Today we venture to the west bank for the first time. We try to make our way to the ferry, but the locals make in a challenge. Avoiding the carriage drivers, taxi drivers and the like is becoming a bit of a pain. At the riverside we get the offer to take a motorboat for the same price as the ferry. As the motorboats are supposed to be quicker we accept.
It is nice on the Nile in the morning, and it looks like it will be a clear and sunny day. On the other side we went for a wander along the water, this time trying to politely say no to the donkey rides and more taxi drivers. (Tuktuks and horse drawn carriages are not allowed on this side)
We decide to walk to the Colossi of Memnon, only a few kilometres from the ferry. A fairly easy walk, but not very interesting. The whole area is a lot more built up than we expected. After making it through New Gurna we are in the fields for a bit (at least on one side) In the distance we see the statues looming.
The Colossi of Memnon were part of a great complex built by Amenhotep III. They are doing excavations around and are uncovering more of the temple complex, but these are so far the only major things left. Each cut from a single piece of stone and weighing more then 1000 tons, they were apparently too big even for the later Pharaohs to reuse.
The Greeks and Romans (the first tourist) believed that is was good luck to hear the whistling sounds emitted by the statues at sunrise. Unfortunately the cracks were repaired in the 3rd century BC and the statues no longer whistle. They are still impressive to see though and a good break along the walk. The workmen climbing over the statues (we think they were dusting them..?) give a sense of scale. Easy to see why they are called Colossi.
A bit further we stop by a road side cafe for a tea. Further away we saw a temple and this is a good time to look through our books to see if we want to visit this one. (There is so much to see on the west bank, that we can possibly visit everything and we have come out totally unprepared.) It turns out to be Medinat Habu, Ramses III’s memorial temple. Sounds like it is worth doing.
On arriving we are told we cannot buy a ticket at the site, but have to get one from the central ticket office. ? Handy. We now have to walk another kilometre or so and back again and it is getting hot in the sun. Egyptian organisation…
we grumble a bit about it, but it all turns out to be worth it.
Medinat Habu is a big site and one of the first places in Thebes associated with Amun, the local god. It is most famous for the memorial tempel of Ramses III but Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III also built part of it. It was all built ontop of an earlier temple and things were being built and altered by everybody, up to the Ptolemies. It is an hodgepodge of history.
Ramses III was inspired by the Ramesseum down the road when he built his shrine here. Apparently so inspired that he used stone blocks from the Ramesseum to built his own. All over the place there are blocks with hieroglyphs placed up side down or randomly. Newer walls but up in the middle of beautifully engraved old walls. Walking through we assumed this was all dodgy restoration work, but it might well have been done by the ancient rulers themselves.
As parts were built by Hatshepsut and her son (the next ruler) did not like her, he had all reverences to her name carved out and replaced with his own cartouch. Ramses did not want this to happen to his name later on, so he carved it in deep. 8 inches deep! If you want to remove his cartouches, you have to replace the whole pillar.
Ramses III wanted to be remembered as a great warrior. A lot of battle scenes are depicted through out the complex with him of course always coming out victorious. Scenes of him fighting the Libyans and even scenes of the scribes tallying the number of slaughtered enemies by counting the chopped off right hands. (and for some reason chopped off penises)
The whole area is in good condition. The layout of the temple is similar to others we have seen, with a few courts and the hypostyle hall. Again this is the most impressive area. Bits of colour still remain and quite a few beheaded statues.
Satisfied and tired we took a taxi to the ferry, to cross back to the east bank. Here we decided to have a cold beer in the most expensive place around, the Winter Palace. Last time Andrew was in Luxor he did the same, and the views over the Nile are still amazing from the balcony. A beautiful sunset.