Day 63: Luxor, Egypt to Cairo, Egypt

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January 28th 2010
Published: February 15th 2010
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Day 63: Thursday, January 28, 2010.
Luxor, Egypt to Cairo, Egypt.

Per the Contiki Egypt brochure: "A visit to the Valley of the Kings- the place where King Tutankhamun was buried, before we make our way to the magnificent temple of Karnak. In the afternoon, see the Colossos of Memnon and why not join us for a visit to a traditional Egyptian village? Later, we board our overnight train to Cairo."

We hit the road around 7 am (I think, can't remember and it was only this morning!) and head towards the Valley of the Kings. On the way we stop and take pictures of the Colossis of Memnon and there were some hot air balloons drifting around at that point- very cool. We head into the Valley and Sherif tells us that people would sneak a burial of their family members into the Valley of the Kings. So, you see indentations all over the hills where those graves were (I can't remember why they are no longer there.) He also points out towns that are soon to be no more because Egypt is getting everyone who lives in the Valley of the Kings to move, it's being declared a sacred sight. So, you see run down towns that are almost vacant, with only a few people hanging on.

We get to the entrance to the Valley and unfortunately we have to leave all our cameras in the bus. No pictures or video are allowed and I guess it is strictly enforced- no sneaking a picture here. We take a tram up towards the tombs and some folks on it start humming the theme song to "Indiana Jones". Once we get up there, it really does feel like that. You see locals carrying buckets of rocks and archeologists standing under white tents watching them work. I expected to see Karen Allen getting drunk in one of the tents, no such luck (let's see how well you know your Indiana.)

Our ticket entails us to go into 3 tombs of our choice with the exception being the tombs of King Tutankhamun and Ramesses VI. You have to buy additional tickets for those. I pass on both because I need to cut back on my costs, and this decision was further enforced by the fact that I left my money in my camera bag, which was back on the bus. The first tomb that Sherif takes us to see is King Thutmose (this was the one who was married to Queen Hatshepsut and up until a few years ago thought killed her). They had dug this tomb in a way that would basically assure any grave robber certain death. The stairs were very steep, then they disappeared once you were in pitch black and in their place was a very sleek ramp that you slid down before skidding off into a deep pit. Sherif said that they found a lot of bones in this pit or somewhere on the ramp showing how many tried but didn't succeed. Luckily they've put in stairs and safety rails so no tourists were harmed during the taping of this program. We get to the first room and for a few years archeologists had thought this was the tomb room and that someone had been successful in pillaging it. Then one day they moved a big rock that was in the corner and under it they found stairs that took you into the true tomb room. There are paintings on the walls telling you who was there and what had been packed for their journey to the other side along with the stone sarcophagus that had once held the real sarcophagus. We head back up the stairs and Sherif takes us to the 2nd tomb du jour.

That tomb is Ramesses III. I can't really remember any specifics about it except for when they started to dig this tomb, they got quite a ways in and down when they hit another tunnel- they had intersected with another tomb. So, they had to back up and take a 90 degree turn and go the other way. Unfortunately this set them back quite a bit which was even more inconvenient when Ramesses III decided to be selfish and die shortly after. So, they then had 70 days to finish the tomb. No pressure if you don't finish it guys- you'll just trap your Pharaohs soul for all eternity. No pressure. And, as I think back about the room, I don't think they succeeded- I don't remember seeing a stone sarcophagus, just smaller rooms that showed where all his goodies for the trip should be placed.

The last tomb du jour was Ramesses I. This had the most elaborate paintings out of the three and the colors were remarkably vibrant, even thousands of years later. I look around and make one more trek up some stairs- my legs not only hurt but my right one has developed a twitch and feels like it could quit on me at any time. It's a good thing I'm in shape, right? At this point Sherif points out which direction King Tut's tomb is at and where Ramses VI 's tomb is. I read the sign outside of Tut's exhibit and it shows what the tomb looked like when they found it (remember, most of those items are in the Cairo Museum now) and pictures of what it looks like now. There is some kind of environmental deterioration going on, black dots are appearing on the walls. This is why in a couple of months this tomb will be closed to the public and major cleaning/examinations will be done. They don't expect to be done until 2015 and then they aren't sure if they will open it to the public again. It depends on if they can stop the erosion. I hop on the tram and go back down the hill and have a short wait in the bus until everyone else shows up (they had purchased the additional tickets.)

When we get back to Luxor, we stop at the Temple of Karnak before going to the boat. This is the temple that is on the other end of the 2 miles of Sphinx's that connect it to the Luxor. It is amazing and colossal. There are so many pillars, are they are all huge. Sherif gives ua a tour then sets us free for 30 minutes. We then head back to the boat where we have lunch and rest for about an hour before the next excursion takes place. This is an excursion into a local village where you'll see how they live life and sit down and have a cup of tea and some bread with one of the locals.

I opted out of this excursion and enjoyed lounging on the sundeck with about 7 others that didn't want to go. About an hour after snoozing in the shade/sun, I headed down to what was my room but now was one of three community room for the girls (since we were leaving that afternoon the boat was kind enough to leave us some rooms to "freshen up" or nap in.) Worked on this lovely blog some more and around 4:30 the excursion group returned and at 5:30 we hopped back on a bus. Before going to the train station for the overnight train to Cairo, we stopped right across the street from the Luxor Temple for a quick bite to eat (some went to McDonald's and the rest of us went to a deli/Egyptian food place next door.) Then we took off to catch our 7:15pm train. Once again, I had the threat of having a complete stranger room with me and this time I did have a roommate. She was a very nice girl from Minnesota (Kate) who was teaching English in Turkey. We said "hi" and did basic introductions to each other and then I took off to Car 9 (I was in Car 5) where most everyone else was and Kate went to find her group. I hung out in the hall with everyone for a bit and then myself, Julie, Sherif and Andi ended up sitting in Sherif's room talking. I was the old fart and called it quits around 9;45 pm, guess they talked until about midnight. I got back to my room and Kate showed up shortly after. We talked a little bit and then I worked on this blog (again... always) and she read. I then had another horribly unrestful night as I tossed and turned on my lower bunk. While my mattress didn't smell, I kept getting a whiff of something foul and that, along with the extra creaky/noisy train kept me up pretty much all night.

Additional photos below
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15th February 2010

I'm just wondering WHO started that Indiana Jones theme song. It couldn't possibly be a young woman from NY?
15th February 2010

You glyphed your brother's name on the side of the obelisk?
Pharaoh's Bottled Water: It'll quench the thirst of a mighty king.
19th February 2010

... maybe ... ;)

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