The valley of kings

Trip Start May 01, 2010
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26
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Trip End Jul 10, 2010


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Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Friday, June 11, 2010

Hi everyone

Well we boarded our overnight train from Cairo to Luxor and were worried we weren't going to be dropped off at the right station. Our driver which we had arranged through the hotel seemed to stop every five minutes asking various guards how to get to the train station. At one point he decided to reverse a few hundred metres into oncoming traffic at which I could only close my eyes hoping we would get there in one piece.

The overnight train was definitely the most uncomfortable we had experienced. The train didn’t go smoothly and we felt every bump on those train tracks. Our train ticket included dinner and breakfast which didn’t look too appetizing and when we felt the yoghurt was warm we decided to stick to packets of chips and bread rolls with cheese instead. Daniel of course chanced it with the Egyptian pastry dessert!

I hardly got any sleep on the train because of the noises and because a train staff member said he would be waking us at 4:30am for breakfast, one hour before we reached Luxor.  Everything in our cabin rattled and the sink door would randomly fly open and bang around.  Daniel eventually fixed most of it by ripping out pages from his book and stuffing them strategically around our cabin.  MacGyver would have been proud!

The wakeup call at 4:30 was like two slaps in the face and we both emerged from the train looking like train wrecks! We were really surprised to see a man holding up a sign just as we walked onto the platform stating “REEVE”.  The tour manager was there to greet us and take us to the tour guide which was a lifesaver! I was dreading having to hang around the  unsightly, dirty and smelly train station with many homeless looking people sleeping on chairs with flies buzzing around. 
The first thing we noticed about Luxor was that it is a lot cleaner than Cairo. No piles of rubbish everywhere, less traffic and as a result a lot less pollution.  We had been warned and noticed that it was certainly hotter here too.  Even at 6 in the morning, the temperature had reached above 30 degrees and by lunchtime it was around 45 degrees.  We stopped briefly at the Luxor temple for a few quick photos before meeting our actual tour guide.  There were plenty of hot air balloons in the air which seems to be a popular way of seeing the area.
Our tour guide Mohammed met us with the driver and we were driven across the Nile and out to the Valley of the Kings.  The Nile in this part of the country is a lot nicer with a lot less rubbish and farmland and trees on the banks rather than old tires and graffiti covered buildings.  I still wouldn’t trust it for a swim though!  With the sun starting to get hotter we were glad we had started so early and it also meant there were very few other tourists.  The Valley of the Kings is a large valley in the desert where so far 62 tombs of Pharaohs have been found, the most famous being King Tutankhamen which was found with its contents including jewels, the sarcophagus, clothes, furniture, weapons, pottery  intact (most of which we saw in the Egyptian museum in Cairo).  The tombs came after the time of the Pyramids when the Pharaohs realised that Pyramids were like a giant magnet for tomb robbers so they began to hide their tombs deep inside mountains in the valley. Unfortunately our guide confiscated our camera stating it was strictly forbidden to take any photos - darn it!

We saw the inside of three of the tombs which were open to the public and they were very impressive although very bare.  The climb deep down inside the tombs was a hot and humid one which just seemed to go on forever to reach the burial chamber. The tombs have been stripped of their contents first by grave robbers and then by archaeologists who have moved everything in to museums so there isn’t much to see other than the still vibrant coloured paintings and carvings into the wall.  The hieroglyphics on the inside walls are absolutely amazing and many of the paintings were the ancient Egyptian gods which were meant to symbolise afterlife, protection etc. There were also scenes from the Book of the Dead and a lot of carvings of half man half falcon, half man half jackal and a pharaoh usually smacked in between. Pharaohs always had a long black beard which we found out was actually false. Pharaohs never actually grew this beard and the beard is only added to sculptures, pictures, statutes and carvings to signify royalty.
Our tour guide also an Egyptologist told us that often Egyptians dig for months and find nothing. They don’t use sonar to detect tombs but instead dig away hoping for the best. He believes it’s the Egyptian government’s way of keeping people in employment. They still believe that at least 30% of tombs are yet to be discovered and we could see in the Valley of Kings that archaeological expeditions were still being carried out. Many archaeologists come from all over the world and are supported by the Egyptians in carrying out digs (most likely to ensure nothing is pilfered and sold in the black market). Our tour guide did express how frustrating it had been for the Egyptian government to have lost so many antiquities to foreign museums and private collectors.
By the time we had seen the tombs the sun was up in the sky and we were already feeling the baking heat so we were glad to get into the car again for the drive to the next site.  Still on the west bank of the Nile we drove to the impressive Temple of Queen Hatshepsut which was not far from the Valley of the Kings.  Queen Hatshepsut was a female Pharao of Egypt during the mid 15th century and the temple was dedicated to the sun god Amon-Ra.  The building itself is set beneath imposing cliffs and is one of the most impressive sites in Egypt.  There were paintings and hieroglyphics on the walls although in much poorer condition than those inside the tombs we had seen earlier.
On the way back we stopped at the Colossi of Memnon which is two huge stone statues of Pharaoh  Amenhotep III and are almost 3500 years old.  The statues were quarried near Cairo and brought overland 675km to their current location which must have taken a while because they weigh 700 tones each!  They are quite damaged but good for a photo anyway.
We were glad to be taken to our hotel which was an absolute steal being Hotel Sonesta a five star hotel costing only $70US. We were ragged when we arrived and just couldn’t wait to wash up and have a snooze. Our room unfortunately didn’t face the Nile River although for that price I don’t think we could have expected that. Instead we got a “city view” room which meant the constant sound of horse’s hooves and cars honking.
After a short sleep we decided to head to the pool and I was shocked at the number of loud mouthed English tattooed women here in their 50s who smoked like a chimney and who had managed to tan themselves to look about 10 shades darker than the locals. Seems the whole resort was filled with English tourists who were downing down drinks and sweating bucketloads. By this stage walking outside was like walking into a 200 degree oven. Without footwear the floors were burning hot and I wasn’t sure how long I could stand the insufferable heat. We tanned ourselves a little and jumped into the pool but decided that it was just crazy to swelter in the heat and bring on the headaches. So we decided to go to the gym and it was good because for the first time there were actually free weights and bars we could use other than the standard cardio equipment.
Daniel who went out for water came across a little convenience shop run by an English expat who loved her life in Luxor and was amazingly competitive with prices for groceries charging a 1/3 of what the other locals did. She spoke enthusiastically about where to eat and we took up her suggestion to have Indian. We noticed that there seemed to be a lot of restaurants and pubs catered for the English here spying an English pub, English tea house and of course the national English dish – Indian curry!
We ordered my favourite curry a lamb saag and a chicken tikka masala which weren’t too bad. The meal was very cheap and service was good. On the way back we wandered around and I tell you I cant help but hate all the stray cats that seem to be everywhere in Egypt. If Athens is the city for stray dogs then Egypt seems to have stray cats on every street. Cats spook me and being born in the year of the dog I am a huge dog person – although not big dogs. Anyway getting back to cats, they certainly aren’t scared of humans and you always seem them lurking around sticking their head into rubbish no doubt looking for scraps. The air was still very warm as we heading back and we kept being harassed for taxis and horse and carriage rides mostly from toothless scary looking men. First offer is always for 20 Egyptian pounds and as we walk further away the price comes down to a ridiculous 1 Egyptian pound!
The next day we woke up feeling bouts of curry belly and asked for late checkout. After feeling a little better we headed down by the pool for some lunch and cold drinks. We are heading to Dahab to stay at the Le Meridian which is a resort on the Red Sea on the South Sinai Peninsula. Our flight was delayed by more than a few hours and decided on a dinner of greasy burger king. While I read Daniel managed to catch the Australia and Germany world cup game which unfortunately he missed the last half of the massacre.
We ended up getting in just past midnight into Sharm-el-sheikh and thankfully a driver was there to pick us up. The drive took an 1 hour to get to the hotel on roads that were excellent and will lit. The drive was through the desert and in the darkness we could only see huge rock mountains towering ahead. On the way to the Le Meridian we were stopped three times by a group of policemen who wouldn’t let the car through without questioning us and viewing our passports. The police didn’t seem hostile just asked us where we were going, which hotel, for how long we were stating, what our ethnic heritage was, what were our jobs and what was our connection to each other. Not sure whether these questions were for security purposes or just for curiosity sake because it looked like an awfully boring job sitting there for all hours of the night.
As we arrived there was the again another obligatory security gate with security staff actually going through my handbag. After offering us a pinapple juice we were shown to our rooms. I could see that our bathtub was filled with lovely plant and flower decorations. Our room was huge and fresh fruit sat on a platter on the coffee table. We are here for 6 nights deciding after all this travelling that we would extend our stay here for an extra two nights. Already I can see Daniel excited about the Poseidon Dive Centre already.

Ly and Daniel
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Comments

Nicole Bergersen on

You guys must go diving in the Red Sea - it's fantastic!!

Mum on

Again great pictures, glad that you have decided to stay for those extra days, might be a good opportunity to have a massage or two!
Enjoy your stay, love mum xxxx

dax on

Loving your work! Such detailed journal entries, you'll have a great record to look back on! How much longer are you gone for?

danly
danly on

We are back in two weeks! Not long left now.

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