“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt Travelogue: Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut's Temple, Tut's Tomb - 7 Oct 2006

Balloons over the Valley of the Kings
Luxor - What can I say? After docking overnight in Luxor, the morning started out with a breathtaking view of sunrise reflecting off the west bank where the Valley of the Kings is. At 6am, hot air balloons filled the sky (we didn't take one, though). We traveled first to the Colossi of Memnon.  These statues were cracked and nearly destroyed in an earthquake, so when the wind blows through them, they emit an eerie whistling sound.  It's just a photo stop for most people, but I had really been looking forward to seeing these statues.  Eventually, and as usual, someone from the group had to go retrieve me because I was late back to the bus because of my shutterbugging self.  From there, on to the
Colossi of Memnon
Valley of the Queens, in which we went into Queen Teti's tomb. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside any tombs.  We went into her son's tomb, as well, but I forget his name. Drat.

Then on to the temple of Queen Hatsepshut!!! We could see this temple from our room on the boat, so I was all hyper to see this. If this temple weren't on our tour's itinerary, I would have chosen another tour company. This was a must-see. Absolutely gorgeous. This was built in the Pharonic era in the New Kingdom, well before the Greeks came. Queen Hatshepsut was Egypt's only female Pharoah.  The statues of her likeness depict her wearing an ornamental beard, which was regalia. I spent far too much time at my leisure exploring the temple
Hatshepsut's Temple
and taking photographs, so once again someone from the group back at the bus had to retrieve me from the temple and usher me back to the group.  This would become an on-going joke in the bus, but the joke plays out later in Luxor.  Stay tuned.

From here, we traveled behind the cliffs into the Valley of the Kings where the majority of New Kingdom Pharoahs and other statesmen (and women) were buried. Let me just say that we started the morning off at 7am, and already by 9am it was over 100 degrees. Now 100 down there wasn't so bad at the other temples, but in this valley in Luxor, the sun reflecting off the cliffs made it plain brutal. Especially when we descended into some of the tombs, 100 degrees rose to 125 degrees nearly 100 feet below ground. 

Valley of the Kings
Here we went into 4 tombs: Ramses IV, Merenptah, Ramses I, and Tutankhamun. The tombs were gorgeous, but with the heat, they smelled of a 4000-year old locker room.  Centuries of human perspiration and heat had definitely left its mark. 

This is where I lost it. The entire trip finally built up and for some odd reason, in this tomb of Ramses IV, I just stopped and sobbed. It all hit me at once. Everything was too beautiful for words, and there I was, standing inside a Pharoah's tomb, seeing the colorful paint on the walls as if it were applied yesterday.  The people in my group were very sympathetic - we spent so much time together for so many days that they came to know what this trip meant to me.  One of the women put her arm around me, and at the end of the trip, they said it made it all the more special for them to share it with me, knowing that I was realizing my dream.  

The tomb of Merenptah had a passageway was a looooooooooooooooong way down. Long. And a looooooooooooooong way back up. As I reached the massive internal burial chamber, I looked back up the passageway and wished I had brought my inhaler.  We were nearly 200 feet underground staring up at a nearly 45 degree incline
Layout of Merenptah's Tomb
back to the surface, in 125 degree heat.  This was going to be a rough climb if I didn't take it slowly.  I think a sloth passed me on the way up.  Ramses I: This tomb had the most spectacular art. It looked even more vibrant than pictures can describe. I really wish I had snuck in my camera and slipped the attendant some baksheesh so I could snap a few pictures without the flash.  

And then, Tutankhamun. It was miniscule compared to the others, but it was even more special because his coffin and body still lie in rest where it was set 2500 years ago.  I stood for a long time at the rail to the internal burial chamber, staring at his mummy, and recognizing every detail.  I walked through the tomb as though I were Howard Carter seeing it for the first time, trying to visualize the treasures as it they were discovered.   
"What do you see?" 
"Beautiful things."

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