Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Luxor. Colossi at Memnon and the Valley of the Kings

Day 7. Our second morning in Luxor began with a walk down the corniche, heading towards the boat dock. There, we would meet with up Ahmed who would be our local guide for the day.

It was another glorious day - I'm liking the desert in winter :-)


Kirsten and Laura had gotten up at the crack of dawn to go hot air ballooning. We would meet up with them at the Colossi of Memnon.

Despite a lot of hacking and coughing as the flu and cold had pretty much hit everyone in the group, we were all in good spirits - even Daniel.



We boarded a ferry to across the Nile. Once we reached the other side, everyone except for me piled into the backend of a truck. I got to ride up front. Our first destination was the Colossi of Memnon which was just a short ride away.

The Colossi of Memnon are a gigantic pair of enthroned statues that originally fronted the mortuary temple of Amenophis III, which was plundered by pharoahs until nothing remained but the colossi.




In the sky above the colossi are hot air balloons which float over the nearby Valley of the Kings.




A few minutes after we arrived on the grounds of the Colossi of Memnon, Kirsten and Laura appeared - they had a fantastic on their hot air balloon ride.

We then took a short walk down the road to meet up with the donkeys that would take the group up to the top of one of the mountains that surround the Valley of the Kings. From there, they would hike down to the Valley itself. The donkeys are so darn cute - seeing them brought smiles to everyone's faces....and elicited a lot of "aww's".



  Even Lei was enjoying the moment.

I opted out of the ride as I was concerned that I would not be able to control a donkey with just one good arm. Ahmed and I watched the group ride off and then we got back into the truck with Saeed.

Check out Lei's posting for a description of the donkey ride up to the top of the mountain.



Here's Saeed, graciously posing for a photo with his truck.


According to Ahmed, it would take the group about an hour to ride up to the top of the mountain and to then hike down to the Valley of the Kings. We obviously had some time to kill so we drove to Ahmed's cousin's alabaster factory which was just a short distance down the road. Alabaster is readily availble in the nearby mountains and there are numerous factories producing products for (primarily) the tourist market.



Hisam, Ahmed's cousin was so courteous - not only gave me a tour of the factory but also offered drink and food. We then had a wonderful time chatting about life in Egpyt - in particular, how women are viewed in the Muslim culture.

Ahmed is on the left, Hisam on the right and Hisam's son between the two.


Ahmed and I were soon back in Saeed's truck, heading down the road to the Valley of the Kings.

The surrounding landscape was desert mountain - a very stark contrast to the bright blue sky. In fact, the sky is so blue, so devoid of clouds, and so smog/haze free, that it in itself is something to admire. Time after time, I found myself looking up at the sky and marvelling at the sight.





Ahmed, Saeed and I arrived at the entry gates to the Valley of the Kings.



Only authorized vehicles (and we were not one of them) are allowed inside the gates so Ahmed and I left Saeed behind and walked up to the ticket booth. Ahmed bought tickets for everyone in the group.



We then took a tram to the start of the tomb sites and waited for the group to descend from a surrounding the mountain.

Valley of the Kings is the complex on the right side of the photo.


Once everyone in the group had arrived, Ahmed gave us a brief description and history of the Valley. To date, 62 tombs have been uncovered - the last being that of Tutankhamun which was excavated by Howard Carter in 1922. Archeologists believe that there are still tombs to be unearthed so excavation efforts continue this day.



We visited three tombs - KV 34 (34th tomb excavated) belonging to Tuthmosis III; KV 14 belonging to Tawsert/Sethnakht and KV 9 belonging to Ramses VI.

Photography was not permitted inside any of the tombs so check out these websites for photos of the interior of the tombs and more detailed information about each one.
For information about the tombs that have been excavated to date as well as on going excavation efforts, check out the Theban Mapping Project.

After visiting the tomb of Ramses VI, we headed back for the tram.....



....and retraced our route back to where Saeed was waiting for us with his truck.

There was more of the day to come.

Check out Lei's posting on our second day in Luxor.