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Published: October 25th 2019
Balloon Ride envy!
Once again, trying to avoid the brutal heat, we had another ridiculously early morning for our much anticipated visit to the Valley of the Kings in the West Bank of the Nile.
Because of the early wake up call, I managed to catch a glimpse of the hot air balloons over the West Bank at sunrise. We had made a reservation to participate that same morning, but it had been unexpectedly cancelled by the company a couple of weeks before the trip. We found out after we got to Egypt that there had been an accident, apparently bad enough for TripAdvisor to feel obligated to cancel it. We were thinking of rescheduling there, but our Tour Director, Amr Hassan, was definitely opposed to it saying it was dangerous, plus the early time might have conflicted with our excursion to the West Bank.
So, mostly because we were worried that any unexpected delays would prevent us from going to the Valley of the Kings, we decided to pass on the experience. I did feel very envious watching them.
Luxor is a treasure trove of antiquity sites. On our way we passed by many ruins and famous sites that liter
the landscape. But our main destination was a high point of the trip.
Arriving at the Valley of the Kings, and looking at the surrounding terrain, it's obvious why it is thought that there are undiscovered tombs left. I know a lot of research has been done over the years, but it's easy to believe something has been missed.
The parking area is a distance from the entrance to the Valley, and small trains carry the visitors back and forth.
The ticket for the Valley of the King covers the entrance to three of the tombs. Not all the tombs are open at the same time. They rotate a few at a time, and this time we chose to visit some of the Ramses' tombs, Ramses III, the last great Pharaoh, his son Ramses IV, and Ramses IX. Of course, we also wanted to see King Tut's tomb, which was a separate, additional ticket.
We found, throughout our visits to different sites, that the acceptance of photography and cameras is very inconsistent. Some places allow cameras, some for a fee, and others only cell phones, flash is generally frowned upon at most sites, others don't allow
any kind of photography at all.
Here, naturally, no flash was supposed to be allowed, although some of the guards can be bribed, unfortunately.
I was wowed! Here, preserved by the lack of sunlight, the colors of the reliefs come beautifully alive.
We visited the tomb of King Tut first, to avoid long lines later on. For this particular tomb, since it's so small, they monitor how many people go in before allowing another group. It's easy to see why it went undiscovered for so long. On the other tombs we saw the corridors start very close to the entrance but King Tut's had a steep ramp going down into the ground. It is the only tomb in the Valley to contain the Pharaoh's mummy. Poor young king!
The other tombs are all bigger and much more elaborate. I found it interesting that, within the same basic funeral canons, the tombs reflected different styles, either displaying the taste of the Pharaoh or the builders. Ramses III, I thought, had the more exquisite reliefs, and tasteful muted neutral background to make them pop out. Ramses IV was all bright gold yellow and flamboyant, definitely the most memorable,
Valley of the Kings
Scale map of the valley, showing the tombs. Under the table, they show the layout and the depth underground.
specially with the enormous sarcophagus still inside. Ramses IX resembled the coloring of Ramses III, but not quite as rich in detail.
Remarkably, it was this last one that some effort had been made at protecting the fragile paintings and carvings on the wall, by placing a plastic barrier in front of them.
Something should be done to preserve them. I watched a person in front of me place his entire palm on top of a hieroglyphic on the wall. I shuddered.
Here too, I left wishing for more. I know we saw the three most impressive tombs open at that time, but I would have loved to see them all.
Our next stop was the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahri. This temple was damaged even in ancient times by both her stepson Thutmosis III and Akhenaten, but it is still beautiful and unusual and it's background against the rocks makes it look like it's growing out of living rock. It's the most dramatic setting we saw in Egypt. Looking at this beautiful temple, I can easily believe that its designer, Senenmut, was truly Hatshepsut's lover.
Unfortunately, this temple had the worst of
Valley of the Kings
The list of discovered tombs
all the "guards" of the sites we visited. They were invasive and guarded their bits of wall paintings carefully to show in the hope of receiving some Baksheesh for their effort. At this point, feeling overheated and tired, their helpfulness was really burdensome.
One fun fact, as we were leaving the temple one of the trains was there to take visitors back to the visitor center. Everyone was supposed to access the train from the side next to the sidewalk, but a group of women, all wearing niqab, loudly rushed it from the other side to get in. I always picture them as subdued. Ha! No such thing.
After our visit to the temple, the next pit stop was at the Colossus of Memnon for a photo op. The twin statues depict Amenhotep III in a seated position. They are extremely dilapidated but still the size impresses.
It is kind of amazing to drive down this road and keep staring at the spattering of ruins as we drive by. I would have loved to stop at the Ramesseum!
Our last stop was at an alabaster factory, where they still carve pieces the old fashioned way. I
Valley of the Kings
Trains that carry visitors from the parking lot to the entrance of the necropolis
got my wish to get an alabaster scarab, inscribed in hieroglyphics! I also could not pass a beautiful statuette of the goddess Bastet in her cat form, carved out of a dark blue stone which I forgot what was called.
Much to my delight, before I left I was surprised by a gift from my salesman. A beautiful alabaster Ankh pendant, that I have already worn several times since my return home.
By the time we arrived back at the ship we were like half melted figures of wax, or at least felt like it. It took no effort to rest for a while before setting out in the early evening for the last adventure of the day. Our tour director, Amr Hassan, surprised us with an Egyptian style outing to the Souk to hang out like locals, drinking Egyptian Mint tea and even smoke Shisha if we so wished, which I did! Amr thought the actual café with its rhythmic drum beat would drive us crazy so we sat nearby. I would have enjoyed the drums, and being stared at by the locals!
But, I must say that during our entire stay in Egypt I never
Valley of the Kings
A terrain full of possibilities
even caught a dirty look in our direction. On the contrary, they seemed genuinely excited that we were "Americans" everywhere we went. I think they felt the absence of tourists economically the last few years and we were a very welcome sight.
The visit also presented us with a last opportunity for some shopping at the Market. It was fun, and everyone returned to the ship loaded with at least one bag.
These market visits were truly highlights of our stay in both Aswan and Luxor. More so because they were unplanned opportunities.
Tot: 2.736s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 9; qc: 51; dbt: 0.025s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb