Valley of the Kings

image by watchsmart

For whatever reason, my internal clock had me waking up a good hour before the alarm, every day of our trip.  I pulled on my pool coverup so as not to scandalize anyone and sat out on the patio to write.  The weather was bizarre - while the previous day had been all clear blue skies, this morning looked like the end of the world.  The day before, the Theban hills had been clearly visible from our hotel.  Today, I could barely see the reeds on our side of the Nile.  It was windy and when I finally got a glimpse of the sun, it was a blank white lunar-like ball.  I realized that even if the awful hot air balloon accident had never happened, we would still wouldn't have been able to fly that morning anyway.

Apocalypse Now?

After breakfast, Lis and I met Walid and Hazel in the lobby and we set off for the "dead side" of the river.  The Valley of the Kings was still fairly empty when we arrived.  After a brief introduction, we left our cameras in the car (they're no longer allowed in the valley, much less the tombs) and headed up the road on one of the little golf-cart trains.  The first tombs we visited (Walid picked for us - at first I was a little disappointed by this, but he obviously knows his stuff) was Ramses IV.  The paintings inside were amazing - the famous Nut ceiling included - and the tomb was wider and more spacious than I'd expected.  The enormous outer sarcophagus sat at the end of the chamber, making the whole thing look pretty grand. 

Our second tomb (Merenptah's) was deeper and steeper.  I took my time walking down, spotting Set and Sobek on the way.  Merenptah's burial chamber was wider, but blocked off "for restoration".  You could still walk around the edges and look at his stone coffin.  On the way back up, we stopped in one of the beautifully decorated side rooms, and totally stiffed the guy for baksheesh, having zero small change on us. 

image by Manuel ROMARIS

After Merenptah's tomb, we walked a few steps to the tomb of Tutankhamun.  We'd been told not to bother.  Yes, it's tiny, but it was so worth it.  I found the paintings interesting (and beautifully preserved) and it was a thrill to walk down the steps Howard Carter had discovered - or at least on the metal risers that have since been built over them. Also, as Hazel said, Tutankhamun is the only pharaoh (that we know of) still resting where he belongs.

image by Richard

For our last tomb, we visited Ramses III.  The main shaft turned sharply right to avoid an older tomb, then dead-ended in a series of gloomy grey chambers strewn with rubble.  I actually really liked this - it reminds me there's still work to be done.  It would be nice to be allowed to bring cameras in, but overall, I was awed by the Valley of the Kings, as much as seven-year-old-me could have hoped. 

image by Richard


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