Altogether too early in the morning of the 27th were awake and
ready to go but theres NO COFFEE!!!!!! The guy who is supposed to deliver it to the
Nabila forgot. They ran out of Omar Khayam (the only semi-drinkable red wine made in this
country) a couple of nights ago. Hope they have food for the next day and a half or
were really in trouble. We have a very full day ahead of us in beautiful
Greeks called it Thebai (Thebes) because of the Coptic name for it, Tape.
Deir El-Bahari was our first stop. The temple
lies in what used to be an inaccessible valley and was built
by Queen Hatshepsut to honor her father Thot-Mosis I. It is
consecrated to Hathor
who welcomed the dead in
the next world. On one of the walls, bas-reliefs relate the
birth and childhood of the queen and her expedition to Punt
(probably Somalia because of pictures of giraffes, monkeys,
panthers and ivory). Also unusual, are the statues of Hatshepsut.
She is dressed as a man and even wears the ceremonial beard.
The Valley of the Kings or Biban el-Muluk (which means the
Gates of the Kings) holds the pharaohs of the 18th-20th
dynasties and was started when Thot-Mosis I wanted his body
buried in a secret place. We rode through the lush agricultural
areas and across the bridge to the western side of the Nile.
The bus let us out at the base of the mountain and we had a
fairly long walk up to the tombs.
The first one we entered was that of Ramses IV. It is magnificently
decorated with intense colors and scenes from the Book of the
Dead, the Book of the Gates and the Book of Caves. There had
been an attempt to clean the dirt and soot off of the walls
and ceilings that had eroded some of the brilliant paints.
The tomb of Ramses IX was somewhat faded in comparison. It had
the distinction of having an enormous pair of runners to transport
the sarcophagus, and documentation of the hours of labor and
Most impressive and one of the best preserved was the tomb
of Ramses VI. It is another long
hallway or tunnel style. The high point of the tomb is the great
vault of the sarcophagus room. It is entirely decorated with
astronomic scenes and frescoes narrating the creation of the
solar disk. The ceiling is the sky goddess Nut
repeated back to back covering the eastern and western ceilings.
She is gold and on a deep lapis lazuli background and arches
her body over constellations. The room retains the intensity
of its original colors and literally took our breath away.
A ride through the villages at the edge of the valley showed
us the proximity of an established base of tomb robbers. They
claim it as their heritage and right because their families
have been there since about 1300 BC. We stopped briefly at an
alabaster factory for a cool drink and some shopping, had a
good look at the Colossi of Memnon
(60 foot tall monolithic blocks of sandstone), and passed the
Madinet Habu complex that is under reconstruction before returning
to the Nabila for lunch. We were definitely experiencing sensory
overload from all that we had seen this morning.
As if we had not done enough, the afternoon began with a visit
to the Temple Of Karnak. This gigantic temple is dedicated to
the god Amon-Ra
and began being built in the 1300s BC. Its colonnade
of 134 columns, the temples and
gateways were of mammoth
proportions. The avenue of the sphinxes
leads the to the entrance pylon (350 feet wide and 46 feet thick)
apparently these sphinxes lined the 3 mile road to the
Temple of Luxor in ancient times. The temple is the largest
with columns in the world (Notre Dame could fit inside). The
grounds of the complex are covered with pieces waiting to be
reassembled. On the ground
lies the pink granite obelisk built by Queen Hatshepsut with
its ornate inscriptions small holes at the top mark the
spot where its electrum top was once attached
Deep carvings of Amon-Ra decorate the walls.
Inner courtyards hold statues of Ramses and Amon.
Since Hanan is an archaeologist (teacher and about to get her
Ph.D.) she has worked on this site. Her connections allowed
us to visit a small temple at the side of the complex dedicated
to the goddess Sekmet.
Here we found a perfectly beautiful statue of the goddess.
A large red granite scarab
is said to bring luck to those who circle it seven times and
overlooks the huge (375X240) sacred lake
which was used by the priests for their morning ablutions.
The Temple of Luxor started construction by Amon-Ofis in the
14th century BC and was completed by Ramses II. Its
450 foot wide entry pylon is 45 feet thick and still has one
of two pink obelisks standing (the other is in Place de La Concorde
in Paris) and two seated colossi representing the pharaoh (48
tall). This temple is smaller than
Karnak but certainly not small by our standards in fact,
the size of everything we have seen on our exploration of Egypt
The courtyard of Ramses II with
its open lotus columns leads us to a pylon built by Alexander
the Great with its black granite colonnade depicting the Opet
Feast. (The Opet festival lasted about fifteen days, and started
nineteen days after the second month of flood, August) and was
highlighted by thirty priests carrying the sacred boat of Amon-Ra
back and forth to the Karnak Temple.) The next courtyard is
framed with closed papyrus shaped columns
and offers a view straight through to the sacrarium. There was
an impressive red granite pylon and court with seamless giant
slabs of intricately carved walls and ceilings built by Thot-Mosis
III to honor Ramses II it is impossible to imagine how
this was accomplished.
With all that we have seen today, there is still much more in this area. We were too
exhausted to go to the Luxor Museum, and did not have the time on the West shore to visit
more tombs in the Valley of the Queens. It is obvious that a stay of three or four days
would be much better. We could probably say the same about the Aswan area and Cairo.