Another Day, Another Masterpiece(s): The West Bank

Trip Start Mar 10, 2012
Trip End Mar 25, 2012

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Valley of Kings, Queens and Nobles

Flag of Egypt  ,
Sunday, March 18, 2012

Yesterday, we soaked in the power of Abu Simbel.  Today was our first day visiting Luxor ("Thebes" as the Greeks called it, "Waset" as the Egyptians knew it).  The appetizers just keep coming!

We were staying at Mara House, a small hotel I'd discovered on TripAdvisor.  Taxis are dirt cheap which is good because getting there on foot from the train station would take a walk, and in a strange country where it's easy to get disorientated, not advisable.  We arrived by car directly from Aswan and were greeted by Amr who, as is usually the case, was the person who made the hotel good.  Whatever you wanted, Amr got it.  He was a jewel of a nice fellow and employee.  (Mara herself was at her other property in Cairo; we'd meet her later.)

The hotel included 3 tours with our stay:  The West Bank full day tour, Abydos/Dendara full day tour, and Luxor/Karnak which was a 3-hour tour being compact and nearby.  Today, we headed west for the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut's Temple (although a woman, her actual tomb is in the Valley of the Kings), the workers' village who built the tombs, and a Mortuary Temple of Ramses III.

There are no cameras permitted in the Valley of the Kings so I have no photos.  It is strictly enforced (cameras stay in the buses).  Admission gets you entrance into 3 tombs so we chose ones with different architecture but related: Ramses I, III and IV.  We paid a bit extra to see two others: Ramses VI (very nice carvings & colours) and King Tutankhamen, of course -- his mummy is in the tomb.  There we so few tourists, we were in King Tut's tomb by ourselves for about 15 minutes.....normally there is a lineup outside to just enter.  Good for us but a disaster for the people who depend on tourism.

After this, we drove a short distance to nearby Hatshepsut's Mortuary temple.  What a spectacular work of architecture (her lover was her architect).  It was modeled on a more ancient temple beside it which has long gone now.  Hatshepsut was the first great historical female ruler (1479-1457 BC) -- the predecessor of women like Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth I, etc.  She was the daughter of Thutmose I....married her brother Thutmose II who died before too long....and took the throne for herself instead of transferring power to Thutmose III.  When he did take the throne, he made a campaign to deface, no erase, the record of Hatshepsut's rule which is why there is so much chiseling of all her images on the walls of the Mortuary temple and no mention on "King Lists" appearing later in future tombs.  (He became one of the greatest Pharaohs, some say THE greatest, the "Warrior King".)

Hatshepsut is famous for her obelisks that stand in Karnak, and also for an expedition into the southern land of "Punt" which was at the horn of Africa.  The expedition was with trading in mind, looking for fragrances, frankincense, myrrh, etc.  Instead, the ships returned with ivory, gold, exotic plants and animals.  A famous carving in the temple shows the Queen of Punt, unique because she shown honestly -- very obese.

    Who built the tombs in the Valley of the Kings & Queens?  In 1815, foundations of a city of workers was discovered nearby.  Today, it's known as Deir El Medina.  We visited it and also another Mortuary temple of Ramses III.  

    Arriving home, we looked forward to a 15-course feast -- a house specialty of Egyptian dishes at Mara House.  First, we went to the rooftop garden to sip a glass of cold hibiscus tea and have an impromptu dance (to the entertainment of the workers across the street in a 5-storey new building who thought we were possessed!) but how can you sit still to the tunes of the Queen of Rock & Roll, Darlene Love?  It just seemed appropriate today...

We walked with the Giants.
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