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 Luxor. (The Greeks
called it Thebai (Thebes) because of the Coptic name for it,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 is amazing.
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.
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.