Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Egypt - day 4 : Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut, Valley of the Queens & the Statues of Mennon

Having to cross from the East to the West side of the Nile meant an early start - away by 8 we at last found the bridge and then headed back north to start our 1st excursion of the day the valley of the Kings. A small tractor pulling a few carrages (known as the Taf taf) took us to the centre of the valley amongst the 65 tomb entrances. We bounght our tickets which allowed us entry to three tombs of choice, so we went into Ramses VII, Siptah, & Tuthmosis III (he was the chap that didnt like his predecessor Hatshepsut and destroyed all her temples and tomb!) The tomb of Tutankhamum you have to pay extra for though!

The Tuthmosis III tomb we saw last but is infact the oldest (1479-1429BC), it is located high on the cliff, but luckily they've put a long flight of stairs in place so you can get to it, so you enter through a little dip into a long corridor, past a trap pit / well before coming to the 1st decorated chamber and then down some more stairs, by this time you are absolutely roasted, finally arriving in the burial chamber with the sarcophagus. The rooms are simply decorated with "stick" style drawings but lengthy stories cover the walls along with many depications of all the offerings and clues as to what the environment was like at the time.

Next in time was Siptah (1194-1188BC), although we visited this one 2nd. There was a very long corridor leading directly to an antichamber, and then onto the large arched burial chamber. But he died before the tomb was fully decorated and thus only the entrance is decorated, the burial chamber itself is quite bland!

The most recent tomb we visited was that of Ramses VII (1136-1129BC). His tomb has a much shorter corridor and no antichamber. By this time Egyptologists think the tombs had guards to protect the offerings. The whole tomb is extensively decorated with a very stary roof and all the classic depications and stories along the walls. The enormous granite sarcophagus rests sunken in the middle of the burial chamber - quite spectacular.

Overall the site was overrun with hords of people, but we managed to find enough space to have a great experience. The site is still under investigation, and we saw diggings in progress whilst there. To date they have found 64 tombs, check out thebanmappingproject for more info...


Literally just over the valley spur, a short minibus ride round the corner, is the extensive site of the Temple of Hatshepsut, which has to be seen to be believed. Although largely renovated, you quickly get the feeling of scale and setting of the temple - infact there are 2...the temple of Montuhotep site to the south still largely remains a ruin though. Hatshepsut is constructed on 3 levels, directly into the mountainside under huge limestone cliffs; the back of the top level being the most reserved and sacred, found behind the open court and a row of statues. The temple faces directly to the Karnak temple and consists of 4 chapels, 1 for the birth of the pharaoh by Amon, 1 for the trade with Somalia (sending gold, receiving myrh), 1 for Hator and 1 for Anubis.


After a super expensive coke break, we nipped round the corner to the valley of the queens - must less well developed than the valley of the kings, but no less beautiful we were allowed into the tomb of Tyti and Amenhikhopeshef (with a rather macarb mummified foetus at the back)...they were just as beautiful and well docorated as the tombs of the valley of the kings ;-) we also saw the entrance to the tombs of the sons of Ramses II - he had 39 wifes and over 200 childdren!!!


The whole area is litered with sites and as we driving back we made a stop at the statues of Mennom - unfortunately theres not much left of the temple that was once here due to the earth quake in 27BC - but there are the 2 statues that would have once formed the entrance, huge sitting figures with Hatshepsut visible in the background - but it was once the funeral temple for Amenhotep III.

By this time we were ready for a lunch fit for kings, we dined in a roof terrace place with enough dishes for an army of stone cutters before heading back to the hotel for a lie down, watching the sun melt into the cliffs over the Nile.

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