Sunday, November 07, 2004

Day 1 – Luxor – October 20, 2004

We woke up very early this morning to take a ferry ride to the West Bank. We rode donkeys through a small village to the Valley of the Kings. The trip was 7 km long and took about 2 hours. David was concerned that he would be leaving his own trail behind the donkey with his long legs. I was extremely nervous since I don’t generally like riding animals of any kind.

From the ferry we walked to where our donkeys were waiting for us. The owners matched us up fairly well with a donkey. David got one of the largest donkeys. I was happy to get a small slow donkey. We got on the backs of these little beasts and started our long trip to the Valley of the Kings. It took a little while for me to gain my balance. Only one of our group members managed to fall off the donkey as we approached the Valley of the Kings. Our guide quickly dismounted their donkey’s and pushed our friend back onto his without missing a beat. Along the way we saw many people working in the field and 3 hot air balloons rising in the distance. We passed the Hapsheshut temple along the way as well – the temple dedicated to the first Queen of Egypt. It was the same temple that we attempted to see by ourselves yesterday but failed because it closed before we could buy a ticket. L

We arrived at the Valley of the Kings entrance about 2 hours after we stared. Our tour guide from Karnak was there waiting for us with tickets. He explained that he would take us to 3 tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The first was the smallest, then a medium size one and then finally – one of the longest tombs in the Valley. This tomb was situated right beside and on top of King Tut’s tomb.

We had an enjoyable morning of looking at the tombs. Each one was completely bare but the walls of the tombs were what we really came to see. The colours in the tombs are surprisingly bright. We were allowed to take pictures outside the tomb but no photos or cameras of any kind were allowed in the tombs to protect the brilliant colours of the walls.

The first tomb we entered had a very large entrance, small hallway and one big room. The second tomb we entered, had the same size entrance, longer hallway and two rooms. The tour guide explained to us that the second tomb would have been completely full of everything the King had when he was alive stored in the tomb. When this King died, the tomb was not large enough to hold all his treasures so the builders of the tomb had to dig an extension at the back of the tomb to hold additional treasures. This addition was built as they mummified the body. It’s difficult to imagine having so much gold that you would have to build an extension to this large tomb. Along the hallway there were lintels where false doors would have been when the tomb was sealed.

Finally the third tomb, was enormous. This tomb had an extremely long hallway where we felt like we were descending quiet far from the surface. The walls and ceiling of this tomb were beautifully decorated. There was a mural on the ceiling of a god blowing the sun across the sky. This mural is on the ceiling of most tombs but this was the clearest and best example in the Valley of the Kings. After descending about 2 city blocks at a steady slope, we entered an enormous room where the sarcophagus of the King was still present. To break the sarcophagus the robber’s poured boiling water over the rock and cracked it open. The broken sarcophagus was still present in the tomb and the granite pieces look like boulders. David and I paused in this large room for only a few minutes before we had to leave since the line up to this tomb was very long.

We met our group and started our hike over Magic Mountain to the worker’s village. Magic Mountain is a mountain behind the Valley of the Kings that looks like a natural pyramid. Some people believe that this location was chosen for the Valley of the Kings because of this mountain. We struggled to climb the very steep path to the top of the cliff. At the top of the cliff we were met by locals who tried desperately to sell us statues and beads. These locals could not afford to get the license to sell items in the Valley of the Kings so instead they approach tourist on this path. When we reached the top of the path, we were too breathless and sweaty to tell them that we were not interested. Instead we paid them a little money to take our group picture.

We continued along the path and stopped to take fabulous pictures of the Valley of the Kings from above, the Hapsheshut temple from above (although we didn’t visit this temple we were able to view it from all angles), and the Valley of the Queens. After an hour hike we arrived at the Worker’s Village.

These workers were the people who built and decorated the tombs for the Kings and Queens. The only remains of the village were the base of the walls of their homes and their own tombs. We were allowed to see two of the worker’s tombs. These two tombs were much smaller but more colourful. It also felt more like a cave that we were entering than any of the tombs that we saw in the Valley of the Kings. For both tombs, we descended a very steep staircase with a very low ceiling and entered a very small room. The room in each cave was very beautifully decorated and the walls and ceiling were protected with glass so that you could not touch the walls.

After investigating the tombs at the Worker’s Village we got back on our donkeys and headed back to the Nile. This trip was much shorter since we were completing the loop we started in the morning. We road through a small village and then stopped briefly at the side of a road to see 2 enormous statues that were the only remains of a temple that was no longer present.

We had lunch at a very nice restaurant along the Nile. It was very relaxing to sip Lemon juice and cold water in the shade. After lunch we took a ferry back to the East bank where we had a nap and then met our friends Kathy and Bruce on the roof top to relax by the pool. After we ventured into Luxor to find an internet café and do a little shopping. We met the group for dinner at a restaurant in Luxor, near the Luxor temple and then returned to the hotel to pack.
Tomorrow we leave early for Hurghada. We are all looking forward to chilling out along the red sea at our next destination: A resort :-)


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