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Published: January 24th 2013
We had breakfast this morning watching the balloons floating over the West Bank of the Nile which was very atmospheric. There is something very restful about watching balloons hanging in the sky. It's nice to see the balloons floating over Melbourne on the odd occasion that I see them, but it was spectacular to see balloons floating over the West Bank of the Nile with the mountains that surround the Valley of the Kings in the background!
After our breakfast we left for our visit to the Valley of the Kings. Unfortunately no photography is allowed in the Valley of the Kings so we had to leave our cameras on the bus. We might have to download a few images from the internet or buy some postcards?! Just behind the entry to the site there is a room with a transparent topographical 3D model that shows where the tombs at the Valley of the Kings are situated. It was a really effective representation that gave us an appreciation of how riddled with passageways and tombs the mountains are.
Once we were in the valley itself we could see that it is surmounted by a pyramid shaped peak which is
quite majestic. It is easy to see why this valley was selected to become the site for the tombs of generations of Pharaohs during the 18th Dynasty. The tombs are opened on a rotational basis and there is an extra charge to visit Tutankhamen's Tomb. Having seen part a program about the deterioration of Tutankhamen's Tomb while we in Cairo we decided that we would just visit the three tombs included on our entry ticket and do our bit to help preserve Tutankhamen's Tomb.
Hussein took us to view the tombs of Rameses IV, Rameses III and Rameses IX. Outside each tomb he briefed us on the key features to watch out for and then he recommended that we view the tombs by staying to the right and viewing the features on the right until we reached the end and then returning on the other side of the walkway and viewing the features on the left hand side of the tomb. A very efficient suggestion that would have worked fantastically ... if all the tourists had been doing it that way!!
Tourists are a weird mob! Some tourists just stopped in the middle of the walkways and gawped
as they looked around in circles. Other tourists seem to rush through without looking at anything much at all?? It was sort of like they just had to be there so they could tick it off their list. They didn't seem to be taking the time to absorb the grandeur of the experience. Although there were quite a few tourists about today, it was very easy to move through the tombs and spend enough time viewing all of the features of the tombs. We could see though that it must get very crowded when there are hoards of tourists here. Once again we had pause to be grateful for making our visit at this time.
After the very steep and cramped passage that we used to enter the small pyramid in Saqqara we were blown away by the size and magnificence of the entry passage to each of the three tombs that we visited. The colour that can still be seen in the tombs' decorations was completely unexpected and really, really impressive. We had no idea that the natural pigments would be so well preserved. It has been in place for several centuries after all.
As we left
the Valley of the Kings we had to return to our bus via all of the hawkers and stall holders. Bernie received his first offer of a camel in exchange for one of his wives!! Bernie has received a few comments now about being a lucky man to have three wives.
Our next stop was Queen Hatshepsut's Temple situated on the other side of the mountain ridge to the Valley of the Kings. Without its original colours the temple looks rather utilitarian and I couldn't help but think it was somewhat reminiscent of a power station. Once again, Hussein briefed us on the key points of the temple and then gave us half an hour of free time to explore and take photos.
From Queen Hatshepsut's Temple we drove to an alabaster workshop. The staff gave us a very entertaining presentation and demonstration about working with alabaster to create delicate and translucent vases. Of course, after that it was into the showroom to look at all of the pieces that we could purchase. We were offered complimentary drinks to have while we looked around the shop. We all opted for hibiscus drink because we had enjoyed some on
the boat when we boarded yesterday. Ugh, it was not the same at all. With my first sip a sliver of ice passed my lips which had me panicking about food poisoning. The drink on the boat must also have been sweetened. I think after a sip each we all put our drinks back on the tray!!
It is really hard not to feel that you should buy something because there are so few tourists stimulating their economy. I feel so guilty about having so much when these people have so little. So we selected a small granite scarab beetle without having any idea how expensive it would be. When he gave his first price - 1,500 Egyptian Pound (over 200 Australian Dollars!) - we decided that we really weren't prepared to pay that much for bit of rock carved into a beetle. Desperate to make a sale he eventually dropped his price to 500 Egyptian Pound which we agreed to pay.
As we left the alabaster workshop Bernie was concerned that he had not wrapped the same piece that we selected because it felt much lighter wrapped in bubble wrap than it had seemed in the shop.
Hussein assured us that it would be the same piece, but we unwrapped it anyway. Hmmn, it did appear to be the same piece once it was unwrapped. It was weird how the bubble wrap made if feel lighter than air.
On the way back to the boat we stopped briefly at the Colossi of Memnon all that remains of the funerary temple that was constructed for the Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Although badly damaged these are still very impressive statues.
When we arrived back at the boat we were greeted with a refreshing lemon drink and a hand towel. We went up to our room where we were greeted by a snake on the bed. Ha, ha not a real one, just some impressive fabric origami that had been created from the bed linen. We had our lunch on board again before heading upstairs to relax on the sun deck as we commenced our cruise from Luxor towards Aswan.
Tonight is supposed to be a galabeya (traditional Egyptian caftan) party. We thought that it was going to be on our last night on board so we have been caught out a bit to find that it is
tonight. We asked Hussein about purchasing galabeyas while we were out, but he told us we should make our purchases from the shop on the boat and that if we didn't want to buy a galabeya we didn't have to.
We looked at the galabeyas in the gift shop, but decided that they were too expensive to wear for one night only. So glad that I didn't buy a galabeya from the gift shop because two men on a small boat come alongside shortly after selling tablecloths and galabeyas. This was very entertaining as they threw galabeyas up from their boat to be viewed and stretched tablecloths between themselves to display the size and pattern.
They spotted Bernie and started calling him Mr Ali Baba and then they put together an ensemble (glabeya, robe and head dress) for him and a galabeya for his wife. The whole lot for just 250 Egyptian Pounds (about AUS$35). To the entertainment of all on board, I eventually haggled him down to 100 Egyptian Pounds (about AUS$14.50!). Rather disappointingly no one else on board was prepared to get into the spirit of it.
Later on, Mr Ali Baba and his wife
graced the Egyptian buffet very elegantly dressed in their newly purchased outfits! By this stage I had added a beaded head scarf purchased from the boat's gift shop. That piece cost half as much as the rest of our clothes put together. Apart from the staff who were all traditionally dressed this evening, there was only one other galebeya in the dining room tonight. Unfortunately the Galabeya Party fell rather flat.
Steps for the day: 10,331 (7.18km)
Tot: 2.856s; Tpl: 0.061s; cc: 12; qc: 30; dbt: 0.0304s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb