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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Valley of the Kings | Luxor Egypt Day 2

After a night's rest, I felt much better. We started off relatively early - had breakfast and met with the group at about 9.30 am. Our first destination for the day was the Valley of the Kings.

The Valley of the Kings is located on the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor. It is essentially a site where the ancient Egyptians created tombs for their kings and powerful nobles during the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt) over a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC.

This was my favorite site (apart from the Egyptian Museum that I would visit later) amongst all the historical sites that I had visited. The area is quiet and calming, and I can understand why the ancient Egyptians chose this area as a resting place for their kings. As we drove in, the valley became flanked by huge brown mountains.

The sheer size of these mountains was breathtaking. The Egyptian government had created paved roads for tourist buses to drive on into the site - but I could imagine what it would have been like ages ago when the ancient Egyptians had to walk on the desert sand to reach the Valley.

Massive Mountain in the Valley


We were told that there were 63 tombs that had been discovered in the Valley so far. It is possible that more may be uncovered in the future. Apparently, another tomb had been discovered only months back! From the 63 tombs, the guide bought us tickets that would gain us inside access to three tombs. The ticket cost 80 Egyptian pounds. The tombs had been filled with ancient treasures, but grave robbers in the past had taken away many of these treasures. And others, for example, the only intact tomb found with items (from Tutankhamun's tomb) were placed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

View from Outside the Entrance to Valley of Kings


We could not bring our cameras into the Vally of the Kings. So we had to leave them on the bus. After getting our tickets, we entered the entrance building that had been built. There were exhibits with pictures of the various discoveries of the tombs - for example, Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun in 1922. We then took a tram ride to the tomb areas - after that we walked. Even with the throngs of tourists milling about, I liked this site the best. It was pleasantly cool that morning - the valley was somewhat shaded from the sun.

The Short Tram Ride to the Tombs Area


The selected tombs we entered were pretty amazing - the brilliant turquoise blue colors were still visible. This is where the brilliant turquoise blue that is seen on jewelry sold along the Nile comes from. I wish we could take pictures, but completely understand that concern that flash from the camera would over time fade away the depictions on the walls.

I bought a little booklet called the Valley of the Kings for 25 Egyptian Pounds from peddlers outside. It contained a factual information, and brilliant pictures of the scenes on the walls in the tombs categorized by Pharaoh.

The eighteenth dynasty tombs in the Valley of the Kings have a simple structure, consisting of a series of corridors and stairways. They are separated from each other by door jams, running to the east, south and west in bent axis with shafts in the floor. The shafts were designed to obstruct tomb robbers and act as drainage for rain water.

The nineteenth and twentieth dynasty tombs consist of a series of jagged or straight axis. Each pharaoh added corridors, side chambers or pillars as new elements, or simply increased the length of the tombs.

The walls of the tombs are decorated with scenes of the journey of the sun god through the earth and heavens. The deceased pharaoh is shown as the companion or embodiment of the sun god, sailing through the Underworld at night on a boat. There are also scenes of gods, like Hathor, giving the key of life (ankh) to the the pharaoh.

One interesting fact is that in spite of the many precautions taken by the ancients, the tombs were prone to robbery. At some point, a list of the tombs that had been robbed was created. Then the priests of the 21st Dynasty King gathered all the remaining royal mummies and rewrapped them. They hid the mummies in two secret caches - one collection was in the tomb of Amenhotep II and the others in the tomb Inhapi. This was discovered by Maspero in 1870.

The tour guide told us that if we wanted to visit Tutankhamun's tomb, we would need to get a separate ticket. We asked if there was anything inside the tomb besides the wall art - and we were told that all of the items in his tomb had been moved to the Egyptian Museum. I assumed that his mummy was also at the museum. And we would be visiting the museum in Cairo later. We were essentially discouraged from buying this additional ticket!

Later on, I found out that Tutankhamun's mummy was INSIDE the tomb. I was so very upset that this crucial information was not divulged. If I had known his mummy was inside the tomb, I would have bought the additional ticket.

What a waste - well, I plan to make a second trip to Egypt in the future, so I will definitely go then.

So if you are at the Valley of the Kings, know that Tutankhamun is inside his tomb - they have his face uncovered, and he is in a climate controlled box. I would think it would be worth seeing....Sigh.

Tutankhamun

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