Egypt trip from 2008 blog posts
There is absolutely no photography allowed in the Valledy of the Kings, ever!
I had called for a taxi to show up at 6:30 am, and thinking back I wish it had been more like 6am, to avoid the throngs of tourists even more! I had seen the valley of the kings before, but I had only seen three tombs then, and it was with a tour group, and far too full of tourists. This time I went alone, and without a guide. The tomb I most wanted to see was closed! The tomb I second most wanted to see was also closed, arg! This is definitely one very frustrating thing about Egypt, the constant closing of various monuments and tombs. They usually do it for restoration purposes, but it can get quite frustrating!
First it was onto the tuff tuff, the little passenger thing that takes you from the bottom of the road up to where the tombs are. Fortunately the rest of the tombs I wanted to see were open. The very first tomb I went into was completely empty of people, it was wonderful, it was only me and the guard. The best part of this was the photo opportunity :). I had purposefully planned it this way, it’s just that the first tomb I tried it with was closed, so I had to go to the second tomb on my list. I didn’t have the leisure to take 50 photos, but I got a good ten in before the guard told me that was enough.
The second tomb I went to was up a flight of about 200 stairs up the mountainside. It was a beautiful walk up and back down though. Then once you got to the entranceway, it was about 100 stairs down to the upper section of the tomb, then another 30-50 stairs to the bottom of the tomb. The walls on this tomb were odd in the fact that the pictures were more stick figures then the usual perfect artwork the valley of the kings is known for. I can see the reason for this though as it was all text, and the figures were only 2” high each. This tomb had the book of the afterlife within it. Unfortunately this tomb was extremely full of tourists and extremely hot inside. Closed off areas deep inside a mountain are likely at least a bit hot, but they are far more stifling when they are packed with hoards of tourists all day. I’m sure glad that I got there just after it opened.
I visited a few other tombs, most of them fortunately not too full. I had already seen the most popular ones with the guide last time. There were long lineups at quite a few of the tombs where you had to wait to get in, and once you were in it was wall to wall people. The very last tomb I visited only had about 7 people inside of it. Eventually there was only an elderly couple and myself left. The guard asked if I wanted a photo of myself, but he had meant outside the tomb... I told him only inside . So we waited for the couple to leave, and he took me back in to get the photos. In the end he kept complaining about how the tip I gave him wasn’t enough, and I kept telling him he could afford to go rent a hotel room for that amount! Actually I could afford to get a room for that rate, so I’m sure being Egyptian and getting half or less of the price he could get a room and 3 meals for that much!
I was debating whether to see the tomb of Tutankhamen, but I have been told so many times it’s not that big of a deal and really not worth the $20 it costs to get in. The deciding factor is that I was already late to meet my taxi back at the parking lot, and there was now a lineup outside the tomb. I had talked to one woman who had gotten in first thing in the morning though, and she said that she was the only one in there and she quite enjoyed it. I got a tuff tuff all to myself on the way back, and the driver tried to get me to sit next to him, then next tried to sell me some souvenirs LOL.
Even though a great deal of Egypt’s economy is based on tourism, and the West bank of Luxor is a the most popular destination amongst tourists, for some reason no one thought to put in a bank machine on the entire West bank! If I had known this beforehand I would have planned better, however I ended up having to take a taxi to the East bank and back which cost $25 including tip. I tried to purchase my bus ticket in advance as well as I hear they sell out days in advance, but I came to find that I’m supposed to just show up an hour in advance of my train leaving. So the hour and a half long trip accomplished nothing but getting more cash.
It’s always interesting traveling through Egypt, especially through the smaller towns. Between the west bank and east bank it is mostly just farmland on both sides of the road. So you get many tourbuses and taxis, as well as regular traffic on the roadway, alongside the cows, large numbers of sheep, people riding donkeys, people riding donkey carts, and people riding bicycles with a large heap of grass strapped on the back that they are off to sell at the market or wherever. I do have to say there is never a dull moment in Egypt :).
I visited 11 tombs today! I wasn’t sure if I would get in all eleven or not, but I did. Even better, I managed to visit them all before it got too hot out :). I left at 6:30am, which really helps to keep the heat down. All of the tombs of the nobles are situated around this small village of mud brick (and some cement) houses. Included in the village are dozens of children trying to be your guide or sell you handmade dolls. This isn’t too bad as they are kids and can be given a little leeway, but I had to yell at this one guy to finally have him stop trying to show me around! Not only did I not want to pay someone to show me things I could easily find myself, but more importantly the tomb guards won’t let you take photos if there is someone else with you such as a guide. Well that and some people are just annoying, and the most annoying seem to come in the form of Egyptians trying to make a little extra cash. My patience for Egyptians trying to make a little extra cash is really wearing thin, so it’s a good thing that I will be leaving in 11 more days.
I started with the tombs at the bottom of the hillside for obvious reasons and went to the more frequented ones first. The tomb of Ramnose was quite impressive, it actually had several columns in the front part of his tomb as well as engravings on the walls. His tomb looked more like one from the valley of the kings then of the workmen. Apparently tourists don’t generally walk up the hill and aren’t usually found in the other tombs, especially not at 7 in the morning. So I had them all to myself. Actually it is more the fact that the tourbuses have a tight schedule and rush everyone through the few bottom tombs. I was fortunate that my guide the other week actually brought me to a couple of the better tombs up the hill. She did know that I preferred the more obscure stuff though and was willing to walk for it.
I had to hunt around a bit to find the next piles of tombs, which was actually quite enjoyable since the views are just gorgeous from up there, and I got some really pretty shots of the outside of the closed tombs. Ramses II’s tomb was closed unfortunately, but it made me wonder why he would have a tomb here as well as in the valley of the kings. Apparently there was a noble also called Ramses II. The painting on the ceiling of all of the tombs was beautiful, and the colour is still quite vibrant, especially considering how many thousand years ago we are talking about.
I was extremely fortunate to get photos inside the tomb of Sennefer, which is the most beautiful in the tombs of the nobles I think. It also had many pretty square pillars with scenes on them as well. I got about 50 photos inside the tomb. I took photos in four tombs all together, and have to look back in the tomb book to try to remember which four of the 11 I visited that I got photos of. One of my favourite tombs was of Nefersekheru who was the royal scribe in charge of the temple offerings. His tomb was beautifully decorated, but unfortunately the paint was more faded, and there were more pieces missing then in some of the other tombs. The guard didn’t offer to let me take photos, so I didn’t ask, especially since it was the last tomb I was visiting and I was getting a bit tired and didn’t have any small bills on me. The two tombs in this area are barely ever visited, and I can see why since they are damn hard to find! They are way off to the right, and a good 6-7 minute walk from any of the others. Needless to say they don’t get visited by tourists that often, which is a shame as they are truly lovely, and were a couple of my favourites.
I also got to see the sarcophagus with the mummy inside of it. This was down the bottom of a hole, underneath a metal door that the guard had to lift up for me to see. It is nice that they do show it though, and different that it isn’t in some museum like many of the other sarcophagi and mummies. I had rented a bicycle for the day, so it was a nice 5 minute ride downhill back to my hotel. Perhaps it’s bit of a waste to rent a bike for only 10 minutes of riding, but I have to say it beats the extra walking in the heat. To end off the morning, I was delighted to see the hotel staff walk by with my case of bottled water, and the timing was perfect after a morning of tombs!
Today was one extremely busy day. I made sure to leave at 6am so I could miss the hot part of the day. Fortunately right next door to my hotel is a bicycle rental place. Now when I think of bicycle rental I envision a 21 speed mountain bike or hybrid; however in Egypt as far as I can tell no such thing exists! These bicycles didn’t have more then one speed :P. I know it wasn’t just the place I went to either since I saw other bicyclists with the same lameass bikes. Fortunately where I was going was mostly flat, and I just walked up the slightly hilly bits.
The guy at the ticket office tried to give me change for a 50 when I handed him 100LE. Fortunately it was 6am and not all that hot out yet so I noticed. The bicycle ride up to Deir El Medina was quite pretty, and fortunately not very far. It was less then 1 kilometre away. Deir El Medina is the village of the workmen. It is where all of the people who worked on the temples, tombs, and worked for the Royalty lived. So in this area you had the scribes, the folks who engraved the temple walls, the people who painted the temple and tomb walls, the folks who made the statues for the temples.... and well you get the idea. There was a village built for them and their families to live in, right next to a few of the major temples in Thebes (Luxor west bank).
Cash wasn’t used back then, so they got housing, food, cloth, supplies and beer as their wages. Some of the ostraca (pottery shards with writing on them) and other artefacts showed lists of what the families received. Apparently beer was considered essential to all families, so both beer and beer making supplies were given to everyone by the Pharaohs. There also were some interesting pottery shards found with practice hieroglyphics on them. This definitely makes sense as the hieroglyphics generally look perfect, and I wouldn’t want to know what would happen to one of the workers if they made a mistake or a poor drawing or engraving of a hieroglyph! Well that and some of those hieroglyphics are difficult to draw, especially the bird ones.
As well as live in this village, the workmen decided that they would also have their tombs there. After building tombs for royalty I’m guessing they had a pretty good idea of what went into a tomb. However their budget was a bit lower, so they weren’t nearly as fancy as those in the Valley of the Kings and Queens. They also tended to only be a couple of rooms at most, and not have as many fancy treasures in them. The tombs of Deir El Medina were all cut out of the mountain, or a hole dug into the ground. Several of these tombs were just a place carved out to fit the sarcophagus, however there are a few that are as nice as those in the valley of the kings or queens when it comes to the painting! They did have the expert royal painters living amongst them afterall. I figure the more wealthy of the workers were able to splurge for some pretty nice tombs.
Peshedu has one of the nicest tombs I have seen to date! The painting is just gorgeous, and it is very detailed, as well as skilfully done. You can see the wall paintings in with my photos once I finally get them all uploaded. Being tombs, and paint being fragile and fading easily you aren’t allowed to take photos inside of the tombs. Well I’m sure you have guessed by now from reading my blog entries that in many instances this is solved with a little baksheesh. I was able to get photos of two out of the three tombs. The person who showed me the second tomb didn’t offer to let me take photos, and it was the least interesting of the three so I didn’t push the issue. I can’t really describe the tombs, as they describe themselves in the upcoming photos.
After being shown the tombs I wandered around looking into all of the less interesting tombs off to the sides. There are at least 50 cut into the rock in the area I was in! I was able to take photos of the two interesting ones through the bars in the locked door, but that was about it. They were one room tombs without any hallway or rooms on the way down. Also, they didn’t have stairs leading downwards, they were just cut right there into the mountains. There were also tombs which were basically holes in the ground which went straight down, without any stairs in site! They were obviously tombs though as they were cut into the mountain this way, and several were numbered. I really should have taken up archaeology in school... they get at all the best stuff!
Once I got to the area with the giant hole, this guard who was very much out of breath came running up and told me to come back down. I ignored him and kept going on my walk around the tombs. He was quite worried that I would fall in the hole, however no one seemed worried about the 20 other holes I had passed in my wanderings. The guard looked quite stressed as I walked around, and was relieved when I finally headed out of that area. I was able to get rid of him though and walk on my own after that.
Next up was the Ptolemic temple. It was quite a nice temple, somewhat intact. Inside of the larger structure and temple was a smaller temple to Hathor. The Hathor temple was in great condition, and the paint on the walls was also quite vibrant in many places. The pillars of course has the standard Hathor sistren heads, with lotus flowers above, and all painted blue on the top. Now how that paint has survived a few thousand years is beyond me! The guard also brought me up to the roof of the temple, which wasn’t as exciting as most temple roofs since it was a small temple and thus a very small roof. The views were pretty though, and I did get a couple of nice shots of the temple from high up on my way down the stairs.
On my way out I gave the guard a 5 (would be like handing him $5-$10 in the US, he could have had a couple of meals out for that price). He looked at it like it wasn’t enough, and I told him that’s all he was getting, so he said thank you. Then a minute later he walked to the outer part of the temple to complain that the 5 wasn’t enough. So I called him rude and took my 5 back out of his hand LOL. I’m not usually this rude, but the complains of the guards about the tips not being enough was getting terribly old, and perhaps this one guard won’t pull that trick on tourists again...
On the way back down the path I took photos of the remains of the old mud brick houses and the mountains around. The bicycle ride back down the hill was much nicer :>. The trip so far had only taken 2 hours, and it wasn’t too hot out yet, and I still had energy to spare, so I headed off to the valley of the Queens. This was only a kilometre at most away from Dier El Madina. I was quite happy that I had rented a bike, or walked from site to site would have taken forever, and there weren’t any taxis at that hour of the morning. There is a nice hike that one can take over top of the mountains from one site to another, but the hike up to the top of the mountains in the first place is rather long and steep! There is one area that goes to the top that has a staircase built in. There must have been at least 1000 stairs to the top! See the photos once they are uploaded to see the longest staircase ever.
I have to admit that the valley of the Queens wasn’t quite as spectacular as that of the Kings. The wall art was of course wonderfully done though. The scenes on the walls were the standard temple style offering scenes. Unfortunately there were only three tombs open, and they weren’t all that large, so I finished looking at them in about 1/2 hour. The odd bit is that two of them were tombs for Queens in particular, but most of the scenes on the walls were of their husbands the kings, or at least them with their husbands. There were very few images of the Queens on their own, or with other women, which I found quite odd. Unfortunately the tomb of Nefertiti is currently closed to the public, so I wasn’t able to see this tomb, which is by far the most splendid tomb in all of Egypt from what I have seen from the photos in the various books I have.
The bike ride back down from the valley of the Queens was also quite nice being mostly downhill. I then went back to my hotel for breakfast. Nothing like a large breakfast after 3 hours of temple and tomb wandering. After relaxing for an hour, I decided to make good use of the bicycle and get another temple in. I also want to make sure I see everything on the west bank. Fortunately it still wasn’t too hot out, just nearly too hot. Also, the Rammessium was only a five minute bicycle ride from my hotel, so I had to go look.
This was Ramses II’s mortuary temple. I say was because it’s only half still there. It has fared much better then his son Merinptah’s temple though. There is a roof in many places, the columns are still intact, some of the walls are still there and so on. At the edge of the temple is the largest of all of the Ramses II statues. Now this is hard to believe if you have seen my photos of the giant Ramses II statue in the museum at Memphis! (the statue inside the museum that was laying down). Unfortunately the statue at the Rammesseum was broken into a few pieces.
On the front walls of the Hopestyle hall, and the other halls are scenes of Ramses out hunting, or killing his enemies. There are also of course scenes of him making offerings to the various Egyptian Deities. Unfortunately the main sacred shrine room is pretty much non-existent accept for a bit of floor. The pillars in this temple are particularly stunning, and the engravings in them are amazing. Aside from all this, it’s basically a giant temple built by Ramses II, dedicated to himself (and likely a few Deities as well, but mostly himself as it is his mortuary temple afterall).
Outside of the temple are these long domed old mud brick houses. The shape is like that of a cylinder cut in half and placed on the ground. They are quite pretty really, in an extremely rustic sort of way. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see these, and I have been told I would need special permission to do so. These houses were where the temple priestesses lived in ancient Egypt. When I told my guide that I would like to find out how much they might rent one of those to me for so I could live in them, she found this amusing and called me a priestess. I didn’t yet know what their use was.
The rest of the day was sitting either in the lovely courtyard outside the hotel, or in my room with the AC and fan both turned up full blast. The meals at this hotel are huge! The breakfast is only large, but the lunch and dinner are definitely more then filling, and I tend to often leave food uneaten. Fortunately the food is also quite good, as there is nothing worse then large amounts of food that is only sort of good.
The West Bank
After staying at the hotel on the East bank for 3 weeks, I finally checked out. I think they were sad to see me go (it’s getting towards the off season for tourists). I couldn’t find a taxi anywhere around, so I had to have the hotel call one for me. The taxi driver told me that he only got $8 of the $16 that I paid, which I believe. However when he said he only gets $2 of that $8 fare I accused him of lying. He has at least offered to take me to some obscure temple of Thoth (there aren’t any Thoth temples where he said, so I’m guessing it’s just an obscure temple and there is a picture of Thoth on it somewhere, or perhaps the name Thoth sounded good. He quoted $40 though which is far too much for a half day trip.
When I got to my hotel over on the West bank I wondered what I had been doing on the east bank for so long. Then I remembered that my hotel on the east bank was 1/3rd of the price. The hotel on the east bank at least had character, with Bob Marley posters and tapestries on every single floor, as well as the stairwell. It also has a Bob Marley rooftop garden, complete with hammock, a few small stereos, some day beds, and a lot of greenery. There is a marijuana theme throughout, but I didn’t once smell any, so I’m wondering if it was just a good advertizing ploy by the hotel. Nevertheless $5 per night for a room with it’s own bathroom which is spotlessly clean is a great deal. The best part of this new hotel is the remote controlled air conditioner I think. Next time I come to Egypt it is going to be during the winter!
Fortunately as soon as I got to the hotel and after I checked in they offered me lunch. This would be a lunch so large I couldn’t finish it. It actually tasted half decent as well. The only 2 restaurants in this area is this one, and the one at the hotel next door. I’ll have to try that one out later this evening. The whole reason I chose this hotel was that it is only half a block away from the ticket office. I didn’t want to stay at a hotel a long distance away where I would have to take a taxi all the way to the ticket office, then another taxi to the site I wanted. From here I can walk to the ticket office, as well as walk to most of the sites. I might even be able to find bicycle rental nearby if I look a bit. The only site I would need a taxi for is the valley of the kings and the start of the hike up Thoth hill, and the less taxis the better, especially when one has to haggle like crazy for a decent fare.
I have made two trips over to the West bank already... one was with a private guide to see two of the temples, as well as two tombs. The other trip was a visit to the valley of the kings. I still want to see several more temples on the west bank, want to hike up Thoth hill, want to head to the village of the workman, see several more tombs in the valley of the kings, and see the valley of the queens; so I figured staying here for a week or so was in order.
The hotel I’m staying in is literally right next to the Merinptah temple, so after heading over to the ticket office, I had to go check out the temple. It was hot as hell, or perhaps a bit hotter, and it was already 2pm (everything closes at 4pm around here), so I decided on just the one temple today. I will be heading out at 6am tomorrow so I don’t have to deal with the unbearable heat. Fortunately the walk was quite short and the temple was easy to find. If my hotel had a side door I could have walked right in lol. The Merinptah temple was built for one of Ramses II’s sons. It is modeled after Ramses II’s Ramesseum, but on a smaller scale. This temple is about half the size of that of the Rameseum, and it is unfortunately pretty much disintegrated.
There is the odd giant brick left, and remains of the odd statue still sitting where they were originally. There were a few important pieces found here in this temple, however it was decided that they were better suited over at the Cairo museum :P, thus leaving this temple not all that much more then a very large piece of rubble. For whatever reason, the nicest pieces of this temple are being stored underground in two different rooms, as well as in a roofed building. The underground wall pieces do have most of their colour intact; perhaps this is why they are kept underground, so that the sunlight doesn’t wear the colour off. There isn’t any surviving roof at all to this temple. I’m not entirely sure why, but one of the huge wall pieces is on display upside down. I mentioned this to the guard and he said something in acknowledgement but I’m not sure what. I know the Egyptologists that set the pieces in the rooms aren’t stupid, so there must have been a method to their upsidedown display.
There was a couple of jackal headed sphinxes laying around, but they were unfortunately much in disrepair, and finding one with both a head and a butt just wasn’t happening. There were many different pillar tops in the covered building, as well as the remains of a LOT of statues. Apparently Merinptah absconded with several statues of both pharaohs (changing the names on the cartouches of course), as well as jackal headed sphinxes. I guess if you are building a temple, and are a bit short on budget and statuary, and many other temples are closed anyways... why not grab a few spare statues.
Fortunately I had read the guidebook before I set out, and it had mentioned that this site had a museum. Since the temple was in such disrepair, I wanted to see a bit more. I asked the guard about the museum, and he said it was closed. I asked why, and insisted that it should be open. It was difficult to tell what he was saying, but I think it boiled down to the fact that the woman who runs that part of the site was napping and feeding her baby. I did manage to talk the guard into going to get her to open the museum though. I was told to come back in an hour, but the temple likely would have been closed then, and it would have been even hotter out!
The museum had some really nice pieces, even if it was the smallest museum I have seen to date. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take any photos inside of the museum. There were a couple of really nice jackal headed sphinxes which were mostly intact, some old pottery, some talismans, some jewellery, some old moulds for metalwork, pieces of temple walls, and of course statuary. The woman who had been woken up to come open the museum proceeded to yell at the guard who woke her up for the entire 15 minutes I was in there lol, so I at least gave them both a large tip (large for Egypt anyways).
After I left, there was a little girl who spoke excellent English selling little hand carved statues and pendants. I couldn’t talk her down all that much, so after getting some smaller change I headed back. Upon returning they invited me into the house and served me a nice cold lemonade. This time it was her brother who was selling the stuff. Fortunately though he showed me some items that his sister had not, so there was a better selection. Apparently their father carves the items and they sell them to the alabaster factories, as well as to tourists who wander by their house. They were selling several amulets, but most of them were a bit higher priced (even with haggling) then I would have liked. I did leave with a few items though including a tiny alabaster statue of Horus. The kid also showed me his computer, which looked to be brand new or close to it (apparently they are doing quite well in the carving business). He complained to me about how he only has dialup for the internet which is so slow. Apparently a kilometre or two away is where the DSL starts, which he wishes he had. This kid couldn’t have been more then 10 years old.
This reminds me of one thing about Egypt, while in North America child labour is appalling; over here in Egypt it’s pretty natural. Kids in general are trained very young in their parent’s profession. There is one boy in Cairo, not more then 12 years old who sells sunglasses and etc. on the side of the street at night for example. I have also seen kids with their fathers being taught how to operate the horse drawn carriages (as well as those kids who suddenly found one in Edfu), as well as being the ones who hunt up the customers for their fathers. There are also several boys who work helping tourists by being a guide, giving directions, showing a particular store and so on. They also of course get a commission from whatever store they take you into. I think most kids in Egypt work on the farms though. Fortunately many also do go to school, and their jobs are after school and on days off. It seems that English is taught very early in the school system here in Egypt, since kindergarten children will try to start a conversation with me.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008, Wiccans all the way in Egypt
I decided to go to the Karnak temples yet once again, but when it was much cooler out. Fortunately it opens at 6am, but 6am being a bit early I made it there more like 7. It was still a nice temperature for all of the walking around the complex requires and the sun wasn’t up past the clouds for most of my trip. The other good thing about getting to the temple so early is that there aren’t nearly as many other tourist there, and especially not many tour groups at this time in the morning. Apparently they all like to sleep in. Last time I went the parking lot was filled with tour buses, but this time around there wasn’t a single one in sight.
I first walked around the Amon temple and took a multitude of photos. Then I went looking for the Montu temple which was off to the left and behind a gate which is usually locked apparently. As I was going up the trail to the left side of the complex I kept passing people that were definitely magicians, or at least Wiccans/Neo-Druids. I asked a couple of them if they knew where the Montu temple was. They said they didn’t but they pointed me over to the Sekhmet temple. Well one of them said it was the Bast temple, but she was obviously the more clueless member of the group!
When I got to the Sekhmet temple it was obvious that the group had just finished up a ritual in the temple. Actually it was the Ptah temple, but the statue of Ptah and the Pharaoh was unfortunately quite damaged. To the right of it in another room was the statue of Sekhmet, so I guess properly it would be the shrine of Sekhmet, but the temple of Ptah. The statue of Sekhmet was all charged up, and she was present. It didn’t feel like they did anything with the Ptah statue next door though. There was someone from the ritual still doing a healing (I’m guessing) on another person. The main giveaway that they were a bunch of Pagans who had just done a ritual was the far too obvious clothing that the HP was wearing, a velvet cloak and all. There was also a whispered conversation wondering if the guards figured out what they were up to. Well unless the guards are complete idiots, I’m pretty sure they would have.
The statue of Sekhmet was quite beautiful, and extremely well carved. It was really nice to go into a temple that still had the original statue there. Most temples have had their statues long taken out and placed in various museums, usually the one in Cairo. So it’s not very often you get both a temple and a Deity statue all in one place. There are of course the Horus statues guarding the outside of Edfu, but not a statue in the main sacred hall. Apparently the statue of Sekhmet used to scare the locals so much that they claimed a figure with a lion’s head used to go around the village at night eating children and the like. They used to whack the statue with clubs. It’s in pretty good condition considering this, only with a large break at the back part. It looks to be made of black granite though, so that helps a lot.
I then figured out which gate must go to the Montu temple and asked the guard about it. He kept assuring me it was closed. I kept asking and he said that it would require baksheesh for both him and the person on the other side of the gate which would show me around. So they let me through the gate, and I got to see the little area where the guards hung out in the shade, where they restored statues and so on. There was one particularly nice statue that they were in the midst of restoring, and I of course took a photo. The only problem is that I’m not entirely sure which Deity or Pharaoh it is. The beard is long enough to be a Deity (the pharaohs had the shorter ones), but looks to be more human then Deity. I couldn’t tell what the guard’s mumbled words were.
We walked along a narrow dirt path around the temple which is pretty much all in ruins, to the gorgeous main gateway of the old temple, which is fortunately still intact. There really isn’t much left of the Montu temple but it was still nice to visit and walk around the area.
After this I explored the temples of Seti II and Tutmosis III. These temples were particularly fun to walk around as there were many stone stairs, rooms and alcoves one could walk into. This brought me out to where the sacred lake and the giant granite scarab were. This sacred lake is quite nice and fortunately clear of any garbage. I was tempted to collect some in my water bottle, but decided I didn’t want to go through the bother of paying a guard to get some for me. I have to admit that the sacred lake closely resembled a giant swimming pool which I wish was open to the public on the hot days. The scarab is about 2 feet long and sitting on top of a short granite pillar. Now how the ancient Egyptians managed to carve a stone as hard as granite without dremels, diamond bits, or any of the modern tools is beyond me! There were also hieroglyphics carved into the stand.
Next it was a walk over to the temple of Mut, who is Amon’s wife. This particular temple doesn’t seem to be visited much, even though there is some extremely nice wall art with some of the colour still there. There is also a statue in the main sacred hall, but I’m not sure what of since it is pretty damaged. I’m guessing it was a Mut statue as there is one talon that is still in good condition you can see. Then it was on through the open air museum, which is pretty much thousands of blocks from various temples of the area which haven’t been put together or added on yet. It looks like they could build a few temples with all of those spare blocks they have. Apparently they will number such blocks so they know how to put them back together, or together in the first place.
I was quite fortunate when I got to the temple of Khonsu. The main guard that was guarding the temple was on break, as were the three guards who were working inside of the temple. So I got to explore the temple for over half an hour without being bothered for baksheesh or being told it was closed. I actually wasn’t quite sure if the temple was open or not.... there wasn’t anything saying it was closed, and I was able to walk right into the side door... however the ground was in disrepair and there was scaffolding pieces strewn about everywhere. Egypt seems to be extra worried that tourists will harm themselves or something, so I’m wondering if they would have even let me in if they weren’t all on break.
I have to say though, the temple of Khonsu (which I didn’t make it to on my first visit) was the best part of the Karnak temples! The engravings on the walls were nice and deep and very well done. They were also in good condition and didn’t show all that much wear in many places. There were also areas in which the original paint was still very much intact. This temple even had a roof, unlike the main Amon one. I went into most of the rooms in the temple, the ones that weren’t closed off by a locked door. There were also a couple of statues in the main hypostyle hall, but I’m not sure which Deity they were of, since they didn’t look like they had a hawk head on them. If I were to guess, perhaps one of the baboon headed statues of Dhehuty, but that is only a guess.
The Khonsu temple is obviously undergoing major restoration though as one can tell by the photos (which will eventually be posted. Fortunately the driver of the blue truck out front was nice enough to move it so that it wouldn’t obscure my photos of the front of the temple. On my way back walking around the temple (I had come out the front door), I saw three guards enter into the temple, and saw someone sitting at a table and desk just outside the temple watching it. None of them were there on my way in. I’ll have to thank Khonsu for this.
Last up I went over to the small temple of Ramses III and enjoyed the many many huge and very tall pillars on my way back out of the building. After being asked if I had a wife by the taxi driver, I went over to my new favourite lunch place. They serve fu’ul and tamiya (sp?), as well as pretty damn good falafel. They also tend to stuff the pita like bread far more then the other places around town. Lunch cost about $1 and I think I ate too much.
One Morbid Museum
I decided to go to the museums today. There was the Luxor museum and the mummification museum. Fortunately I lucked out and got off the bus as close as it went to the Luxor museum. The overpriced bookstore at the museum really didn’t have any worthwhile books which was too bad. The museum was pretty awesome though. It’s nothing like the Cairo museum of course, but still a worthwhile visit. There were many statues at this museum, mostly of stone and a few of wood. The alabaster ones were my favourites.
There were two royal mummies at this museum, one was Ahmose I which I could swear asked me to help him get the hell out of there after I mentioned it must suck to be sitting there on display all the time. The other mummy was much older, and is believed to be the mummy of Ramses I. This is still up for debate though as they aren’t completely sure. The mummy was originally in a Canadian museum, but the stupid ass Canadians went and sold it to some small US museum, who did some work to find the approximate date of the mummy, and eventually gifted it back to Egypt. I decided to not talk to this one since Ramses I kicked considerable ass as a priest and as a fighter, and the other mummy had an extremely strong presence after I started chatting!
This museum had a pretty good amulet and talisman section, which is always one of my favourite parts of any museum :). There were the standard scarabs, eyes of Horus and the like, as well as a few other designs. The jewellery section was also nice, with quite a bit of gold, including the largest version of the honouring fly necklace I have ever seen! Most versions of the fly necklace have little tiny flies, but this one, had solid gold (18k of course) 2” flies! These necklaces were given to people who did exceptionally well in battle btw.
There was also a good display of the funerary furniture that was used in the tombs, such as the bed, head rest, closets and etc. There was also a case of what must have been over 100 faliace mini statues to serve the king in his afterlife. The weapons exhibit was the main part of this museum, and was quite interesting, with axes, bows, arrows, a war chariot (which was Tutankhamen’s), practice scenes on walls and so on. There were also a few bits of papyrus and some cloth from the old kingdom which were quite interesting. My favourite parts of this museum were the different wands some of the pharaohs and priests were holding, not the standard well known wands at all. There was also of course a statue of Horus that I quite liked.
After telling a few felucca captains and carriage drivers where they could stick their feluccas and carriages, I made it over to the mummification museum. This was an extremely small museum, but also quite interesting. First there were drawings of the different processes of mummification and the process of the dead going through to the afterlife and the weighing of the soul. One scene had a description stating that they were pouring molten resin onto the cloth strips/bandages... but the image showed them doing this with their bare hands (copied from actual temple walls). Later on in the museum they have a display of the various substances used in mummification including the resins, sawdust, and various dyes which were used. There was also an old paint palette with paint still in it.
Being a mummification museum they of course also had some mummies, a couple of pretty much unknown nobles. Along with them, there were mummies of various animals, such as an Ibis and a baboon for Dehuty, a crocodile for Sobek, some fish, a cat, and a few other animals. Nothing like the Cairo museum collection, but still quite interesting. On display were also some of the tools used for mummification, such as the metal bits used to pull the brain out through the nostrils.
They also had on display some of the most beautiful canopic jars (and their box) that I have ever seen! Being a mummification museum it is only right that they have some pretty awesome canopic jars there. The best part were the wooden coverings for the royal mummies. They were in nearly perfect condition with the colours, inlay, gold leafing and carving intact. The designs on them were amazing! Unfortunately I couldn’t take photos in either museum, which is a shame as there were some perfect shots. I didn’t feel the books of photos were worth the $20 they were asking either.
I walked back, and went into one of the mediocre restaurants the guide book recommended. Like the book says, people come to Luxor for ancient monuments, not fine dining. There really aren’t any really amazing restaurants in Luxor from what I have found, or the guide book says. There is of course the yummy pizza place, but that is far from gourmet cuisine.
Well they aren’t buses really, they are minivans that pick people up. It costs about 10 cents (sometimes 20 cents if you are a tourist). The buses come every minute at the most and go about everywhere. I have even seen them way out in the middle of nowhere going from town to town. The only thing is, sometimes they don’t fully stop to pick you up or drop you off, so you have to be fast. Fortunately they tend to go a bit easier on tourists, well some of the drivers do anyways. My Egyptian friend took me via the buses to the market where we went shopping. I found a couple of small stone statues and that was about it, since the prices were a bit higher then I like to pay. She managed to get a pound of henna for $1 though!
The market we went to was slightly more for the locals then the tourist markets, so it was a lot more fun. The jewellery shops though were far too tempting with some of the most gorgeous designs I have ever seen! They also had an extremely good selection of antique jewellery which is my favourite. Aside from this people were selling many different spices, fruit, vegetables, fish (sitting out there in the sun, ew), meat, and an assortment of tourist items. My friend bought me a head scarf. I have to figure out something to gift her back, she’s making it difficult by saying that she doesn’t like jewellery, so I have to be more creative.
I got to see part of an Egyptian wedding. There was the bride and groom, and they started dancing, then the men danced around the bride in the middle, then the women did. There was drumming and a horn or two all throughout as well. They were doing part of the ceremonies on the Carniche right next to the Nile. The bridesmaids had the prettiest dresses on. This was on a Thursday, which is apparently wedding day in Egypt. After the festivities outside, they would all go off to one of the local hotels or the like to have the party/reception, which would have at least 100 relatives and friends attending. After this, they could move in together, which I think many couples do on the same night. This means they are finally allowed to have sex.
Aside from this we just walked along the Nile, as well as sat and talked for a time. It is so much nicer to walk in Egypt at night since it’s nice and cool out, and I don’t get worn out after only a block.
Sunday, May 18, 2008 Luxor Temple
At about eight in the evening my friend and I set out for the Luxor temple. It was finally cool enough out that we could actually walk there if we wanted. We instead took a carriage over to the temple. The temple was really pretty all lit up in the dark night. Even with the archaic technology Egypt seems to have at times, their temple lighting makes for some awesome photos, and wonderful ambience. Even with the row of sphinxes, every single sphinx had a light in front of it, well save for one of them. The row of sphinxes goes on for several kilometres from the Luxor temple to the Karnak temple, or at least it did in the old days. I didn’t walk the entire way to find out if they were all still there or not.
This temple has been the worst so far with people trying to employ themselves as a guide. Fortunately they were all pestering the person I was with instead of me. He was less assertive and was less used to going to temples then I was, so he actually talked to them a little bit, big mistake. With a guide standing right beside him he asked if we needed a guide and I said no, then the guide started to pester me, and I told him I already had a guide. He was one of those people with really nasty energy, and likely less then a four year degree anyways, so it would have been useless to pay him $10 for a one hour tour. He seemed quite pissed I had talked my friend out of it LOL.
The colossus statues were all that more awe inspiring in the beautiful light in the dark night, as were the many pillars. Fortunately most of the temple walls still photographed just fine, but with a bit of an orange glow about them due to the lack of light. Still a nice affect. While we were in one of the side chambers, which were rooms for the visiting Deities, we happened upon a rather nice picture of Horus. For some reason my friend made a joke about where I had touched Horus as I was explaining the drawings to him, so as it ended up, he took a photo of me groping Horus. I hope Horus enjoyed it ;). After this I of course had to show him the drawings of the God Min. Everyone seems to get a kick out of Min upon first seeing him, he is the Deity with the very obvious and erect penis sticking out. This particular temple had the penis done in a bit more detail then other temples.
Unfortunately the temple wasn’t in as good shape as Edfu, but in much better shape then Karnak. Parts of the surfaces of the walls were missing due to deterioration over a few thousand years, so unfortunately some of the scenes were missing parts, especially in the birth room.
This temple in particular had many scenes of offering tables just full of food. The offering table scenes were much more elaborate then in the other temples I have seen; they were also more detailed them many others. Apparently the Gods of this particular temple were fed quite well. Of the series of Gods worshipped and honoured at this temple, they also included the Pharaoh (apparently a few thought of this idea) and the main inner sanctuary was to him. I will save him the dishonour of trying to spell his name from memory.
The Luxor temple was another of the old kingdom ancient Egyptian temples, not one of the neo ones done up by the Romans during a later period. The Romans were conquering the area, and some of the Romans such as Alexander were smart enough politically and perhaps spiritually, to build temples for and worship the local Gods. Also, it was during the new kingdom and after the Romans were about that many Egyptian Pharaohs built temples as well. The styles were a bit different between the more ancient temples and the newer ones, so it was nice to see a couple of the older ones. Luxor has definitely proven interesting with it’s many temples and tombs.
After touring around the temple and avenue of sphinxes I took a photo of the remains of an old Roman village that lay on the temple grounds. I was tired and the area looked roped off so I didn’t go into it. However my photo ended up with a couple of dozen very vivid and obvious orbs in it! I’m tempted to go back and investigate it during the day now to see what is there. It was about 9pm when we were leaving, so sort of late at night. We then left the temple, and I found a store that happens to sell lettuce seed oil! The ever so famous oil mentioned in old recipes for lust. I of course had to get some :>. There is a factory in one of the towns outside of Luxor which still makes the oil, but tourists cannot get there since the convoy doesn’t stop anywhere near it.
We then hit an internet cafe which was half the price of the one I’m used to, but I found out why it was half the price. My friend really wanted a meal at McDonalds, so we grabbed some to go food. Now it has been at least 5 years since I’ve eaten at a McDonalds, but I know the hamburgers aren’t nearly as large at the McDonalds in North America (or those in the UK according to my friend) as those in Egypt! I could barely finish mine and really wish I hadn’t eaten it all, but I couldn’t find a kid to give the rest to. My friend handed half of his over to a bunch of kids on a bus going by, and a fight broke out for it, oops.
Saturday, May 17, 2008 - A Tour
We first stopped by the valley of the kings and bought the tickets. There is a small uhm, perhaps you could call it a train, being hauled by a tractor that you take up to where the tombs start. Egypt seems to be setup for really out of shape or lazy tourists, which is nice if you have a few places to hit all in one day. We first stopped at the tomb of Ramses IV. The guide gave an explanation outside of the tomb then we went in. Unfortunately the tomb was packed with far too many tourists (I really do have to try this at 6am) but the walls had amazing paintings on them, and the roof was even more amazing. The roof had designs of Nuit all over the place, as well as that pretty blue sky and stars you see all over temple and tomb ceilings in Egypt. There were some similarities between the tombs and temples. There was Horus and Isis carved into the wall as you walk in, then scenes of daily life and offering scenes further along. The actual granite stone sarcophagus was still in the tomb, but without the mummy in it (the mummy is resting unhappily over at the Cairo museum). The next tomb we went to was for Ramses VI, then over to the tomb for Ramses 1. The tomb for Ramses 1 was the most interesting of all. The tour only consisted of 3 tombs, but I really wouldn’t have minded seeing about 3 more. The tour guide told us a bit about each tomb before we went in.
Then we took the little train back, and took our tour van on over to the Hetachutsip temple. Our guide told us that if we wanted to say the Queen’s name and remember it, we could just say “hot chicken soup” really fast. Tacky. Apparently the Queen had a giant temple built, well more carved into the side of a mountain really, which is quite handy if you are building a temple, just take a bit of stuff out instead of building from scratch. It is a three tiered temple, which is in pretty good shape considering that it is 7000 years old. After Queen Hapchitsup died, her younger brother (who some think may have offed her) went into the temple and scratched out all of her cartouches so that her name isn’t anywhere to be found in the temple. He also took the head off of one of her statues.
Unfortunately at this temple they don’t actually let you into the temple, but only partway in which is really too bad. They have all of the best stuff blocked off such as the inner sanctuary, as well as some nicely painted wall areas. This temple had the square pillar design in many places, as well as some regular round pillars in the more inner parts of the temple.
I had met someone on the trip with a much nicer camera then myself, and I had forgotten my camera (arg!), so I have quite a few photos of me at this particular temple. With this temple, it is the ultimate in catering to tourists who can’t walk further then half a block, with a little train that takes you up the road right to the front of the temple, to save about one long block of walking. Of course I wouldn’t have minded if they had one of those over at Karnack the other day, so perhaps I shouldn’t laugh too loudly.
Then it was over to the Calluses of Memnon. Well I had already seen these statues, but I was able to get a photo in front of them this time. I look like a tiny speck standing in between them they are so large. I think the guide said 25 meters high. We (of course) were also taken by an alabaster factor *again* (that’s the 3rd I’ve been to now) and I bought a tiny statue of Horus that looked to be hand carved and had a lot of feel to it. Since I’d already seen how they make the alabaster stuff, I just walked right in before everyone else, and the owner decided to show me his antiquities. One of the items he showed me was this round stone that was carved a certain way, and I said “hey I have one of those”... well in the end he told me he would give me $200 british pounds for it! Unfortunately I had left it back in Edfu since I figured it was really too large and heavy to take all the way home with me . Mine was about twice as large as the one he had. I wonder if the maid threw the stone out, or if I could contact the hotel and have it mailed to me? It was from my trip to El Kab.
All in all, the tour was OK. The guide wasn’t as good as the private guides I’ve had, but I should have expected that considering the price difference, and that this was a budget tour. Also, I have more information on the tombs in an excellent book on Luxor that I picked up then the guides talk about anyways. I tend to find guides worth their money when they tell me a bit of lore about the temple or tomb that I didn’t already know, and that I can relate to magic. Fortunately I have had much luck during my trip, and have had guides that knew enough to help me along these lines. The guides today however gave no such tidbits, but for less then it would have cost me to take a taxi to the west bank and back, that was OK.
I also found out why all these very young Egyptian men have been flirting with me (well besides the apparently Egyptian men’s lack of manners. What do you expect when men can take more then one wife, but women can’t take more then one husband, besides far too many single men). The person I met today asked how old I was, and when I said 38 he asked me to prove it. He had guessed me around 23 at most!
I also got to see the sacred lake which was huge, and actually quite clean which was nice. Boy did it look good for a swim on the very hot day, but since there was a guard sitting right there watching it, I decided it was best to not risk it. Apparently this is the sacred lake that they used to wash the mummy’s stuff in when they were making mummies in ancient Egypt, they would bring some of the supplies over to this sacred lake to wash before they went and wrapped up the mummy and then take it over to the West bank. The west bank represents death, and the east bank represents life, so all of the tombs are over on the west bank.
I have been out traveling through the desert. As if it wasn’t hot enough here in Luxor, I thought I would go where it’s even hotter, in the middle of the desert lol. I went with my driver and guide to the Dahkla Oasis and the El Karga Oasis. El Karga is a small town with far too much concrete, but some nice deserts around it. We were pretty much just passing through here, and taking a break from the long journey. The cafe in El Karga sucked. The drive from Luxor the El Karga was quite pretty. It mostly consisted of desert, short mountains, tiny villages, and farmland. There of course were also about a dozen road blocks we had to check in at. At least they didn’t make us go in a convoy, it was more of a private convoy with far too many checkpoints. It will be so nice to travel around Egypt once they have finally done away with all of these damn tourist checkpoints and convoys.
Just after Daklah oasis we met the Bedouin guide, who took us to his house. I had opted for the Bedouin lunch instead of going to some restaurant. I have to say Bedouin food is much yummier then restaurant food. We all sat on the floor on cushions with the huge pile of food in front of us, and ate it all with our hands. I’m still wondering how Egyptians pack away so much food. I have been thinking that there is always so much food around for my benefit since I’m a tourist, however everyone that I ask says they regularly eat this much. They must do a lot of exercise to stay thin or something. I told them if I were to stay in Egypt too long eating like this, I wouldn’t be able to fit onto the plane home LOL.
The main Bedouin guide and I poured over the maps for a few hours, and it’s a very good thing I had the English speaking guide which was pretty much a translator for much of this trip, with me. I was shown the locations of a few caves around the area, as well as some overnight camping areas in the desert. I opted for the overnight camping. The Bedouin house was an interesting set of opposites. The toilet was just a hole in the floor (I have seen a few of these now), but in the other room there is a new computer with internet access. Apparently the Bedouins have embraced technology. They all also seem to own cel phones. On a side note, I have yet to find anywhere in Egypt that does not have a cel phone signal! I even asked my guide when we really were in the middle of nowhere and he still had a signal. There are cel towers all over the place with a heap of solar panels attached to them. Even when we were in the middle of the desert, everyone still got cel calls. Egyptians are even worse then us westerners when it comes to answering their cel phones at any point in time, even times when it would be considerably rude.
My guides and I went over to the Dahkla museum and an ancient mud brick town. The town had a couple of mosques, some ancient large tools used for grinding flour, and oil, and other old machinery. The mosques were all mud brick and looked quite awesome. All of the houses, the schoolhouse, the library, the butcher shop and so forth were all made of mud brick. The fact that they are two stories high and still standing to this day is amazing! You could easily get lost in this town as it is all thin alleyways and many twists and turns. However, along the way we picked up yet another guide (So at this point it was me, my driver, my guide, one of the Bedouin guides, and a local guide to the area) all touring about this little town. There were still a few people that live in this town, even though the government kicked them all out. I guess they couldn’t get rid of every