Youseff drops me at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, where I’m distressed to learn you have to leave your camera behind! I understand not being able to take pictures inside the tombs, but you can’t take them of the valley either. Bummer.
The valley lies between towering mountains. It looks like a movie set. There are dozens of tombs open to the public, and hundreds more that are not and are still in the process of being excavated. They say that even today, they are still discovering things... and one of the most interesting sights is a group of turbaned men removed shards of rock and who knows what else by hand and basket… the same way they probably did it thousands of years ago.
Everyone has a different idea of what the best tombs are, so I just take my guide book's suggestion. I pass several tomb entrances that are clogged with tourists, even at 7am. My first tomb of choice isn’t as crowded, but it is at the top of about 20 stairs. This is an unwelcome sight, as the front of my thighs and calves are still burning from the pyramids. At the entrance, I’m faced with another decent of at least 30 feet, if not more. There are people going down, people coming up, all on the same narrow staircase and steep ramp. This is not for the faint of heart! The crowds add to the heat. And while I thought it would be cooler under the ground… like it is in a cave… it’s quite the opposite. It’s sweltering inside.
Still, it’s amazing.
The tombs were long ago been ransacked by thieves, but the brilliantly painted walls remain, having never been touched up. For a moment, I miss the knowledge of a guide to point out little details of what’s written on the wall. But I realize it’s too hot to stand down there listening to any explanations.
The next 2 tombs I want to look at are closed. Hmmm. My ticket allows for 3 tombs. How to decide? Sadly, I make my choice not on what each tomb has, but whether or not I have to climb down into a hole again. Still, I’m not disappointed. It’s amazing how the dry heat has preserved all of the artwork.
The King Tut tomb is $20 extra. It’s way too expensive, but I do it anyway because when am I coming back to Luxor? His real body is down there. It’s not as well preserved as the mummies I saw at the museum in Cairo. But there’s something cool about seeing him where he was found. Floor to ceiling paintings cover the tomb.
When I climb out of the last tomb the air outside actually feels cooler. But not for long. I figure it must be close to noon, it’s so hot. When I look at the clock and see it’s only 8:45am, I burst out laughing.
Youseff cranks the AC for me as we drive to our next stop: Deir al-Bahri and Hatshepsut’s temple (otherwise called Hot Chicken Soup. I guess because that’s kind of how it’s pronounced AND it’s hot as soup outside.)
This is one of the best preserved temples in all of Egypt. While Karnak is half falling apart, this one is almost in perfect condition. It’s carved out of mountainside, columns pushing their way out of the rock, three stories high. Statues 20 feet high guard the entrance and colonnades flack both sides, filled with paintings covering the walls and ceiling.
Poor Youseff. When I get back to the car he wants to take me to another temple. But I’m spent. So I go back to the hotel for a swim and a nap. Phew.
Those that know me know that I love a good afternoon tea. Which is how I find myself at the grand Winter Palace... a sprawling hotel built by the English in the last 1800s. For 75 Egyptian Pounds (about 16 US dollars) I get lots of tea and delicious sandwiches with the crust cut off. (Why do sandwiches with the crust cut off seem to taste better?) The desserts are so-so, but I’m really paying for the quite and comfort than anything else.
On the way back to my hotel I pop into some shops. Once guy comes in to tell me he’s not going to hassle me and let me shop in quiet… and then proceeds to ramble for the next 20 minutes. At least it’s normal conversation: politics, the economy, different countries… and not a inquiry into whether I want an Egyptian husband. Too bad, because he’s very handsome! (just kidding Dad J )