God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut and Medinet Habu

Mohamed, our wonderful guide throughout the cruise, picked us up around 8 a.m., loaded our luggage into the van, and off we drove to the Valley of the Kings, final resting place of pharaohs, queens, consorts and lesser nobility.
The Valley of the Kings is barren, dry desert. There is nothing remotely beautiful about it if one is looking for trees, greens, water, color. It is beige, beige, beige. If you look at it as another example of earth's diversity and geological wonders, then you can find beauty--as in all things.

It is a short drive out of Luxor, through dune colored hills and then the parking lot with little shuttle trains that take visitors to the tomb area. The downer is the huge number of men and young boys selling books, postcards and trinkets. It is so obvious that the need for money is great and the opportunity for making anything approaching a livable income is non-existent. In the best of times, it would be hard, in these times of few tourists it is impossible. 

We bought a ticket which allowed access to three tombs of our choosing. There is an extra ticket to go into Tutankhamun's which we did  not get as we had read and were told there really is nothing to see in it. It is not painted and colorful as others are and nothing remains except a large plain sarcophagus. Maybe I wish we had gone but too late now. 

The three we went into were recommended by Mohamed as being the most interesting and colorful. We were astounded by the remaining wall drawings and incredibly bright, vibrant colors. Unfortunately, it is prohibited to take pictures in the tombs so I have none. This link has some good examples but even they don't do justice to the awesome walls. Culture Focus.com. There are long entrance walls covered with many scenes and stories referring both to the life of the entombed pharaoh and the hoped for benefits of the anticipated afterlife. Gods and goddesses in myriad strange forms decorate the rooms, ceilings and walls. The workmanship boggles.

I found this on the web. Isn't it amazing?

There is nothing on the surface of the valley to indicate what lies below making it clear why finding these tombs is such a painstaking process; there are thought to be many not yet discovered.

Typical Entrance into Tomb

From here we went onto the temple of Queen Hatshepsut which is quite impressive, particularly from a distance. Much of it was destroyed by her stepson who followed her and who wasn't very fond of step-mom. He had many of her statues broken and her face defaced where ever he found it. Consequently there are just a couple physical representation of how she may have looked. It is also not clear how she died or where she was buried, not surprising leading to ideas that she may have been murdered by her stepson. Recently her mummy was found in a cache of royal mummies but where it had previously been buried seems to still be unknown.

Queen Hatshepsut, "the woman who would be pharaoh", was truly remarkable, succesfully leading Egypt for somewhere around 23 years. She often wore men's clothing-including the fake beard, successfully fought wars and had an impressive building program. Pretty impressive woman! Would have led a Fortune 500 today.

From here we had three more ancient sites before the end of our Egypt tour and being taken to our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day kickback time. I have to admit that at this point we looked forward to this as we were approaching the point of overload after a week of "seeing and experiencing."  Casey was holding up better than Ken and I--youth does have advantages.

Next stop was Medinet Habu--the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III. The pharaohs may have been buried in obscurity but they sure didn't want to be forgotten so they built beautiful, above ground testimonials to themselves. Medinet Habu is impressive in size and decoration. By now we had seen many places with colors remaining after centuries of exposure to elements; however, here the colors were particularly vibrant. It was also interesting to see the depth in the carving of figures and hieroglyphics--much deeper than any other place. You can see it in the pictures.

Our last two stops were the Tombs of the Nobles which are in a rather isolated area with very little there. We were able to enter two of them but photos were not allowed. One of them was fairly deep underground and had retained full walls of murals and drawings--quite impressive.

The last stop was at the Colossi of Memnon. These huge, gigantic statues originally stood at the entrance to the mortuary temple of Amenophis III which is no longer. The fact that they still stand is amazing. They are called Memnon because for many years (long ago) one of them emitted a strange whistling sound each morning. The Greeks, always prolific at ascribing reasons to anything unexplained, decided that it was the statue of Memnon, a warrior said to have been turned into a statue in Thebes after being killed by Achilles. The sound was his lamenting his mother, the sun, as she rose each morning. As the statue deteriorated, so did the sound. We listened--but nothing.

This was the end of our guided portion of Egypt. From here we were delivered to our hotel in Luxor--the Sheraton Resort--which was lovely. Since it was Christmas Eve, we were pleased to find a large green tree in the lobby, decorated in red and gold. It was a nice touch. We said goodbye to Mohamed and started our private Christmas time. More on that next time.

1 comment:

B.J. Greenwald said...

Okay, so now you are beyond a simple "WOW"!