Only one thing for the day. Deir Al-Bahari. Once again we found ourselves crossing over to the west bank. Coffee at the Colossi and a quick bus out to the entrance to Deir Al-Bahari. On the main road there are multiple Alabaster shops, so in an attempt to skip all the calls to check out their products, we jumped the stone fence beside the road, and walked through the desert towards the temple. This was a good move on our part, as the normal road out there starts a lot further away, and you can cut off a good distance by doing this.
As we approached the walls of the mountain they start reaching up to the sky, and the temple popped out underneath, just when we arrived back at the road. Stopping to admire the grandeur of the place, while making comments that it could be the latest 5* hotel in Luxor.
Again there is no hassle free way to get to the ticket office, and we are offered Kilo’s of Alabaster, scarves, books and everything else before we could buy our tickets. Most people were content to ask and not worry too much if we said no. A couple of buses full of Egyptians turned up at the same time as we did, so there were plenty of other people that may have wanted something. Tickets acquired, we headed in. Now in relative peace. There were a lot of people at the complex, and the small trains carting people the 200m from the ticket office to the main courtyard was doing a brisk trade. The complex, being much closer now, started showing its size. Wide and squat, there are three levels, with a long shallow set of stairs leading up to the second level then onto the third. Most people were stopping for a quick surround photo and trouping off up the stairs, but we decided to check out the ground floor first.
Much of the temple is reconstructed, yet when we passed the first pillars on the ground level, the carvings and stories started revealing themselves. The temple is dedicated to Hatshepsut, one of the most controversial Pharaohs. There had always been equality between men and women in ancient Egypt, with inheritance and work not being a problem, yet female Pharaohs are rare.
When Hubby died, her step son (Tuthmosis III) was too young to take over, so she co-ruled as regent (and some say she also co-ruled with Tutmosis II, her fathers son while he was alive) before declaring herself Pharaoh at a latter date. As Tutmosis III got older, she kept sending him away to fight Egypt’s wars, while she stayed home. She died in 1458 BC of unknown causes (maternal-regicide?) and he was finally allowed to take over. Apparently he was so pissed at this that he set about destroying many of the references to her.
There are still a few references to her here that for whatever reason still exist, and also references to her main architect that she could have, or might not have, had a fling with… A fascinating if somewhat complex and bizarre story.
On the ground floor there was not much left. The depictions were of soldiers, archers and boats, but we could get up close and personal with them. Not many people visit this section, and we got to spend our time in the shade trying to make out all the different images.
Making our way up to the second level, the crowds were already thinning out, trying to get away from the mid-day sun. The main differences here to, say a temple by Ramses II, is that it does not focus on warfare, but trade. The story here is that it could be an amalgamation of different trading missions similar to Ramses’ Battle of Gadesh, but is supposed to be her excursions to Punt. There are fantastic representations of houses on stilts in the river with little ladders going up to them.
Many animals and people. Offerings to and from the people they encountered, and the genetic defects of some of the rulers are clearly depicted. Due to the crowds of people that visit the place, there are barriers put up preventing you from getting too close to the carvings. The carvings themselves are very fine, and as most of the paint has now gone, makes it hard to see specific details at this distance. Still, they are quite beautiful as well.
People have tried to figure out if the land of Punt really existed and where it might be. Most place it in Somalia/Ethiopia, but there are theories that is was Palestine (as it was called the holy land) and that would make Hatshepsut the queen of Sheba..
Finally we headed up to the top most section. Now there were no other tourists around at all, and we had the place to ourselves.
Here there are a couple of the original statues of Hatshepsut recreated to flank the stairs. This gives an indication of how the place would have originally looked, if they were all still there staring out over the Nile. One of the statues further away still had some paint on it. A bit of black surrounding only one eye. This gives the impression that she had a massive black eye when they created that statue!
We were unable to see any of the details on the walls here,
as we could not go past the pillars, so we made our way to the innermost sanctum. There are rooms carved into the bedrock, but none of them are open for viewing. You can walk around the central courtyard, following the bit of string put up to confine the tourists to the centre. We were also unable to make out any of the details here, and it was a bit disappointing, yet going back out, the view is impressive.
With the temple done, and glad we only planned on one thing, as it was now getting on in the afternoon, we walked back to the road and caught a bus to the Nile. Thinking that it was about Beer O’Clock, we went to the Blue Sky to parch our thirst. Having been taken here before by Stan & Helen, we thought we might meet someone there for a chat. We were not disappointed, and ended up spending much too long talking to everyone there. If there was ever a reason to move to Luxor it would be because of moments like these. Sitting on the edge of the Nile, drinking cold beer, and good company.