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Valley of the Kings and Scarves

January 4, 2008

 Tom – We took breakfast early (5:45am) in order to be ready for our tour that started at 6:30.  Sarah again met us in the lobby and we drove to the West side of the Nile, past the Colossi of Memnon (about 60 feet high but very eroded), and to the Valley of the Kings.  Our tour ticket allowed us to go in 3 of 11 possible tombs.  There are 62 known tombs in the valley.  Sarah selected three for us and they included the tombs of Ramses IV, Merneptah, and Ramses I.

   Ramses IV  Walking down the tunnels into each tomb was exciting, there was always something else to see.  You could spend a day in each trying to decipher the meaning of the figures and hieroglyphics.  The painting and color on some were still quite good, however on most it was either faded or non-existent just showing the symbols.  The red granite sarcophagus of this tomb is one of the largest in the valley.  This tomb is also known for the striking painting of the goddess Nut stretched across the blue ceiling.

Merneptah  He was the 13th son of Ramses II, who was the most notable pharaoh having ruled Egypt for 67 years.  Merneptah’s 12 older brothers died before Ramses II.  This was a long tunnel like tomb with fairly well preserved reliefs.  We especially liked the blue ceiling with gold stars

Ramses I  There was a short but steep walk down into the tomb of Ramses I.  Only the burial chamber was decorated and included many scenes of the pharaoh with various gods including one where the pharaoh is knelling between the jackal-headed “Soul of Nekhen” and the falcon-headed “Soul of Pe” representing Upper and Lower Egypt.

Tutankhamun  We also paid an extra 160 Egyptian Pounds ($29) to go in the tomb of Tutankhamun (boy pharaoh – 18), which was the only tomb ever found nearly intact (1922).  The majority of the treasures found in the tomb are on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Some go on world tour and the only ones currently in the tomb are the outermost of three gilded wooden coffins, setting in a red quartzite sarcophagus, and the mummy showing only the head and feet.

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After leaving the Valley of the Kings, we stopped at a stone shop where they demonstrated the hand making of alabaster jars.  Again, we were lead to the showroom and pressured to buy something.  Continuing, we went to Deir al-Bahri and the large and impressive Temple of Hatshepsut.  Unlike the majority of visitors, and to the surprise of our guide, we wanted to walk about a third of a mile from the entrance to the temple and not use the trams.  It was set up on a direct line from the Temple of Luxor across the Nile.  Hatshepsut was a queen who acted as pharaoh for 15 years when her husband died and was obviously very powerful.  She is shown in some reliefs dressed as a male pharaoh (including a false beard) and in others as a female.

Made it back to the boat at departure time and found that we now had to walk through four boats to get to ours, which had been moved from the dock to the outside of the other four boats.  We went up on deck to watch departure and the start of our cruise.  The deck consisted of the whole top of the boat including a covered bar, what they called a pool (wading pool with a deep 4 x 15 foot end for submerging your body), about 170 lounge chairs, 180 other chairs around about 50 tables, 18 large umbrellas, two old exercise cycles, and one tiny treadmill.

Ate lunch, went back to our cabin and opened our curtain and large sliding door.  I worked on this diary while Helen either knitted or read.  We would stop regularly to watch Egypt go by – palm trees, banana groves, small villages, birds, sugar cane fields, fisherman, domestic animals, and in the background the barren landscape.  Putting it simply, it was green by the river and brown in the distance.

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At 4:30 we went for tea time (coffee) and more Egypt watching on deck.  When our boat stopped to queue up for the lock as Esna, small rowboats descended on all the cruise boats.  As one man controlled the boat, the other would call out in multiple languages to the tourists on board and throw plastic bags with cotton scarves (also towels) on to the deck.  Then there would be negotiations back and forth with plastic bags flying everywhere.  Only a few tourists INCLUDING Helen participated in the exchange and most bags were just pitched back into the boats or water where they would be fished out.  Rafaei also participated and, since we didn’t have any Egyptian pounds, eventually paid 100 pounds (about $18) for two, one for Helen and one for Amna.  Afterward we had dinner and then our group played Tablet in the no smoking area of the lobby until bed time.

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