It has been a superb cruise so far – If last evening’s temple of Karnak is a precursor for things to come, I am all ready for the finale.
Oh and by the way, last night was our first on the Oberoi Philae and after a sumptuous dinner, we were pleasantly surprised when after the dinner, the entire crew of the boat burst out into singing and dancing to celebrate our honeymoon. there was cake and champagne, and a lot of merry was made until the late hours of the night.
Hence, the sloppiness this morning is apparent – we were ordered to report for breakfast at 5AM so we can leave the ship by 6 and be at the Valley of the Kings before the heat wave can strike us out of action. We pack some breakfast and head out along with our group and Tariq still in charge of the affairs. The valley is located on the west banks of the Nile and is about an hour and half drive away from the docks – and is further consists of a west valley and an east valley. This area has the largest concentration of tombs of pharoahs and as recently as 2006, new tombs have been excavated. Egypt’s most famous pharoah, Tutankhamun was also buried here and his tomb was found as it was when he was buried.
The valley is dominated by the peak of al-Qurn – it has a pyramid shaped appearance, and perhaps, thats why the pharoahs chose the area as a suitable burial ground. Most of the tombs are cut into the rock – it is a limestone valley. There are a number of tomb sites – but only a handful of them are open for public viewing – the notable tombs are those of Ramses III, Hatsepshut and Tutankhamun.The heat in the valley is killing and it is only 8 AM and we are sweating like anything – luckily there are water and Coca Cola vendors around and we are not left thirsty.
We ventured into a few of the open tombs and particularly the tomb of Ramses III was striking – it was splendid to see how well preserved the structure was. The dry heat of the valley’s climate has helped preserve the tombs for centuries – it is a thrilling experience to see history so up, close and personal. the image on the left is from Ramses III’s tomb – it depicts the famous scene of a goddess swallowing the sun – as an anecdote to nightfall, and on the other end she is seen giving birth to the sun in a sign of daybreak – thereby completing the everyday circle.
It’s superb decoration, rich colors, engravings and the artistic styles make for a sight to behold.We spent a good couple of hours going around the tombs and appreciating the arts.
The valley is also home to alabaster rocks – these stones have found usage in many daily artifacts since ancient times and a small scale industry thrives on them right here next to the valley of the kings. We stop by at a local alabaster workshop and see first hand how the stone is carved into decorative souvenirs and table lamps etc.
A short hop away is the Deir El Madina or the valley of the artisans – a trip to the valley of kings is incomplete without paying tribute to the folks who helped create the wonder that ancient Egypt is. It is a humbling feeling to walk through the valley of artisans – each family was allocated a small area to live in – not measuring more than 70 sq. ft.These artisans also believed in an afterlife – and gave all of their energies and efforts into building hte best monuments so that they can have a great after life.
Another stop on our itinerary today is the Madinet Habou – a temple built by Ramses III in Necropolis. It is a relatively small temple and shares a lot of architectural similarities with the temples at Karnak – our guide didn’t have much to say about the temples, and it was a quick stop. We stop by at a refreshment shop at the temple – and have our favorite Guava juice. On our way back to the boat, we make another quick stop at the Colossi of Memnon which are two massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep. Interestingly, the statues are shown in a seated position facing east. The statues are damaged beyond recognition – but it still doesn’t prevent the tourists from taking out the cameras and clicking away.