Luxor, known in earlier times as Thebes, is across the river from the famous burial sites of Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. But this will have to wait until the next day…
The afternoon that we arrived in Luxor, we had a local guide take us to Karnak Temple, regarded as one of the best and most impressive Pharaonic monuments after the Pyramids at Giza. More hieroglyphs, more statues, 2 obelisks, and more structures higher than you can fathom since they’re 5000years old, but perhaps the highlight was running around the scarab. The scarab is the beetle-like creature that the Ancient Egyptians believed brought good luck and so is frequently depicted in carvings and paintings. At the Karnak Temple, there is a pedestal-mounted scarab which the guide told us to run around: once for health, 3times for money, 5times from marriage, and 7times for kids. Guess how many times I ran around…Well, I wanted to achieve more than just one of those but I faced the dilemma of how to determine which I was running for, so in the end I just ran 3times: money. According to Andrew, money can buy all the rest. Well I don’t know if I want to buy a marriage…
The following day it was off to the west bank, not the Israel-Palestine one, but the west bank of the Nile where the Valley of the Kings is located. We took a boat across the river and stopped at the the Colossi at Memnon, two very large and very broken ancient statues, before getting on donkeys. Yes, that’s right, donkeys. Everything from conventional forms of transportation (cars and trains) to traditional forms of transportation (felucca) to animals forms (camels and now donkeys) have been used on this trip. After about an hour on the donkey climbing up the mountainside we walked the rest of the way down into the Valley of the Kings. The Valley was used as the burial place for Pharaohs after the Ancient Egyptians realized that the Pyramids were not very secure and actually were very likely to be robbed within even a few years of completion. Since the new tombs were built into a mountainside, access was more difficult with the entrance at times being completely hidden, hence why King Tut’s tomb was still intact when it was discovered in the early 20th Century.
At the Valley of the Kings we went into the burial tombs of Ramses I, III, and IV where we saw every square inch of walls and ceilings covered in paintings & hieroglyphs. Particularly notable was the difference in styles and decorations between the tombs, some with stories expressed primarily in pictures and others with stories told in hieroglyphs.
After Valley of the Kings we went to Habu Temple which still had colorful paintings on the columns and ceilings depicting pharaohs and gods. After seeing these creations of the Ancient Egyptians in honor of their Pharaoh Kings and deities, I’ve decided they had too much time on their hands… but I’ve also decided the massive scale of the monument building is far more impressive (especially considering this was 3000-5000years ago) than their paintings. The paintings while fun to look at and speculate at their meanings are actually very 1-dimensional and very flat, much like a child would draw.
When I was younger, I used to be very interested in Ancient Egypt and knew many of the gods’ names and functions and the symbolic meaning of a few hieroglyphs. While much of that has since faded from my memory, some random bits of knowledge did come back when seeing these monuments. Its truly amazing to be here seeing these colossal monuments which are among the oldest and most famous in history and especially the sole surviving Wonder of the Ancient World.
For lunch we went to our local guide’s house, the second time we’d been invited into the local’s house and again it was a special treat. We sat on the floor around a low table to eat probably the best and most varied meal of the entire trip so far. (Egyptian food has gotten quite repetitive with rather dry and flavorless meat, bread, and rice.) After lunch our guide wrote our names in both Arabic and hieroglyphs, which was good fun as we got to laugh at each other names and see how much (or little) they reflected the person. Following that we learned a little more about life in ancient Egypt as we went to a papyrus studio to see the process of making paper out of papyrus.
That night we took the overnight train back to Cairo and after one last day in Cairo we went out to the Sinai peninsula.Â Pictures from Egypt