Incidents of Travel in the Monumental City of Thebes

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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Thebes
October 20th 2007
Published: October 22nd 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

The Temple of Queen HatshepsutThe Temple of Queen HatshepsutThe Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

This was my favorite view of the temple.
It was turning into a beautiful day. The sun was low in the morning sky and the heat was still at a bearable level. I had eaten an early breakfast at the hotel and set off to explore Luxor. I was walking along the wide, riverside promenade beside the Nile enjoying the shade from the trees that lined the way. The river was still asleep and the felucca touts were nowhere to be found. All was peaceful…

“Hey mister! Carriage?” I turned towards the road that paralleled the corniche and found a man in a black, horse-drawn carriage slowly plodding along, matching my speed exactly. I was tempted to take him up on his offer and go for a ride, because the carriage was a relic from a more romantic age. However, I was enjoying my walk along the Nile and I wanted to continue on foot, so I smiled and said, “No thank you. I want to keep walking.” I turned my attention back to the river and continued walking in peace. “Hey mister! Carriage?” I turned back towards the street to find the same man in the same carriage plodding on at the same speed. I was a
The Colossi of MemnonThe Colossi of MemnonThe Colossi of Memnon

These massive statues once guarded over a temple that rivaled Karnak. Now they are mysteriously alone on the floodplain. They were one of my favorite sites in Egypt.
bit shocked, being that I had politely told him ‘No’ less than thirty seconds before. It dawned on me that my English answer may not have been understandable, so I broke out my phrase book and flipped through the pages for a moment and then I smiled and said in really bad Arabic, “Lā Shkrā ، ʼRyd ʼN Tbqy al-Mshy.” The man smiled and nodded his head, but it was difficult to tell if he had understood, or if my poor attempt at Arabic had made him want to laugh. I turned back towards my walk and continued on… for another thirty seconds! “Hey miiiister! Carriage? I was shocked. I turned back to the man, forced a smile and clearly shook my head and said, “NO THANK YOU!” and then I continued walking at a slightly quicker pace. “Hey MISTER! Carriage?” “NO!!!” “Hey MISTER!!! Carriage?” “NOOOOO! Leave me alone!!!” “Hey Mister! Carriage?” I was practically running down the promenade, being chased by the man in the carriage, shouting and waiving my arms trying to regain the peace and quiet I had briefly enjoyed. The man in the carriage continued his mission like a robot bent on destroying all of the
Walking on the EdgeWalking on the EdgeWalking on the Edge

This was an enjoyable walk along the cliff.
romance left in Egypt. In a desperate move I did an about face and walked back the way I had come. That move seemed to confuse the carriage man just enough for me to lose him. All was peaceful again… “Hey Mister! Carriage?” I turned, with fire in my eyes, prepared to verbally destroy the man, only to discover a different face on a different carriage. I reined in my temper and forced a polite, “No Thank You!” and I continued walking. Luckily, that carriage had been going in the opposite direction and he continued on his way.

I spent the remainder of my walk along the Nile fighting off a long line of carriage men. The felucca touts decided to join in the fun as well. I was being attacked from both sides and the touts were relentless. I quickly learned that the best way to deal with them was to say a firm ‘NO!’ and continue walking, ignoring any other attempts at gaining my attention. As annoying as the whole experience had been, learning how to deal with the touts made the experience worthwhile. I grabbed a quick lunch from a street vendor and then I went

This is Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing.
back to my hotel to calm my mind. When I got to my room I discovered that all of my dirty clothing, which I had left on the floor, was hanging in the bathroom, soaking wet. The bed was made, so it was easy to figure out that the housekeeper had somehow gotten them wet when she cleaned the room and she had hung them to dry. I had planned on washing my clothes anyway, so I broke out my soap and dove in. I only had two outfits with me and I had worn one of them for two days on the felucca. The shirt, by itself, turned the water in the sink a murky brown - It was very dirty. With my clean outfit hanging in the bathroom drying I set off to see more of the town. I walked through the market area looking for some interesting souvenirs and I explored some of the off-the-beaten-path streets and neighborhoods, some of which had some lovely colonial-style architecture. In the evening I met my friends from the felucca for another hilarious dinner. After dinner we went back and played a bit more pool at the hotel and then we
Ram-headed SphinxesRam-headed SphinxesRam-headed Sphinxes

These lovely statues lined the main entrance to the Temple of Karnak. Originally they were spread out forming long, sphinx-lined avenues.
called it a night.

The next morning I emerged from my room refreshed and ready to explore one of Egypt’s most famous temples. Just as I locked my door and turned towards the stairs the housekeeper rushed up to me. She stuck out her hand and said, “Sir, you have to pay for yesterday’s laundry service.” I was dumbfounded. “What are you talking about? I did not get a laundry service…” Before I finished my sentence I figured out that the wet clothing I found in my room the day before had not been the result of an accident. “I washed the clothes you had left on the floor when I cleaned your room yesterday.” She said it as if I was a fool that should have known that the housekeeper will wash the clothing you leave lying around. “You should have asked me if I wanted my clothes washed before you did it!” “I didn’t know how my clothes had gotten wet, so I was forced to wash them to make sure they were clean.” I left out the part about how dirty the water had been after I washed them. I told her that I didn’t appreciate
In a Primordial Stone ForestIn a Primordial Stone ForestIn a Primordial Stone Forest

The magnificent hypostyle hall at Karnak.
her messing with my things without my permission and that I wouldn’t pay for a service I hadn’t asked for. I then asked her to stay out of my room for the rest of my stay and I started down the stairs. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I left feeling really bad and wondering if I had overreacted. She had asked a lot of money for washing my clothes, but it wasn’t really that much when compared to what it would have cost me at home. It wasn’t until I reached the riverside promenade and heard my first ‘Hey mister! Carriage?’ that I realized that the housekeeper’s actions were worse, even, than the carriage men’s annoying behavior - At least the carriage men didn’t force their services on me! I walked along the Nile towards Karnak with a broad smile on my face as I imagined each carriage man I passed stopping his carriage, grabbing me, throwing me into the back and forcing me to go for a ride and then asking me to pay for it.

The trek out to Karnak ended up taking a little longer than I had expected. Instead of getting there early
At SeaAt SeaAt Sea

This is a carving on the wall in the hypostyle hall depicting a boat.
enough to see the ruins in peace, I arrived on a tidal wave of busses and tourists that flooded the site with a mass of humanity. Just getting through the huge parking lot took some careful maneuvering to avoid the busses that were rocketing this way and that in a race to move as many tourists as they could in the shortest amount of time possible. Strangely, the ticket line didn’t seem to be affected by the crowds flowing out of the busses and I had no problem purchasing my ticket. I quickly skirted around the touts, who seemed to be concentrating their assault on the nicely dressed tour groups. I walked into the site along a short section of the beautiful avenue of ram-headed sphinxes, which used to connect the different precincts of Karnak and the Temple of Luxor. I ended up spending the entire day exploring the Temple of Karnak. Everywhere I looked giant statues and beautifully carved obelisks rose up out of the ruined walls of red stone and spoke of the importance that the Karnak temple complex enjoyed in ancient times.

Karnak was the most important center of worship for the god Amun, head of
Giant ColumnsGiant ColumnsGiant Columns

These are the biggest columns I have seen in the ancient world.
the Theban Triad with Mut and Khonsu. The sprawling temple complex was part of the monumental city of Thebes, one of the most famous cities of antiquity. The city and its temples came into importance sometime during the eleventh dynasty, in roughly 2000 B.C., and construction continued through Ptolemaic times. During that time the complex was continually being built up with each successive pharaoh. In total, thirty different pharaohs contributed to the construction of Karnak. The Precinct of Amun-Re was the most important part of the temple complex and the only part currently open to the general public. Most of the construction in the Precinct of Amun-Re took place during the eighteenth dynasty when Thebes became the capital of unified Ancient Egypt. It included the amazing hypostyle hall as well as the tallest standing obelisk from the ancient world. Karnak remained important for more than 2000 years, but by 356 A.D. when Constantine the Great embraced Christianity and ordered the closing of all pagan temples in the Roman Empire, Karnak had been mostly abandoned. Several of the temple buildings were converted into Christian churches, but the complex didn’t regain importance again until the birth of Egyptology and modern tourism.
The Hypostyle HallThe Hypostyle HallThe Hypostyle Hall

Looking through one of the side entrances into the hall.

I walked towards the massive gate that cut through the imposing first pylon. I paused next to a huge standing statue of Ramses II and I took in the impressive carvings on the walls of the pylon, having to bend my head back until my neck ached to take in the whole scene. I walked between the towering walls of the gate and stepped into one of the most magnificent ancient structures I had ever seen. All around me, giant columns stood like a primeval forest of stone. There were over 130 columns in the hypostyle hall, the largest of which had a three-meter (roughly 9 feet) diameter and stood to a height of 21 meters (roughly 63 feet). The columns were all carved with hieroglyphics and beautiful scenes from ancient Egypt’s pantheon. I was lost in a sea of tour groups and camera-clicking tourists, yet I didn’t notice them as I stared up to the dizzying heights of the columns and marveled at their staggering size. After a few people bumped into me I became aware of the huge crowd around me. I also noticed a strange aspect of the crowd - The hypostyle hall was huge, yet all
The King List?The King List?The King List?

I thought this was the famous 'King List', but I read that it was located in Paris now - Anybody else know what this is?
of the tour groups were concentrated along the central corridor. I ventured off the beaten path and entered the forest of columns. Before long I was alone in the second busiest tourist attraction in Egypt! The columns and the amazing carved walls that surrounded the hall seemed deserted. I sat down on the dusty stone tiles at the base of one of the columns and I wrote in my journal and I stared up in awe at the engineering marvel that towered above my head. I stayed there for nearly an hour without seeing more than twenty people and then I decided to rejoin the masses and explore the rest of the site.

I spent several more hours wandering through the maze of ancient stones. I walked through buildings that stood intact, seemingly immune to the relentless march of time. Many of the buildings still had wonderful, vividly painted carvings on their walls. Others had interesting scenes of ancient Egypt interspersed with the hieroglyphics. I followed every passage I found. Occasionally they would end in a dead end, but they often led me to an amazing new section of Karnak, or to a hidden treasure - It was always
Painted WallsPainted WallsPainted Walls

At Karnak
exciting when I came around a bend in a seemingly unimportant passage and found myself standing face to face with a perfectly carved statue that had been waiting there for thousands of years to congratulate me for venturing a bit off of the beaten path. Eventually I meandered my way back to the giant standing statue of Ramses II just outside of the first pylon. I sat down in the shadow of a large stone and I took out my journal. I spent the next hour sketching the beautiful statue. Large tour groups constantly surrounded me, each with their own guide. I couldn’t help but overhear the guides’ descriptions of the giant statue. Some of the descriptions were quite funny, others were boring, a few were dramatic and all of them were different. My favorite one was when a guide was explaining the life of Ramses II to a large group from America. When he reached the appropriate point in his speech he paused, turned to face the group, raised his arms above his head pointing slightly towards the statue and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen (long pause) I give you… Ramses the second!!” He lingered on each syllable in a
A DeerA DeerA Deer

At Karnak.
way that suggested that it was the most important thing they would ever learn and the group devoured every word he said.

With my sketch completed and the sun sitting low in the evening sky, I headed back along the Nile into town. I had another hilarious dinner with my friends from the felucca at the restaurant we ate at the first night. After dinner we all said farewell to Sean, who was catching a night train to Cairo, and then we went back to the hotel for some more billiards. The rest of us said our farewells at the end of the night and then we called it a night.

I was not surprised the following morning when I discovered that I had to change accommodations. The person in front of me had been told, “We have plenty of rooms available for tonight”, but they were full by the time I got to the counter to request a few more nights - I suppose I should have paid for the bad laundry job after all! I went back up to my room, grabbed my bag and set off through the streets of Luxor in search of a
The Giant ScarabThe Giant ScarabThe Giant Scarab

This scarab was commissioned by Ramses II. From this angle it looks massive, but is is less than two feet long.
new home. I was getting tired of the touristy section of town anyway, so I was more than happy to get out and explore. The clean, manicured streets in the center of town gave way to crowded, dirty streets strewn with garbage. The markets full of tourist trinkets disappeared and were replaced by colorful markets filled with produce and the necessities of daily life. English was no longer the language of choice and everybody had broad smiles on their faces. I had always been on edge fighting off touts and hawkers in the center of town, but everyone I passed on the new streets seemed content to smile and say hello. I was instantly more comfortable. It had been a good thing to get kicked out of the hotel!

I eventually found the place I was looking for. The small family-run hotel was on a rundown street at the edge of downtown Luxor. From the street its peach-colored tile façade didn’t look like much, but the smiling man at the desk put my mind at ease. In a mixture of broken English and really bad Arabic we managed to take care of our business and then the man escorted me up to a simple room overlooking the street. I got my day bag put together and then I walked up to the rooftop terrace. There I found a charming patio and seating area with several potted palms and a grand view of the surrounding buildings. It was the perfect place to sit with a good book and a cup of tea, but that would have to wait. It was still early and I had other plans for the day.

I retraced my steps back to the touristy section of the Nile promenade and then I pushed through the felucca touts until I found the local ferry that would take me to the other bank of the river. After the requisite amount of time sitting and watching the Nile flow by the Capitan finally had enough passengers and we shoved off into the brown water for the quick journey across. On the other side of the river I was greeted by a mob of eager taxi drivers that were all shouting at me and tugging me this way and that. I pushed through them and started walking out into the desert. Eventually another taxi pulled over and I calmly
A Giant ObeliskA Giant ObeliskA Giant Obelisk

At Karnak.
negotiated a price for a day of exploring the sites of the Theban Necropolis.

Our first stop was at the Colossi of Memnon. The Colossi represented pharaoh Amenhotep III in the seated position and were originally build to guard over his mortuary temple, which in its day rivaled Karnak in size and opulence. The giant statues, standing more than 18 meters (roughly 60 ft) high, have stared over the Nile floodplain for nearly thirty-five centuries. They watched as the march of time slowly carted off the temple that they guarded over. Now the temple is virtually gone and the colossi stand mysteriously alone on the floodplain, looking across acres of cultivated fields toward the Nile. In 27 BC, during a massive earthquake, one of the colossi crumbled and fell from the waist up. The same quake cracked its base and gave birth to a strange ‘singing’ phenomenon that was often heard around dawn. By 20 BC, when Strabo, a famous Greek geographer and traveler, visited the collosi, the singing phenomenon was already well known and the statues were gaining notoriety as an oracle. The phenomenon became famous throughout the known world and brought travelers from everywhere, including several Roman
A ChariotA ChariotA Chariot

At Karnak.
Emperors, with the hope of hearing the singing colossus and gaining the luck ascribed to it. The last historical record of the singing was in 196 AD. Sometime around 199 AD Roman Emperor Septimius Severus rebuilt the crumbled colossus with five courses of sandstone masonry. Legend has it that the emperor had not heard the song on his visit, so he rebuilt the statue to gain its favor.

As I walked around the amazing colossi I was moved by their impressive size and their mysterious location. I had originally planned my stop at the colossi as a quick pause on my way to bigger and better things. It was clear that the majority of the tourists felt the same way, because the parking lot was empty and the busses just slowed as they passed by. My impressions quickly changed as the impressive power of place that had compelled countless ancient travelers to take the long journey up the Nile engulfed my senses. Much to the chagrin of my taxi driver I took my time walking around the colossi studying each eroded detail. My ten-minute stop quickly turned into half an hour as I pondered the ancient structure that the
Exploring Ancient ThebesExploring Ancient ThebesExploring Ancient Thebes

I am trying to bring back big hair!
statues had guarded. Eventually my driver waved to me and told me it was time to go. I reluctantly climbed up the hill to the car and we were off. As we drove on into the mountains I couldn’t help but wonder where the name Memnon had come from. My driver couldn’t give me an answer, though it was probably due to the language barrier. That evening I turned to Wikipedia and discovered that Memnon was a hero of the Trojan War and a king of Ethiopia. I learned that his name literally meant “Ruler of the Dawn” and that the name was likely given to the statues because of the strange song that could be heard at dawn.

We drove across the floodplain towards some rocky, desert mountains. We passed the massive Ramesseum, which was Ramses II’s mortuary temple, and then the turnoff for the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut. We turned and headed into a narrow valley. The driver pointed to a nice domed house on a hill and said, “Howard Carter house” - Howard Carter was the man that found and opened King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. We drove on through the narrow, winding canyon until we reached a large, bus-clogged parking lot. My driver went over a few options with me regarding waiting for me or picking me up later. I decided to have him pick me up at the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut five hours later. I paid the man half of what I owed him for the day and then I set off on foot to explore the famous Valley of the Kings.

I had no illusions as to what my exploration of the valley would be like. I knew that my time would be spent in massive crowds of tourists, shuffling though hot and stuffy subterranean tombs. I also knew that I could only see a few of the tombs and that photography was strictly prohibited inside. I went into my exploration of the Valley of the Kings expecting all of that and I wasn’t disappointed. What I hadn’t expected was the absolute magnificence of the tombs. Nothing I read and none of the pictures I had seen prepared me for what I found beneath the rocky, desert mountains. I walked into the visitors’ center and found a giant, translucent model of the valley. The beautifully sculpted mountains and hills surrounding the
Ramses IIRamses IIRamses II

This is the giant statue that I sketched while I listened to the different tour guide descriptions.
plastic valley were impressive, but the underside of the model was even better. Each of the tombs was represented in the proper scale and orientation hanging low beneath the model. Looking at the network of tunnels and chambers it became clear to me how talented the builders of the tombs were. The shafts descended deeply into the ground in every direction. In places it was baffling how the builders had missed the older tombs when they built the new ones - They did dig into older tombs a few times, but not regularly. I marveled at the model for a while and then I bought my ticket and rushed off into the heat to see the real thing.

My ticket allowed me to see three of the tombs. I had picked out the three tombs that I wanted to see before I arrived, but two of the three were not open the day I was there. I quickly scanned my guidebook for the descriptions of the other tombs that were open and I quickly settled on the three I wanted to see. I set off in search of the first one on my list. Pharaoh Merneptah, the son of
Rams in a RowRams in a RowRams in a Row

Leaving Karnak
Ramses II, died in 1203 BC and was buried in tomb KV08 (the tombs were numbered in the order that they were found.) His tomb, like most of the tombs in the valley, was opened and looted in antiquity and his mummy wasn’t even in the tomb when archaeologists discovered it. His mummy was found much later in the mummy cache in the tomb of Amenhotep II.

I walked up to the man watching over the entrance of the tomb and he checked my ticket and let me in. The small, decorated entryway opened into a steeply descending rectangular passage that went deep into the earth. I paused to get accustomed to the stale air and the crowd. I then turned to my imagination to help me see the tomb as I wanted to. I pictured myself as the first explorer to enter the tomb. I could feel the mystery and anticipation of what I would find just beyond the edge of the light emanating from my flickering, imaginary torch. Down I went into the unknown. The walls were decorated from the floor to the ceiling with beautiful carvings and painting from the life and mythology of ancient Egypt.
A Polycarbonate Valley of the Kings A Polycarbonate Valley of the Kings A Polycarbonate Valley of the Kings

This was the amazing model in the visitor center for the Valley of the Kings.
After descending for a long way I came to the edge of a large pit, called a well. The well’s original purpose was to keep water from the occasional storms from flooding the lower portions of the tomb, but it took on a symbolic, somewhat magical purpose later. My imagination allowed me to see the well as a large pit with an opening on the other side, but instead of climbing down into the pit and up the other side, I paused my imaginary exploration and walked across the modern bridge that spanned the pit. On the other side I found a large sarcophagus in a small chamber. It was difficult to tell if the room was a false burial chamber or if it served another purpose. The tomb continued even deeper, so I presumed that the chamber was not the main burial crypt and I continued. A little further down I came to a massive chamber with sunken floor, a decorated, barrel vaulted ceiling and a giant, stone sarcophagus in the middle. The sarcophagus was really only the lid from the second of four nested sarcophagi, but it was beautifully carved with a representation of Merneptah. The burial chamber
Crisscrossing TombsCrisscrossing TombsCrisscrossing Tombs

This was an amazing model.
was all that I hoped it would be and more. I spent as long as I was allowed in the chamber, slowly exploring every nook and cranny. There was another room on the far side of the chamber that was still filled with debris and closed to the public - I paused and tried to imagine the immense treasure that the tomb once contained, but the guard urged me to continue back to the surface. The view looking up the long passage was nearly as impressive as the mysterious view looking down from the top. Slowly the rectangular light at the end of the tunnel got larger until I finally immerged out of the tomb into the hot air of the desert.

I took a quick look at a map of the valley and then I headed over to the next tomb on my list. I passed through a big crowd milling about at the entrance of King Tutankhamen’s tomb and I briefly stopped to peak down at the famous opening that Howard Carter had uncovered less than 100 years before. I left the huge crowd and walked to the end of the farthest wadi of the valley where I was surprised to find a bit of solitude. The tomb of Thutmose III was one of the first tombs built in the valley. Its entrance was built high up a sheer cliff face in a small fissure in the rock. I climbed up to the fissure on a rickety, metal staircase that flexed and wobbled with every step. At the top I paused to take in the elevated view of the valley and then I turned and walked a short distance into the fissure where I found the entrance to the tomb. The passage descended steeply for a while and then it leveled off and ended abruptly at a massive rectangular well. The pit was deep and it was wider than the passage, which must have been interesting to see under torchlight. I crossed over the pit on the modern bridge to where the passage continued on the other side and then I went deeper into the earth where I found the first chamber. There the walls were beautifully decorated with strange, monochromatic paintings from ancient Egyptian mythology. There were two large, decorated columns holding up the ceiling and there was a doorway that led down a set of
From the LedgeFrom the LedgeFrom the Ledge

This is the view from the top of the stairs that lead to the tomb of Thutmose III
stairs through one of the sidewalls. I walked down the staircase into the large burial chamber. There I was greeted by an especially annoying guard that was continually asking for baksheesh as he followed behind me pointing out the most obvious features of the room. I ignored the guard and turned my attention to the amazing crypt. There were more decorated columns and the walls were all beautifully painted in the same, odd monochromatic illustrations. The tops of the walls were painted in rich blues and whites and reds and led to the highlight of the chamber for me, the ceiling. The decoration on the ceiling was similar to most of the other tombs I had seen with beautiful, yellow stars set on a deep-blue, night-sky backdrop, but what made it stand out for me was the network of cracks in the stone, which had all filled with white calcium deposits and contrasted heavily with the dark blue background. I spent as long as I could manage in the burial chamber looking at the sarcophagus and the small rooms that were attached to the chamber, but the heat was oppressive, despite the efforts of two large fans, and I was
Climbing Over the ValleyClimbing Over the ValleyClimbing Over the Valley

This is the excellent footpath that leads up over the mountain and connects the Valley of the Kings to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
forced to retreat back out into the cooler inferno of the desert.

The last tomb I visited was the tomb of Ramses III, KV11. KV11 was one of the longest tombs in the valley, which I found exciting. It was also richly decorated throughout with several really interesting niches to explore. Shortly after entering the descending passage I came to a dogleg in the corridor. The passage was offset during its construction because the workers accidentally dug into another tomb and had to make a change or abandon the whole excavation. I paused for a moment to imagine what the workers must have felt when they broke through into the other chamber and then I continued deeper into the tomb. Further down the corridor I came to a lovely colonnaded hall and a smaller room that were both amazingly decorated and then I continued a little further where I encountered a crushing disappointment. I came to a barrier with a sign on it that said the tomb was closed beyond that point due to structural instability and falling rock - The whole reason I had wanted to see the tomb was due to its exciting length! I stood at
Looking to the NileLooking to the NileLooking to the Nile

The massive Ramesseum and some lesser tombs are in the foreground.
the barrier for several minutes looking down the deserted passage and wondering if the inside of an Egyptian jail was as uncomfortable as I imagined it would be. I then imagined myself recreating the scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc as I ran down the steep passage being chased by a giant block of stone that had fallen from the ceiling and was rolling after me. Ultimately I decided that being crushed by a beautifully carved stone or getting acquainted with the Egyptian prison system would not have been the best outcome for the day and I turned and headed back to the surface.

With my exploration of the Valley of the Kings done I went and found a shady place to sit and I contemplated the mysteries of the valley. Everything I had seen had been amazing, despite the touristy nature and the restrictions of the place, and I was glad that I braved the crowds to see it. As I scanned the surrounding hills looking for the path that would take me to my next destination I couldn’t help but wonder what other mysteries remained hidden beneath the desert sands - Only time will tell!

I was not exactly sure which of the many paths that crisscrossed the hills was the one I needed to follow. I walked up to one of the machinegun toting guards in white and asked him which way I needed to go to get to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. He smiled and pointed to a faint, rocky path that led up to the ridge and then he swept his arm along the ridge and indicated that I had to go down the other side. I thanked him and then I started walking, ignoring the sign that said climbing the hills above the tombs was forbidden (the guard had said it was OK after all!) The path was slippery and poorly marked, so it took me a while to get up to the ridge. From there I took in a sweeping view of the Valley of the Kings behind me and the fertile Nile Valley in front of me. I could see the Colossi of Memnon and several other sites from the Theban Necropolis bellow and, in the distance, the mighty Nile cutting a blue line through the green - It was beautiful! The path along the ridge actually followed
One Beautiful TempleOne Beautiful TempleOne Beautiful Temple

The Temple of Hatshepsut is considered by many as the most beautiful temple in Egypt - I definitely liked it!
the edge of a sheer cliff. Below the brown, craggy, cliff walls the huge temple of Queen Hatshepsut spread out toward the distant Nile. I followed the cliff edge until I reached the summit of the mountain and then I continued down the other side, passing a lonely police post and a monumental pile of garbage along the way. I descended toward the temple weaving around the openings of several simple tombs, many of which were also filled with garbage. Eventually I reached the bus-clogged parking area where I bought my ticket and headed toward the temple.

The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari was a spectacular, colonnaded temple consisting of three terraces connected together by a giant stone ramp. It was built around 1450 BC and was considered to be the closest the ancient Egyptians ever came to constructing in a Classical style. In its day, lovely gardens and several large statues surrounded the terraces, though most traces of them were long gone. What remains has been considered one of the most beautiful ancient structures in Egypt. Its three colonnaded terraces stood in graceful symmetry at the base of the massive red-brown cliffs that I had just
A Cow in the ForestA Cow in the ForestA Cow in the Forest

The carvings at the Temple of Hatshepsut were lovely.
traversed. As I headed toward the ramp that connected the levels together I passed through a large security checkpoint and several other guard posts staffed with heavily armed soldiers. The military presence served as a reminder of the devastating terrorist attack in 1997 that left 62 people dead, including 58 tourists. That massacre forced Egypt to change the way tourists traveled in Egypt, which led to the convoys and the unfortunate restrictions on train travel as well as the beefed up security at all of the sites. Once through the checkpoint, I still had a long walk to get to the temple, which was wonderful. In all, I spent about two hours exploring the site. The walls were all carved with beautiful reliefs. Many of those reliefs still had vivid paint on them, others looked like they had never been painted. I enjoyed exploring the temple, but, in the end, my favorite aspect of it was the view from the cliffs above - The temple was at its most beautiful from a distance!

My taxi driver arrived a few minutes late, but well within the realm of acceptable in Egypt. A half hour later I stepped off of the

The carvings at the Temple of Hatshepsut were lovely.
ferry on the east bank of the river and headed back to my quiet hotel. I spent the evening reading and relaxing on the rooftop terrace and getting ready for my departure from Luxor the following day. The next morning at the train station I discovered that there were no trains leaving that day and I had a hard time figuring out how the buses worked. The man running the hotel I was staying at helped me get a bus ticket lined up for the following day and then he welcomed me to stay one more night! I passed my time relaxing and reading. I also braved the tourist bazaars where I found a few simple trinkets to take home. It turned out that being delayed an extra day was a blessing in disguise, because it gave me a chance to see the Temple of Luxor, which for some reason I had originally decided to skip. The temple and its monumental construction ended up being a spectacular way to spend a day and I whiled the hours away exploring the statues, columns and amazing reliefs that covered every wall - I was definitely glad to have seen it.

A Painted Procession A Painted Procession A Painted Procession

The carvings at the Temple of Hatshepsut were lovely.
was approaching evening when my ride to the bus station arrived. He dropped me off in a deserted terminal on the outskirts of town. I waited until about an hour before the bus was due to leave before I started getting worried. I had only seen one bus arrive in the hour I had been sitting there and it was clear that the place was shutting down. I asked several men about my bus, but my Arabic was not up to the task and I didn’t get any answers. Finally I found a man that spoke a bit of English and he let me know in a fairly concerned way that I had messed up and gone to the wrong bus terminal. He then let me know that there was no way of getting across town to the other terminal before the bus left. He quickly flagged down a passing truck (all vehicles can be taxis in Egypt) and gave the driver instructions to take me to the military checkpoint at the edge of town and tell the guard to put me on the right bus.

The man grabbed my bag and shoved it behind the seat and we
Looking into the TempleLooking into the TempleLooking into the Temple

We were not allowed to go inside, but the view from the door was lovely.
were off. The man at the wheel drove with a purpose that was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. When we reached the traffic jam at the checkpoint he weaved around the huge line of vehicles into oncoming traffic and then skidded to a stop just short of one of the guards. He jumped out and exchanged a few seemingly terse words with the guard and then waved to me to wait with him. About half an hour later, just as I was wondering how far the walk back into town would be, the guard waved for a bus to stop and he told me to get on board. The bus didn’t have any identification, but the driver looked at my ticket, smiled and jumped up out of his seat. He took my bag and put it in the storage compartment under the bus and then welcomed me aboard. I walked the gauntlet of angry eyes, apparently annoyed by the delay, to the only open seat at the back of the bus. There I found a man that was trying to occupy both seats and he started shouting at me to take a different one. Before long everybody
An Interesting ColumnAn Interesting ColumnAn Interesting Column

The female column was unique - I am not sure if the mouth was missing or never there.
at the back of the bus was shouting at each other and at me, but I had no idea what they were saying. The driver ignored the noise and I was tired, so I sat down despite all of the protests. After a few minutes everyone got tired of shouting and calmed down. From there my journey was tense but uneventful. We pulled into the Red Sea town of Hurgada late in the night. There several of the unhappy people got off of the bus and I was finally able to get a bit of sleep as we drove on into the night. We arrived in Cairo early the next morning. I grabbed a quick breakfast and then purchased my ticket for Alexandria, the city of knowledge, the city of Alexander the Great and a city on the warm Mediterranean coast - I was excited to say the least!

Additional photos below
Photos: 55, Displayed: 48


A Bird of PreyA Bird of Prey
A Bird of Prey

This carving guarded the ramp at the temple of Hatshepsut.
Large StatuesLarge Statues
Large Statues

I believe these are carvings of Osiris.
Vivid ColorsVivid Colors
Vivid Colors

Some of the loveliest paintings I found were at the Temple of Hatshepsut,
Painted ReliefsPainted Reliefs
Painted Reliefs

Some of the loveliest paintings I found were at the Temple of Hatshepsut,
Cartouches Cartouches

Some of the loveliest paintings I found were at the Temple of Hatshepsut,
The Temple of LuxorThe Temple of Luxor
The Temple of Luxor

I tried to skip this temple, but a travel delay forced it on me and I am glad I saw it.
A Giant HeadA Giant Head
A Giant Head

At Luxor
An Obelisk An Obelisk
An Obelisk

I would see the twin of this obelisk when I visited Paris a few months later.
A Sphinx Lined AvenueA Sphinx Lined Avenue
A Sphinx Lined Avenue

This avenue originally stretched all the way to Karnak.

25th December 2010
The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

It was my favourite view during my visit many years ago - this is a superb photo!

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