Luxor - the West Side story

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Next day the weather really laid it on over Luxor and the Nile River valley. Blue skies and light winds prevailed so Mystery and I decided to detour the transport touts, hire some rental bikes and get about the West Bank by pedal power. Fortunately the area is pretty flat so this is a good option provided you avoid the large buses charging about.

We hired these on the East Bank and took the 1EP ferry across the river, so no-one pestered us and we were able to enjoy the view. From there it's about 3km and past the Colossi of Memnon (which was covered with scaffolding and looking pretty weatherbeaten) before you get to the ticket office and make your bulk ticket purchases.

The Funerary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut was first on the list - a stunning terraced structure that merges with the cliffs of the Theban mountains behind. It's one of the biggest drawcards in Egypt and so tourists were crawling all over it, but fair enough as it's pretty impressive and the weather was up for it. In spite of the crowds it was still possible to get some great shots and look closely at some of the more unusual features of the temple.

Many of the painted carvings have succumbed to desecration by Hapshetsut's step-son successor Tuthmosis, as well as the eons gone by since then, but a nice collection of large statues remain on the terraces and also in the right and left wings - the Chapel of Anubis and Shrine of Hathor respectively. The internal courtyard didn't contain much, but it was interesting to see some Polish workers helping to restore some of the wall carvings within.

We checked it out from most angles but as no rooms are accessible it's a pretty quick visit in the end. Back in the saddle we went.

After getting lost we eventually found the Temple of Seti - an interesting site rarely visited as it's a little out of the way and not as flashy as some of the neighbouring attractions. Still, it was built by Seti, father of Ramses the Great (II) and son of the original Ramses so it has a pretty good pedigree. The east and west facing sphinxes in one of the internal rooms was a highlight here.

The bikes were becoming a struggle but we headed back past the ticket office for a great Egyptian lunch at Mohammed's, and then on to Medinat Habu - the Funerary Temple of Ramses III. And we're very glad we did as it was the highlight of the day and probably contains the best carving and remnant paintwork that we've seen in Egypt to date. Built in the pylon style that we've seen at Edfu and Luxor temple (the big things flanking the door - see above left), this is the largest temple after Karnak and suitably massive for a Ramses indeed.

The carved reliefs are very deep on most walls which helps explain the remarkable colours and detail still evident throughout the site. There is also a very interesting scene on the inside of the second pylon, whose floating, entwining figures look very much like they are participating in an orgy. Haven't seen anything remotely like it elsewhere in the country so maybe a Roman decided to redecorate during his tenure here more than a thousand years later.

Basically it has everything - a great mountain-backed position, massive columns, painted walls and ceilings, carvings of gods, baboons and furerary boats. It's even the closest temple to the ticket office and it was certainly built to last, so make sure you check it out if coming to Luxor.

The Valley of the Queens was to be our last stop. Pedalling against the wind was a killer but we struggled up the hill to check out Nefertari and her mates. Only five of the seventy tombs discovered here already are generally open to the public, although like the Valley of the Kings there are plenty of entrances pocking the landscape. Not surprisingly, Nefertari's tomb was closed, although it costs more than $US20 to enter so I would have thought twice about it anyway...

Again we descended into the underworld and were pleasantly surprised with the quality of most of the decorations. I won't bother with the names of the queens - they're unpronouncable and pretty forgettable anyway but needless to say many females offering items or their hands to gods to lead them through the underworld featured regularly.

Works here seem better preserved and more extensive than many found in the Valley of the Kings so it is well worth the kilometre or two round trip over here.

The ticket collectors expecting baksheesh for doing their job is still a pain in the backside but it seems a bit more relaxed here. Still I did actually get caught taking a photo or two in the last tomb we visited and because the collector gave us some grief (basically because we didn't pay him) I'll post all the photos I got from his tomb up here for the world to see.

So that ends our archeological phase here in Egypt. However there's plenty more to do and see here including the Western Oases, the Mediterranean Coast and a proper look at the Sinai before heading to Jordan, so stay tuned and hopefully we'll see and do some interesting things.

Technotrekker Travel Technologies - Graphics Software

It may be about 10 years old, but Paint Shop Pro v4.12 by Jasc, Inc. is all I need to churn through the 2,000 or so photos I take each month. Maybe 200 of these make it on to my blog so I need to view, rotate, resize and add borders fast!

There are newer versions but like other graphics packages (Adobe's in particular), they are too feature rich and complicated for the dumb or uninterested like me. PSP 4 works and it doesn't hog memory so if you're looking for something simple but effective, google psp412.exe and pick up a no-time-limit copy for free. It's still available out there somewhere...

And seeing as though I've used it for most of the time it's been available, I should probably actually pay for a licence. But then they'll upgrade me to the new version - nooooo!
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