Day 29: Tomb, Tomb-Tomb-Tomb, Toooooomb (A Speed-Post)!

I regret to inform you that Camera remains as kaput as kaput can be, so all the pictures in this post – and probably all to follow – are culled from various public websites, and don’t necessarily reflect my personal experiences and point of view. This is a bummer not only because – I feel – it lowers the quality of my humble blog, but also because so far, my pictures have been instrumental in my writing: Every day, I’ve wandered around, snapping pictures quite indiscriminately, and then, upon getting home and perusing them all, have used them to decide just how to tell the day’s story. So among the other hardships that a broken camera brings, I’m afraid it’s also left me fairly disoriented, as far as recounting coherent tales of my travels in Egypt. But, we soldier on!

I should also note that I write today’s post from the most inviting King’s Head Pub in Luxor, while enjoying an ice-cold Stella. The pub’s internet connection is swift and faultless, but a little sign over the computer mandates that online sessions must not exceed 30 minutes per user. As there is already a line of English tourists growing behind me, I have no choice but to respect the rule and so am afraid that this post will be markedly more abrupt than my others (which generally take several hours to pen).

So, snel, snel, snel!

I woke up early this morning, rented my bike for another day from the lovely chaps at the Oasis Hotel, and made my way to the Luxor city ferry boat where I was allowed to take my bike on board to cross the Nile over to Luxor’s West Bank. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have this bike – as delightful as Luxor is, the tourist hustlers really are a little suffocating, and being able to just zip right by them on this bicycle makes everything a lot more pleasant.

Upon disembarking the ferry and riding towards my first stop, I had to keep pausing just to look around and take in the incredible landscape – all emerald-green hills, lush sugarcane fields, small, winding irrigation canals and clusters of small, colorful houses. I can’t tell you how lucky I felt.

Soon I arrived at the Valley of the Kings, also known as “The Great Necropolis of Millions of Years of Pharaohs” and “The Place of Truth”. This incredible site is guarded by the Colossi of Memnon, the first monument one sees upon stepping onto the West Bank. Massive as they are, Guidebook says these were in fact originally part of Amenhotep III’s memorial temple – now all but destroyed – which once covered an area larger than all of Karnak:

The sprawling Valley of the Kings is home to no less than 63 royal tombs, ranging from 1550 BC to 1069 BC. They’re extremely spread out, and, following Guidebook’s advice, I picked only the three that most intrigued me. Suffice it to say that I could easily have spent this entire month wandering through nowhere but this site, and wouldn’t have gotten bored once.

The first tomb I hit was that of Tuthmosis III (1479-1425 BC), which sits shrouded between two limestone cliffs. I had to leave my bike at the start of a narrow staircase that crosses a steep ravine and walk down to the tomb – a true testament to the lengths the ancient pharaohs went to in their attempts to evade tomb-robbers. Tuthmosis III, sometimes called the “Napoleon of ancient Egypt” for his innovations and military exploits, was one of the first to build his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, and set the standard for picking the most improbable, inaccessible but breathtaking sites for burial grounds:

Like most of the tombs here, Tuthmosis III’s mummy and what riches have not been plundered by thieves over the centuries reside in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but the ancient burial ground was a feast for my imagination nonetheless.

Next it was on to the tomb of Ramses II (1279-1213 BC), one of the largest in the valley.  The entrance was closed, since the tomb’s location at a low point in the valley left it vulnerable to flash-floods and pounds of debris there are currently being cleared away, but the decorations on the outside alone were worth the price of admission:

Finally I saw the tomb of Amenhotep II (1427-1400 BC). I can’t find any satisfactory pictures of it online, but let me assure you that it is spectacular. Surely thanks to its being carved deep into the valley (again, I had to leave Bicycle at the steps of a gangway before descending a set of steep stairs), the insides of the tomb are incredibly well-preserved. The ceiling of the massive burial chamber is covered in stars, and its walls feature text from the ancient Egyptian Book of Amduat (meaning literally “That Which Is In The Afterworld,” the book tells the story of Ra the Sun God travelling through the underworld between the time the sun sets and rises – each of the twelve hours in this time was thought to carry different enemies and allies for Ra to encounter. It was believed that the dead pharaohs all made this same journey, so that they might ultimately unify with Ra and become immortal).

Ahh! The English are coming, the English are coming! Yella, yella, yella (come on, hurry)!

Curses.

Next I went to the Tombs of the Nobles, where I saw the tombs of Khonsu, Userhet and Benia. These were breathtaking and fairly deserted of other tourists. All very well-preserved and nothing short of awe-inspiring, my favorite was Khonsu’s tomb, where the inside of the first chamber depicts scenes from the Montu festival which honored the ancient Egyptian God of War.

Okay okay okay, I’m almost finished!

I rode my bike back to the ferry, crossed back over the Nile and enjoyed the beautiful dusk over the Theban hills. I took Guidebook’s advice and, for 20 Egyptian pounds, cooled off in the rooftop pool of the Arabesque Hotel.

I then made my way to the King’s Head Pub for Stellas and Internet-use (rushed though it is – ahem!) and the rest is history.

Tomorrow afternoon, I will embark on the 16-hour bus ride to the Sinai Peninsula’s beach-town of Dahab. I’ll arrive sometime in the late morning on Tuesday, and then, after dumping my bags at whatever hostel I settle on, will – insha’allah– set off on the three-hour bus ride to St. Katherine’s Protectorate in time to make the dawn hike up Mt. Sinai (!!!). I’m not counting on being able to post again until I get back to Dahab on Wednesday afternoon, but am very hopeful (not sure why, it’s just the way I’m wired, I suppose) that I’ll be able to post a few pictures of myself at Mt. Sinai’s summit that I will have wheedled out of fellow travellers.

Excited as I am for all this, I must say I’m quite sad to be leaving Luxor so soon – as I said, I could have dedicated my entire stay in Egypt to exploring this town’s wealth of tangible history, but at least now I know that any future visit to Egypt must set aside at least a week for the wonders of Thebes.

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2 Responses to “Day 29: Tomb, Tomb-Tomb-Tomb, Toooooomb (A Speed-Post)!”

  1. El Matamoros Says:

    Wow, very impressive — knowing what we know about impatient Brit tourists in pubs, you’re verging on “combat blogging”, here!

    Actually, your pressure-blogging reminds me of a riotous scene near the end of Donald Westlake’s hilarious 1971 novel “Adios Scheherazade” (sic), in which the hero, who’s being hotly pursued by mob thugs intent on rubbing him out, (for reasons that need not detain us here), is desperately running down 5th Avenue, running from typewriter store to typewriter store (which is what they used to have on 5th Ave. back then before they were replaced by today’s “electronics” stores), frantically trying to type a “Help! I’m being pursued by murdering mob thugs!” letter on demonstration typewriter after demonstration typewriter, which, believe it or not, in those days they used to have mounted on storefront pedestals.

    (You sort of had to have been there. Which is pretty much what you could say about your experience at the Kings Head Pub in Luxor….)

  2. lulu Says:

    Ooof, better you than me, with the endless bus journeys…but everything I read DOES say dawn at Mt. Sinai is spectacular. Must’ve been so nice to tool around on a bike for a while, and the King’s Head Pub sounds like oh such a nice respite. xox

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