ex-pats at the Rest
dinner and beers
Back to west bank for some tombs. We taxi to the same cafe we had tea yesterday and again pull out our books. there are a lot of tombs of course, and we don’t have the time or the money to do all of them. Today we focus on the so called Tombs of the Nobles.
This area has more then 400 tombs belonging to nobles from the 6th dynasty to the Greaco-Roman period. Where as the royal tombs are supposed to be sombre and spiritual with passages for the book of the dead, these tombs depict a lot of detailed scenes from their everyday lives in vibrant colours.
Tomb1 : Tomb of Ramose, a governor under Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. We chose to do this one as it shows the two different styles of relief decoration between the two different rulers he served. The tomb is fairly big, but heavily restored. We are not even sure if the pillars are reconstructed or just brand new ones to keep the new (but already crumbling) concrete roof up. Our Egypt book from 1995 describes the carvings beautifully, but unfortunately little remains from the Akhenaten carvings. Horrible to think that these carvings might have been destroyed after 1995…
On one side is the famous “wailing wall”. A group scene of women and girls crying in what looks like the funeral procession. Most have two right hands symbolic of giving.
Tomb2 : Tomb of Userhet, one of Amenhotep II’s royal scribes. The first area of this tomb is colourfully decorated with a great banquet scene. Not carved this time, but painted. Bread, fruit, flowers, meat and wine. In later years a Coptic hermit moved into this tomb and apparently found all the pictures of women a bit distracting, so he carved out their faces, but strangely left most of their bodies intact..
In the next room is an amazing hunting scene. Userhat himself on a chariot, hunting foxes, rabbits, deer and fowl. Not sure if this was done by the hermit again, but in between and drawn over these animals were some running dinosaurs.
Tomb3 : Tomb of Khaemet, Amenhotep III’s royal inspector of the granaries. Here only patches of colour, but amazingly detailed carving. His position was a very high one and his tomb is a bit more serious. More about funeral rites and sacred offerings, than about parties and scantily clad women.. The detail in the clothing and especially the hair (wigs) is stunning. One wall is dedicated to his journey to Abydos by boat and again the detail of the rigging and oars is wonderful.
In the back room are six full sized seated statues depicting his family, wife and daughters.
Tomb4 : Tomb of Rekhmire, governor under Tutmosis III and Amenhotep II. In the first chamber are scenes of foreigners bringing gifts to Rekhmire. Panthers and giraffes from Nubia, Elephants from Africa, horses and chariots from Libya and vases from Crete. The second room is the most impressive though. It is one long narrow room with the ceiling slowly raising in hight up to about 8 metres. The walls are decorated with painting of workmen making everything from wine and bread to jewellery and sandals. It was fun the use the torch to light it all up and try to figure out what they were doing. Leather making and brick making, Pouring metal and statue carving. At the end the finished products are presented to Rekhmire for inspection. The opposite wall is decorated with another banquet/party scene complete with half naked girls entertaining the man with music.
Tomb5 : Tomb of Sennofer, royal gardener for Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep II. This is our favourite tomb. The first one where we have to descent into the earth via a cramped steep staircase. The tomb is in great condition and extremely colourful. The painting are nowhere near as detailed or as well done as the other tombs, but they are great. This tomb was left fairly roughly carved out, the pillars are wonky and the ceiling wobbles. Every surface is covered in bright colours mostly of Sennofer and his women. (wife, daughters etc.) He is been given food and drink, decorated with jewellery and in one painting he seems to be getting a leg massage. The ceiling is covered in grape vines dripping down. Not sure if the man had a good life, but he seems determined to have a party in the afterlife!
Done with the tombs, we have a little walk around the area. We have visited only a few of the many tombs here, but most are closed to the public anyway. You see them dotted around the mountains. There used to be a whole village here, but the people have been forcibly removed and their houses destroyed. Opinions about this differ. Some say it was necessary as the locals were selling items that they had found in their basements (the tombs), but others think that these people have lived there for a long time, and by removing them you also take away their ability to make an income from the tourist. (the little basements had run dry anyway) A lot of the walls and rubble still remains though, so it probably looks worse now then it did before.
A little break for lunch and over to the other side of the road for the Ramesseum. Built by Ramses II as part of his memorial temple. As said yesterday, it was partly plundered and not very much remains compared to some other sites. Still it was worth doing. It is most famous for the fallen remains of a great statue, the Colossus of Ramses. It used to stand 17.5 metres tall made of granite and it still has bits of colour left on it. Later we found out that there are plans to resurrect this statue, but we think that would be a waste.
Only a few big pieces remain, and the rest would most likely then be built with concrete.. We are not going to write much about the complex. Again there are the pylons, the courts and the hypostyle hall. A few interesting carvings though. One depicting a god painting an apple/avocado. He is writing the Pharaohs name in it so that it will last for all eternity. (I think it worked!) And a lot of carvings from the 1800’s. You could basically call this graffiti with style. The tourists back then had time to carved their names in in very nice lettering. Stylish tagging, but disrespectful.
Around the main stone structures are many remains of mud built buildings. Store rooms, administrative buildings and even a school. We wandered into this area for a bit, but were shooed out. Apparently we were not suppose to explore this area.
Tired, we went over to the nearest cafe for a beer. Here we met Stan, Helen and friends, the local ex-pat community. A few beers, dinner at a river front cafe and more ex-pats, Jane, Roy, the teacher and the journalist. Too many beers, but a great night with good company. On the ferry back we remembered that our hotel has a midnight curfew and that we were not going to make it. Luckily the reception guy was not asleep yet and we could get back in. All in all a very good day!