Published: April 24th 2010April 24th 2010
The Valley of the Kings. You all have heard of this most famous burial spot in the entire world. Here we have the underground tombs of some unknown number of Pharaohs, Queens, Priests, Artists and workers of the ancient world. It is also the burial spot for King Tutankhamen, the boy king, son of Akhenaton and step son of Nefertiti.
Our departure at 7 was preceded by the usual breakfast buffet. It seems that our terminal traveler, The Aussie with the runs Graham, is feeling better and will try to join us. Aloma unfortunately is still without her clothes and due to a domestic squabble we lost one other lady, June, who was too embarrassed to join us. I do not know actually what happened here only that over some wine someone said something to someone and words were said. No one really noticed, especially me, but stay out of domestic issues is my motto, so off we go for the 30 minute drive to the Valley of the Kings.
We arrive before 8, and the parking lot is essentially empty. In 30 minutes there will be 50 busses here so we hit it at the right time.
Here we have what is termed the 5th stage in the progression of burial presentation. The Egyptians went from simple to complex, from simple holes in the ground, to deep vaults, covered by a pyramid, inside a pyramid to inside a mountain. All to protect their treasure. It did not work. Most tombs were actually robbed in ancient times often by the tomb builders and high priests, who better to know where the tomb is located and how to get in?
It is said that 60% of the tombs lie still undiscovered. Who knows we may have another discovery just like Howard Carter who in 1920 found undisturbed the tomb of Tut.
As we drive into the valley we pass the home of Howard Carter, now a shrine dedicated to the life of Carter.
The valley itself is actually shaped like a pyramid. There is a natural pyramidal shape of the mountain. Since the ancients felt this to be the sign of immortality what better location?
Also the valley is located on the West Bank of the Nile. This is significant in that the sun rises in the east (life) and sets in the west (death). So the Egyptians lived on the east bank but were buried on the west.
The valley is 1800 sq kilometers and is rugged limestone and HOT. Like at 8 AM it is 90 already. Working here was a paid position and an honor. It required highly talented craftsmen and artists and workers to plan, execute and decorate a tomb. Many tombs took 20 years or more to build.
There are three types of tombs. A simple short downhill slope ending in a crypt room; a longer much steeper slope with several rooms, and at the top a deeper, multi layered tunnel system. All of these were highly decorated on the walls with scenes of the life of the Pharaoh, his offerings, his wars and successes (no mention of failure here). This was followed by religious scenes of the Pharaoh meeting the Horus, God of the Dead, and the 12 judges who will determine if he goes to heaven or hell. Also depicted are prayers from the book of the dead to help the Pharaoh with his journey. There is much to see in the tombs themselves but the astonishing thing is the level of preservation.
The underground structures are hot and dry. Nothing gets in to affect the paint and as such the color is rich and pure. It is amazing and gives you a much better feel for the level of skill of these craftsmen.
We visit three tombs, these of Ramses II, III and IX as these are best preserved and are examples of the three types of tombs. We walk by the tomb of Tut, but all the treasures are in the Cairo museum and since the builders only had 2 years to work on the tomb, it was never completed. You see Tut ruled for only 6 years and was dead before he was 20. He died of Malaria.
Our resident Octogenarian, George made a most interesting observation. “These are just holes in the ground with the same stuff on the walls” Quite the observation I do say. At least the aliens were not involved.
From the Valley of the Kings we walk the Gauntlet where I fall in love with an Ankh Walking stick. “How Much” “for you 150 pounds” “I will give you 10 pounds or I am off to the bus”….I got it down to 50 pounds ($10) but I was thrilled.
We leave the Valley and head to the next most famous spot that I know you have all seen on TV the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut, the only female who claimed her rule as a Pharaoh.
At the death of the Pharaoh, the oldest son inherited the throne. In this case the oldest son was 4 years old. So she agreed to rule until he became of age. Well she didn’t keep the promise. She ruled for much longer then Thutmose III would have liked and as such when he finally did come to rule he started a campaign to wipe out the name of Hatshepsut by carving out here cartouche and replacing it with his own. He was not completely successful and so we see the cartouche for both Thutmose III and Hatshepsut side by side.
This tomb is actually built right out of and into the solid rock of the sandstone mountain. As noted earlier Thutmose III destroyed the face of Hatshepsut on all of the statues and paintings leaving only one painting intact and that one is behind a column near the door to the second floor. The tomb is remarkable in that it is simply enormous and must have been truly magnificent in full color. Since the tomb is outside it is faded.
As I ascend to the second floor and walk around I am met by a self proclaimed guide. I was with Roy, a Fireman and EMT from Seattle, who suddenly disappears leaving me to fend off the “guide” on my own. Oh well, I follow here and there and get some great shots and go behind the roped off area and take a perfect shot of the full temple and BOOM out comes the hand and enter a 5 pound note.
A few of my friends come up, Ian and Ellen, and I show them the same views as I just got from the tour guide and he comes down from his hiding perch and says “hay I’m working here” and he laughs. I apologize, we laugh again and I finish my “Tour”. The amazing thing about the Egyptians is true they are trying to ripe you off. It is the mainstay of their culture but they are good hearted about it and laugh when it is really funny or if you catch them. There is no mal intent or hard feelings, just a guy trying to feed his family.
My tour of the tomb complete I walk down to the meeting area and notice the crowd has built and the sun has heated up the desert. It is now nearly 90 degrees and hot in the sun buy remains cool in the shade. So we meet the group in the shade and count heads.
Unfortunately one is missing. It is George. He was hot and seemed to be having a bit of a hard time with this portion of the visit. He was last seen by someone walking toward the bus so we all got into the tram for the short ride to the bus fortunately to find George asleep in the A/C.
Of course we had to pass the Gauntlet. I made it through unscathed this time but others we less fortunate. One vendor came all the way to the bus, normally unheard of, and one of the passengers got out, after Mohammed did the head count! A dangerous move because Mo said “GO” and the driver started to pull out leaving our passenger behind. Fortunately we stopped the bus and he got in, new blouse in hand!
Our last stop before we head back to the boat for the afternoon sailing is the Colossi of Memnon. Standing, sitting actually, 50 feet tall these statues of the great Amenhotep III are the last vestiges of his mortal temple. They are in terrible shape as most of the stones were stolen in ancient times. The removal of these stones caused the wind to moan through the remaining statues generating a myth.
The story goes that Memnon was meeting his mother Eos (Dawn) outside the walls of Troy when he was killed by Achilles. The statue moaned in sadness at the death of Memnon. The Roman Emperor Septimus Severus had the statue repaired and the moaning ceased.
A quick photo op and off we got a little hot and a little tired for the ride back to the luncheon buffet and some after lunch relaxation.
So it is now 4:30 PM and time for high tea so I head up to the pool deck to see what’s happening. There is Rick, being more social then I have seen him in years, just chatting and laughing and having a wonderful time having tea. I join in and soon am drinking tea and enjoying biscuits and fun conversation. Cruising, the only way to travel.
I spoke with several of the travelers who have been spending time with Rick and they told me it was good of me to accompany Rick on this trip. He is a great person, funny, sociable and an all around good guy. I did not have the heart to tell them the truth so I let them have the Good Rick fantasy!
Honestly though, Rick is having a wonderful time and is thoroughly enjoying everything without complaint.
This is a good spot for a passenger update. June and Andy our couple with the minor domestic dispute are back in the pink. Unfortunately Fay, married to Graham who is sick, now has what her husband had! Bad news, she is in the john vomiting; good news he is not! Aloma got her luggage, finally and she is much happier in a nice pink top and slacks and more comfortable shoes. Everyone else is doing fine and seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
I decide on a dip in the pool so down I go to change and take a soak as the water is only 4 inches deep.
I sit in the pool and enjoy conversation about hunting deer and the problems with the school system in Phoenix Az. where a fellow traveler Fred’s (another Aussie) daughter and her husband reside. Hunting and politics, interesting conversation.
Soon, however the reverie and peace is broken by a disturbance on the starboard side of the vessel. Everyone runs over and is shouting and waving. Has some one fallen overboard? Are we being attacked by Pirates? NO.
Instead there is a row boat with two young boys tied up to the side of the boat selling Galabrias! These are the single piece floor length shirt like gown warn by men and women alike for simple dress on hot days.
These two enterprising lads were able to catch a vessel under full power going against the current using the power of two oars. Now that is impressive. They tied up to our boat and are being pulled along at relatively high speed while standing and shouting up 4 decks to sell their wares. Now that is aggressive selling.
Of course all the women think it is cure and all the men are laughing when suddenly up from the boat we hear “lady, lady what do you want, what size, I have what you want”
They keep yelling until suddenly; ZOOM overhead comes a bag filled with a Galabria! Up over the side and plop on the deck. “Ten dollars, lady you pay only ten dollars”
Well Cathy our Vietnamese traveler shouts back down, “I need a smaller size, this is a 3 and I need a 2”
ZOOM up comes a two. She tries it on and it fits. It may seem odd to want this but actually there is a good reason. You see on the boat one night we are having a Galabria night and we all have to wear one.
So Cathy is shopping and hoping to save some money, the boat charges $10 so she can save 20%! She likes this one and shouts down that she needs a man’s size 4.
We shouts is not exactly right you see she is very kind and therefore quiet, a lot like my Cathy, so they cannot hear her. So of course she enlists my help.
“Phil can you tell them I need a man’s size 4 and make it black. I know you can help”
Knowing the motto “no good deed goes unpunished” I give it a shot and ZOOM up comes a black size 4. But now however they think I want one. I don’t.
So they are asking for money and I am trying to tell them it is not for me it is for her. After a few minutes the transaction is complete, it is now time to ring the register, but it is 40 feet below the top deck and Cathy has no money!
June lends Cathy the 120 pounds ($24) and I can just picture what is going to happen next.
“Cathy do not throw the money overboard! There is no way you will hit the boat and there will be a problem”
“You do it then”
“NO WAY” I do not want a piece of this no way, no how.
I walk away for just a second and Cathy puts the money in a plastic bag, weighed down with another shirt and before I can beg her no, boom over the side and …….PLOP in the water. A blind man could have seen that coming.
A panicked voice rises from below deck “Lady you missed the boat, that is a big problem, you pay me again”
I knew it. I knew it. We are all going to be attacked by pirates in our sleep because Cathy wanted to save $2!
After realizing Cathy was NOT dropping any more money overboard, the guys untied the boat and rowed off after the bag which thankfully was floating down river. Soon they caught it and the “shop was closed “for the night, or so we thought.
They say word travels fast on the river, but I did not realize how fast.
We were all laughing and joking about ho enterprising these boys were when suddenly I spy another boat heading our way this time on port side. I point it out and jokingly say “hay folks the new store will open soon” but this folks just wave and row past, they were the scouts.
I head back down to change and 3 minutes later I look out my window we are surrounded by row boats all selling something. I am amazed. What is more amazing is the military patrol boat that is along about 15 yards from the action just watching as the entire thing unfolds! One soldier is driving the boat while the other, machine gun at the ready, is lying on the side of his boat, actually a rubber blow up raft. So here we have the soldiers assigned to protect us just letting it all happen. I am sure they get a cut.
Anyway for the next 45 minutes the shopping ensues and bags of money fall down as clothes, scarves and table cloths fly up. Amazing. I thought I have seen everything but I am sure there is more to come, much more.
Time for dinner and I sit down at my regular table but choose a different seat as I notice John and Heather are already at the table looking smug. I know John, another Aussie (need I say more) and expect a ruse so I sit next to him rather than my usual across.
Well I was right, soon there is some napkin switching and I open my napkin and find a cute Kangaroo key chain a gift from John and Heather. We spoke at breakfast about eating Kangaroo and John thought I should have one. I will indeed ad it to my key chain as a memento of my trip to Egypt, where of course there are no Kangaroos.
Dinner tonight was more formal and consisted of steak or fish, which we had to choose at breakfast so it was made to our specification. I enjoyed medium while Rick went with medium rare.
When the steak came Rick, ever the pessimist, thought it would be dry. Well he bit in and quickly proclaimed “wow this is wonderful”. The Farina family knows exactly what that sounds like.
Unfortunately Graham was still a little tentative so he ate soup, while the steak was not quite up to John and Heather’s standards. Fay was still in the cabin suffering and we all hoped to see her tomorrow.
Also at our table were Ian and Ellen who will celebrate their 37 wedding anniversary onboard on April 27. So with permission of the rest of the travelers, I purchased a bottle of wine to present to the happy couple from the travelers (I hope to collect from the travelers later).
Dessert followed and we were pleased to know we could sleep in tomorrow, all the way to 7 AM as we leave at 8 AM. This vacation is killing me but I love it. Today is Rick our son’s birthday so I will now call him and wish him a happy birthday then it is off to bed.