Valley of Kings
Walk to Deir El Medina
Ex-Pats part II
OK, we will try to keep this quick. It is the valley of the Kings. There is so much written about this that there is not much point in recreating it here. Plus I will get in trouble for getting it wrong!
On going past the first gauntlet of Carriages and Feluccas to get to the ferry, we made it to the other side. Here we managed to organise a cab to take us out to the tomb of Ay then drop us at the Valley of the Kings. Negotiating 25LE for the trip. We were happy with this, and off we set. Unfortunately we had to buy tickets to the tomb of Ay at the valley. Here there is a large gauntlet of shops and salesmen before you can get to the ticket office, and then you have to return through them to get back to the taxi.
Considering there is a gate next to the office, you can avoid the torture of having to say no 100 times to each of the hundred people trying to sell you something. If only it wasn’t locked… Still making it through in one piece, we set on up the western valley to Ay’s tomb.
Although only a small drive, it is quite picturesque. High canyon walls, quiet and deserted. Arriving at the tomb, our driver wanted us to pay. Having had experiences in Egypt and elsewhere, we knew not to do this, as more than likely he would disappear while we were underground. Saying we would pay him back at the valley, he started to kick up a stink about it. Then saying that we had only told him we were going to Ay, and not back to the temple. Pulling him up on this, we said he could stick to the agreement, or leave now without any money. This annoyed him even more (even though I kept my temper!) and he started calling Mohammed and Allah to reign fire and pestilence down upon us and all sorts of other curses. If he was this unhappy about it, why agree to bring us in the first place?
Still we got it resolved, and walked up to the tomb. We had to wait outside for a little while, as there was a tour group in there, but this was no problem for us, as we could enjoy the landscape of sand slides, stone and towering cliffs. The silence was something to be savoured as well.
So, the tomb of Ay. He reigned after Tutankhamun, and could have been the father of Nefertiti, or just a Vizier, either way he got himself into power. After abandoning his tomb in Armana he took over Tut’s tomb. Apparently it was the same craftsmen that built both tombs, so we wouldn’t need to bother with Tut’s, Even though it is a royal tomb, there is a lot of depictions that have more in common with the Noble’s tombs rather than the other Pharoahs IE Hunting and fishing reliefs. It is a good tomb to visit, and if you have the time and energy in the hot sun, the walk would be more than worth it.
Coming back out, we were half surprised to see the taxi still there waiting for us, and we made the quick drive back to the entrance of the *Ominous rumbling* VALLEY Of The KINGS! *More rumbling* Again we made our way past the souvenir sellers to get our tickets. We had a line up of tombs that we wanted to visit. None of them were open to the public. None of or alternatives were open either. It was Ramses, or Ramses. With about 9 tombs open, and 7 of them one Ramses or another. Still, there is a need to rotate the tombs, as there are no modern measures in place to preserve them that we could see. Also the main one we wanted to see was Seti I, and it is closed for structural reasons.
One big change is that you now have to pay extra for King Tut’s tomb. 15 years ago (I know, that is a long time) it was included in your three tombs. Almost understandable considering the traffic it gets. Then Ramses VI is also extra. But no point in bitching about this. At least we get to see some of them. Our only problem now was which 3? The Archaeological book we have hardly mentions the ones that are open now, and we basically have pot luck. So we head, unprepared as usual into the valley.
Outside it proudly states to leave your camera’s on the bus, but as our taxi was a patch of dust before the door closed, that was not possible. At least they didn’t check at the metal detectors. We went beep, and no-one looked up. Still, it does mean that we have had to pilfer more photos from the internet for this blog. And as it is written a long time after the visit, I am sure Stan is going to comment that we have the wrong photos! (Please feel free to supply better ones, if anyone has any!)
The first tomb we visited was Ramses IX: A large deep tomb, pillars and burial chamber. There are stunning decorations with depictions and inscriptions from all the different funerary texts, and as this was mentioned in our book, we had great delight in trying to follow them. This is not a simple task, even with diagrams! Considering the tomb entrance has been open since antiquity, the colours and details are still well preserved, and to me, an indicator that a photo is not going to do any damage. Even with flash. The best argument we have heard against camera’s is that it slows up traffic with people posing for photos, and blocking others from enjoying the area. To an extent I can understand this, but as we had the tomb to ourselves, what was the problem? However we abided by the ludicrous rules and left our cameras in the bag. We were not even allowed to take photos of the Valley. Sorry, rambling a bit there, but we are very disappointed that we could not take any. I think the real reason is that the Egyptian Authorities have worked out that tourists are not coming as much as they used to, and mistakenly put this down to other people taking photos and showing them around. I show you my photos, so you don’t need to come to Egypt. It is more likely to be the reverse, and I think they have missed the point. It is the way tourists are treated, and the expense of the experience that is more likely to be driving them to other places. Give me Petra, Angkor, Machu Pichu or Chiken Itza any day. Sorry, ranting again!
Our next tomb was Ramses III (and I promise no ranting!) This was a bit different, as it had decorated side chambers. Apparently this corresponds with his funerary temple (Medinat Habu), with images of daily life. The tomb itself is crooked, as it would have intersected another tomb. While we were standing there, trying to let a tour group go past, but they were more interested in what we were looking at! We call this the bug complex, as the first time we noticed it was years ago at Ayres Rock, when we were watching a wasp dig a hole. All the people going past had to stop to see what we were looking at. It flew away, but we tried an experiment later. Going ooohhh and ahhh, pointing to an innocuous patch of sand when someone walked past. When they stopped, we left. Coming back five minutes later there was a large group all trying to see what was in the sand. While we were gaping at the ceiling and admiring the hermaphrodites, another group came past, but were so intent on reaching the end that they trouped passed us. We made our way another few meters and they were already on their way back out. I had to bite my tongue not to joke about hermaphroditic gods and fleet footed tourists.
Finally we went to the tomb of Septah: It was only discovered in 1905, and unfortunately the tomb itself was never completed. We only picked it because it was not Ramses! Again, we found out afterwards there were better ones open, but hay, it is also impressive. I think most of them are, if you take the time to admire the work put into them.
This is a very rough hewn tunnel and not as decorated as the others, but it also shows the amount of work that must go into creating a complex this, well, this complex. We were asked to pay Baksheesh for this tomb, and when we refused, the guardian started sighing and moaning. Taking as long as we usually did. Trying to find a god with a frog. Or was it a frog with a god? It does take time. He gave up waiting, and went back to the entrance. A minute later the lights were cut on us. It could have been a power outage, as there have been many of these in our time in Egypt, but was probably the guardian, trying to make us move on, so he could go back to his shack with tea and sheesha. Today though, we had our torch, and although it was already quite handy in picking out the details in the dimly lit tombs (can’t use a flash, but torches are ok. Sorry, Sorry) now we could use it if we needed to find our way back up and out. It was not necessary however, as the lights were put back on a minute or so later.
Our three tombs done, we decided to do the walk over the hill to Hatshepsuts temple. There was no way we would get there before it closed, as it was already almost 5. This was the right thing to do, as the view is stunning. The steep scramble up the rocky slope revealed the path we should have taken, and as there are signs out saying you cannot do the walk any more, we were surprised to be able to make it to the top.
From here, we could pull out the camera and take some overviews of the valley, opened up beneath us. It is quite spectacular, and as we walked over the crest of the hill, the Nile valley presented itself as well. Discounting the haze that is ubiquitous to Egypt, the view is stunning. There is the desert, then a line of houses, and green fields all the way to a thin blue line of the river. Luxor spread out before us, and the East Bank ranges behind, although somewhat dim. Moving around, we were right above the temple, and looking down, you can just see the front of it, but mostly the car park.
There are other temples dotting the landscape, and signs of excavations.
As there was no point in going directly down, we decided to follow the range back towards the colossi. This is a fun walk although the path is right next to a steep drop. The walls of the cliff are breaking apart in places, and if you approach the edge, there is a good view straight down. Birds taking advantage of the crags for their nests were the only sounds up here. Bliss.
In this way, we followed the path around the hillside and came down behind Deir Al-Medina, the work mens village. Before we got there, we passed a building populated by police. Thinking we could be in a spot of bother, as it was starting to get dark, we were happy to realise they were pleased to see us up here, enjoying the landscape.
Near there, we stopped for some photos of sunset behind the Queens Valley, realising this is the closest we will get to it. Then made our way down. At some stage people had put the effort into steps on this side, but as they have not been swept, the desert is already starting to reclaim them.
On a small hillock, we got a good view of the work mens village. It is a walled off town with tiny rooms and houses, although there is not much left other than walls a few feet high. Or so it looked from up here. Flanked by a small Ptolomaic temple. Talking to a person working with the French archaeologists, they have uncovered more than 70 houses and tombs nearby with work still ongoing. The people living here were the ones that worked on the Pharonic tombs and they created their own tombs nearby,apparently some of these are also very interesting and detailed. At the base, we found a small tomb, and without going in (as the site was closed) we could see a pyramid sitting on top of it. There was also another one further up the hill.
Day done, we made our way back to our favourite tea house on this side, for a quick cuppa, and a cool down, then hitched a lift back to the west bank. By now it was almost 7pm, and we thought we would check out the Fayrouze to see if the Ex-Pat community were gathering for a game of trivial pursuit. They were, but as we were early, we joined the eating table for dinner, then managed to miss the game altogether. This was more than made up for by the conversation. All in all it was a good fun night, and we made our way home exhausted but happy.