sarcophagi but only the second remains. Apparently the engineers did not allow enough room for the outer sarcophagus and the entrance had to be widened.

Inside the burial chamber I was singled out for a personal tour into the sarcophagus. It was still mostly intact and was formed of beautiful alabaster but the obstacles I hurdled were a challenge. This time Anna sprung 5USD but told me I was not to take any more offers. I seem to a magnet. No matter where we went, the “guards” or local touts would single me out for an offer. It annoyed Anna no end.

Our final tomb was Rameses VI. This tomb was largely responsible for the intactness of Tutankhamun’s tomb as it was built over the top.  It was the best in my opinion. Not nearly so steep and the carvings were in excellent condition. We noticed that there were almost no other tourists.

It was possible to visit Tutankhamun’s tomb for 200 EL (Egyptian Pounds) . Our Pilot assured us that this was a waste of money. The tomb is completely empty as all the artefacts have been moved to Museums in Cairo, London and others.  Some of our party did enter but no one said anything to convince us the Pilot was wrong.

We left the site and reboarded our coach. Anna and I had the almost front seats on the right hand side, just behind the pilot. In theory this should be good but the side window was cut by reinforcement and the top of the front window was masked with tape so our view was not unrestricted.

 Our next stop was the Memorial Temple of Hatsupshut. This is amazing. It is being restored by the Poles with the Egyptians. But it was so hot. My thermometer showed 40 degrees. The guide said it can get to 55. Lucky we

Road train

were there on a cool day. The visitors centre is nearly a kilometre from the Temple. We were very pleased to see that they would take us by road train. Again we had the place to ourselves. Here my camera strap suddenly broke. I was so lucky that I had a strong grip on the remaining portion and did not drop it. The strap dates from the 80’s so I really can’t complain.

Hatshepsut’s Temple

At first my eyes focussed on the rugged limestone cliffs rising some 300metres above the plain but then I saw the dazzling temple cut into its base. Whilst it has been being excavated and restored since 1891 and was calerly one of ancient Egypt’s finest monuments, it must have been even more stunning back in 1458 BC. The approach was via a grand sphinx lined causeway with exotic and 

Tombs of workers

perfumed trees.  The temple was vandalised over centuries. Tuthmosis III removed his stepmother’s name wherever he could. Akhenaten removed all references to Amun and then the early Christians turned it into a monastery and defaced the pagan reliefs.

Temple of Montuhotep

The complex has three terraces but most interest is at the top level. Restoration is ongoing on the lower two. This was restored by a Polish Egyptian team over the last 25 years. It had 24 colossal statues of Osiris, of which only a few remain.  Through the centre is the sanctuary of Amun. This was hewn directly out of the cliff.

To the south lies the remains of the Temple of Montuhotep.

Dog

Leaving the site we had to transit a local bazaar. Here we were harassed to buy all and sundry; water, coke, hats, carvings…. We learnt that this was a pretty normal feature at all major sites. This was our first sight of local dogs. Having recently read about Horrie, the War Dog, I was fascinated to see the resemblance of them to

Horrie. They generally just lay around but if there was a snifter of food, they

River Arnukit

were up and moving in a split second. They did not appear to be owned but they were in relatively good condition. Certainly no worse than the vendors. 

We moved on but briefly stopped at a small wayside shopping strip. Here were joined by an official motorcade. Maybe 15 with heavily armed soldiers. No idea who it was for but I have never seen so many AK47’s in my life.

Sun seting over the Nile

So the day ended with us boarding River Ankit. It is a five deck, 5* river cruiser. We have a glorious cabin on river level with a balcony. Nicer than Carnival Legend. W adjourned to the pool for a cool off and a couple of Stellas. Tonight we go on a tour of Luxor by night.

  1. Trev06-20-18

    Very interesting David. Where were the camels in the desert?

    • David06-20-18

      The camels will come in a couple of days. I have a donkey to buy first.