Luqman's Day 11 - Exploring East and West banks of Luxor from sunup to sundown
I thought that the heavily planned day at Luxor would move along like clockwork since everything has so far this week. However, I could not be more wrong. The small boat accident that Hannah mentioned stalled our movement via water. Thus, the start of our day was pushed back from eight to eleven. This worried me because we had so much on our plate, and because I had knew that these events would be some of the highlights of my whole trip. It is ironic that we were first to visit the West Bank, because it is where Ra perished every night (sunset). Thus, the kings and queens of ancient Kemet were buried there. Afterward, we would visit the East bank, where Ra was resurrected every morning, and where the very vital temples of Karnak and Luxor were built.
The Valley of the Kings is a beautiful mix of mountains and valleys out in the middle of nowhere. The spot was chosen because there was a naturally formed pyramid at one of the highest peaks, thus giving the Egyptians a sign from the gods that the place was spiritually significant. No one knows how many tombs are there for sure because they were supposed to be discrete so the Kings and Queens could rest peacefully until their afterlife. It also makes sense considering the amount of riches and common goods that were buried with the Kings and Queens to aid them on their journey. To date, 63 tombs have been found there, and excavations are going on presently because new discoveries occur every day. In fact, some sites are closed off to the public as Egyptologists are doing research there now. However, we were able to see the inside of three tombs. These belonged to Pharaohs Ramses III, Ramses IV, and Thutmosis (or Thutmes) III. It hurt me deeply that pictures were not allowed in the tombs because of the degrading factor of the flashes and out of mere respect. It is difficult at best and more accurately impossible to put the beauty of these tombs into words. In other words the experience was ineffable (new word I just learned, so vocabulary shout out to my homie). The colors were vivid and the scenes depicted were extraordinary. They were all surely fit for a king. Half the group ended up paying extra to see the tomb of King Tutankhamen. This tomb is obviously the most famous as it was discovered untouched. This was possible because debris from a nearby tomb covered the entrance and hid the tomb from grave robbers for centuries. It is worth noting that Tutankhamen was a minor and relatively insignificant king. He ruled as an adolescent and only for a few years. The size of the tombs was proportional to how long the king ruled (so how long they had to prepare the tomb), so considering the amount of valuables on display from Tut's tomb, one can only imagine what was buried with someone like Ramses II, who ruled for nearly 70 years. In fact, a man is still uncovering the tomb housing Ramses II sons. The number of rooms found is around 90 and counting. As our guide often said, Ramses was a "busy man."
After leaving the Valley, we stayed on the west side to view the Temple of Hatshepsut. She was the powerful female pharaoh who got the priests of Karnak to create the myth that she was the child of Amon, who was the king of the Egptian gods. This allowed her to take over after her husband Thutmosis II died, as their son was still a young boy. With the aid of the priests, Hatshepsut sent their son Thutmosis III away to military school and ambitiously and successfully ruled for about 20 years. Thutmosis earned his stripes as a warrior and returned to claim his throne, but his mother refused. The family feud was eventually settled upon her death, but Thutmosis III was pissed. Hatshepsut's temple is a marvel of architecture, wonderfully carved into the face of a mountain and richly decorated. However, Thutmosis went to work removing his mother's name and face from the temple, literally (this guy keyed her temple). I can't believe people say history is boring. If it happened recently, Lifetime network would probably run it nonstop for bout a month. Or since the guy goes off this time, maybe Spike tv would show it. Either way, we left the temple and crossed the river to the Temple of Karnak. It may be the biggest temple on earth, and there are all types of statistics that talk about how you could put all these European cathedrals inside and still have enough space to play whiffleball or something like that. The best thing about the temple is that Pharaohs continuously added to it for over 2000 years. Hatshepsut, Ramses II, Amenhotep III, and Taharka are a few of the big name leaders to chip in. In fact, the Persian invasion is what kept the temple from being completed, as manpower was diverted to an unsuccessful defense of the empire. This place is too big to fathom, and with the huge, beautiful pillars, walls, and statues, one can only dream of how nice it was before it was ravaged by age, time, and monumental earthquakes.
After a quick trip to a jewelry shop were all the ladies in the group got cartouched out, we went to Luxor. This is another trip highlight as we got to see the temple at night, and it was a sight to see. The lights added a whole new dimension to this wonderful temple, and even more statues of Ramses II and his gorgeous wife Nefertari proved that he was the most constructive and self-loving pharaoh of them all. Though we could have spent hours shooting pictures of the obelisks, rows of sphinxes, and lotus pillars, we had to go. We had a train to catch soon so we ran to the station where our train was waiting. We headed back to Cairo with absolutely no energy after a day literally filled to capacity. Though it made for an exhausting experience, I am sure that none of us would have traded any of it for the world. Now, I only have the structure that started it all (the Saqqara step pyramid) to look forward to. We will travel back in time again to the early dynasties tomorrow to see the man who all stone masons on earth owe their job to (Imhotep). I can only hope that I pick up some pointers in case I have to make my house out of stone one day to save money on these natural gas bills. I will let you know how it goes. But until that time, I say hotep (peace) to you all….