Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Luxor is a pretty cool (not in terms of the weather however) place.  It is different from Cairo and Aswan in many ways.  Our first trip in Luxor was to the Valley of the Kings. On the way we stop at the two statues known as the Colossi of Memnon.  These monster statues stand 60ft high, are made of stone and depict Pharaoh Amenhotep III in a seating position. The statues are 3400 years old and they were original made to stand guard at the entrance of Amenhotep’s memorial temple. This was a massive temple where the pharaoh was worshiped before and after his death. But today they are the only remnants left of the temple.

What was awesome about the area is that just days before they had made some discoveries while excavating around the statues.  There was a heavenly cordoned off area and we were not allowed to even take photos (although we did sneak one or two).

The Valley of the Kings was amazing. We had been looking forward to seeing the colours more than anything else.  Here they have taken extraordinary measure to preserve the colours and one of those is not allowing any photos.  I was saddened by the fact that there were tourists who just ignored the clearly posted signs and took photos any way.  Our guide was very strict with us (and some of the other tourists) and made us leave our cameras in the car. With hindsight I am glad because the temptation may just have proven too great.  The photos I have posted here have been sourced from all over the internet. On some level I am glad that there are people who risk getting their camera’s confiscated by the tourist police!!

So of course some of the history.  Below is a picture of the layout of the Valley of the Kings.

The Egyptians believe that "To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again" and this is definitely carried out in the building of the tombs. The pharaoh’s birth and coronation names as well as their titles are inscribed in the tomb along with his images and statues. Beginning with the 18th Dynasty and ending with the 20th, the pharaoh’s abandoned the Memphis area and built their tombs in Thebes. Also abandoned were the pyramid style tombs. Most of the tombs were cut into the limestone following a similar pattern: three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. These catacombs were harder to rob and were more easily concealed.

Some of the pharaohs were from the New Kingdom including some of the celeb pharaohs such as Tutankhamen and our friend Ramses the great. Tutankhamen’s tomb was the only one which still was still sealed off and was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, along with all its treasures. These amazing pieces of Egyptian history can be seen at a special exhibit in the Egyptian museum and trust me it is well worth the visit.

Although there are 63 tombs (one being discovered as recently as 2005), your ticket only covers three tombs so be sure to choose wisely.  We let our trusted guide make the choices for us and he did an excellent job.

The colours are so vibrate so alive it takes your breath away when you think for how many centuries they have existed.  When you consider that the architects and other workers have turned to dust several centuries ago but these legacies to their craft have remained intact for us to admire.

So one of the most important goals for a pharaoh in ancient Egypt was the building of his own tomb. The location of the future tomb was usually decided upon during the first year of the pharaoh's reign…..no pressure or anything. At this point, architectural designs were set out, as well as the decorations that would adorn the walls and ceiling.

The architect would supervise the work of the craftsmen, who were usually divided into two groups, the right and the left. While these groups did not have a set number of workmen, they usually consisted of between 30 and 60 people but at times might increase to as many as 120 workmen. Workmen were usually specialized, and included stone-cutters, plasterers, sculptors, draftsmen and artists who decorated the surfaces. The work progressed almost like an assembly line. First came the quarrymen who would dig the tomb into the mountain. Behind them were the plasterers who would smooth the walls. They used muna, a type of plaster made from clay, quartz, limestone and crushed straw to smooth the walls. Over that they laid thin layers of clay and limestone whitened with a layer of diluted gypsum.

Not all the tombs belonged to the pharaoh or members of the royal family, some belonged to privileged noble men although their tombs were usually left undecorated.  Not all the tombs have been discovered intact and some it seems were never actually completed. With all the tomb raiders (not the Angelina type) causing havoc it was decided (not sure when or by whom) that the mummies and some of their funerary objects would be reburied. There were two secret caches of mummies found in the 19th century but since there are still so many mummies unaccounted for there are some who believe that there was a third cache which is yet to be discovered.

The tombs are cool inside which is a very welcome relief from the incredible heat.  The sun is hot and brutal and since bathroom breaks are few and far between you have to watch your water intake.  But all that is forgotten as you make your way down the passages of these tombs, trying to read the hieroglyphics can provide hours of entertainment but for me it was the wall pictures. Some showing the goddess Nut or Pharaoh worshiping the solar disc. It seems that everywhere you look you come face to face with the vibrancy of golden yellows, ruby reds, sapphire blues and sandy shades of brown. The passages lead you to the sarcophagus chamber one more ornate than the last. And don’t forget to look up because you may just see a blanket of stars above your head.

I found this quote by Howard Carter online about his discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. "At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flames to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment  an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by I was dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' it was all I could do to get out the words, "Yes, wonderful things."

The royal seal on the door was found intact. The first three chambers were unadorned, with evidence of early entrance through one of the outside walls. The next chamber contained most of the funerary objects. The sarcophagus was four guilded wooden shrines, one inside the other, within which lay the stone sarcophagus, three mummiform coffins, the inner one being solid gold, and then the mummy. Haste can be seen in the reliefs and the sarcophagus, due to the fact that Tutankhamun died at only 19 years of age following a brief reign. Though extremely impressive to the modern world, the treasures of Tutankhamun must have paled when compared to the tombs of the great Pharaohs that ruled for many years during Egypt’s golden age.

Don’t forget to visit the exhibit at the Egyptian museum….you even get a glimpse at his underwear and shoes.  Gosh the shoes you have to see those.  And the jewellery just amazing oh and while you are there make sure you check out his corsets….they would be ankle bracelets for me!!!

It was a feast for my eyes and I would never have gotten over it if I missed this experience.  I pray that the Egyptian government continues to protect this incredibly special place and that those that visit will remember to leave it as they found it for future generations.

No comments: