TRIP TO EGYPT 4 - VALLEY OF THE TOMBS
I slept very badly that night. Win came in very late, and Fran came knocking on our door even later to tell her about the man who she had been left with. As I needed to get up early for our trip to the Valley of the Kings, I asked for an early alarm call. When the phone rang for my alarm, Win, who had got no sleep at all, was not best pleased. I tried to be quiet, but neither of us felt very chirpy that morning.
There were 10 of us from our hotel who had signed up for the tour. We were taken by bus to the town, and then got on a platform which I thought was going to take us across the Nile - but in fact there was a big boat which pulled up next to the platform and we moved onto the big ferry boat.
The crossing was only about 15 minutes, and then we got in another bus.
We had a guide who told us the bus driver was called Michael Jackson, and her name meant
Paradise in English so we were to call her that. She had a university degree in egyptology and several years research experience. We travelled away up the river onto the hills which are part of the
mountain and desert which makes up the rest of the area on Egypt and into the next country. Paradise told us that the East Bank of the Nile where we lived and the temples were, was called the Acropolis - the land of the living. This area on the West Bank was called the Necropolis - the land of the Dead.
In the hills we saw the burial places we were destined to visit. These Pharaohs dated from the Middle Kingdom and into the New Kingdom, while the oldest ones had had pyramids rather than tombs, and they had lived in Cairo. This area didn't have the appropriate stones for building pyramids, so they used the material available, namely the limestone hills - and excavated their elaborate tombs into them. I think there were 62 tombs of kings that had been discovered - the last one being the most famous and only one that was found intact - that of Tut Aink Hamon. We were to go into three tombs - with our tickets. but if we wanted to into his as well, we had to pay an extra £E10 - which most of us did.
The first tomb was very long and marrow (perhaps 15 feet wide) and in fact the size depended
on the length of the reign of the ruler, as they started building his tomb as soon as he took over, and only finished when he was dead. This one was the prescribed 12 rooms deep - one for each phase of the journey of the soul into afterlife.
The hieroglyphics were very easy to see and understand. The colours looked as bright as they
probably had when they were painted 30- 40,000 years ago. Some if the walls had been renovated, but for the most part, the structure itself was intact. None of the gifts that had been placed for the
King's journey into the afterlife had remained as each new ruler brought a new bunch of grave robbers.
We were given a basic lesson in hieroglyphics and found we could spell out simple words and find the names of the pharaoh or god mentioned over and over.
Before we went to the second tomb, we made a toilet stop This was quite an awful experience. There were men ushering the women in and then going in to clean up afterwards - the toilets didn't flush and the smell was unbelievable and the men wanted paying for what they did - which only
made things worse really. I had been feeling queezy before this but felt considerably worse afterwards, and when I began having severe stomach cramps, I wondered if I would survive the trip without some sort of accident.
The second tomb was smaller and less impressive than the first.
Then we went into the special new one, and that was almost tiny. Tutankamhon died so young
there were only two rooms, and only the inner one was decorated at all, but we did see his sarcophagus and the model made of his body which was on top of the tomb. His body and all the bits found in the tomb are now in the museum in Cairo.
The last tomb was in fact the most spectacular having not only lots of rooms, but heavy cavities in some of them with rooms off rooms.
Then we got back on the bus and went to the Valley of the Queens on the other side of the
Here we save the very modern looking temple of of Hotchepsut (which our guide old us
remember by thinking of hot chicken soup). Apparently her architect had been in love with her. She was the only woman who was honoured as a king would be - the rest were only consorts and although they had tombs, they were not nearly as fancy or important. but she was a king-equivalent and thought to have been the product of her mother and a god. She married her half brother - who would have inherited except hat his mother was a concubine - and she ruled quite well and peacefully it seems for some 14 years, but in the end, the enemies scratched the pictures of her off the walls of her tomb and temple.
Then we went to a ruined temple with some huge stones, and then went to see more huge statues to Memnon which I had thought meant Agamemnon and in fact he did come from the Greek occupation time.
Then we stopped at a factory which made alabaster items such bowls or goblets. As the bus
drove up the six or so men picked up their tools to demonstrate to us how the rock was cut and how a hole was bored into it and then how it was chiseled and polished into the final product.
I had a cup of tea (stupid woman considering how awful I was feeling) which they provided for us - and some people made purchases, but most of us did not. Our guide gave us each a small stone Scarab - a sort of beetle - as a sign of good fortune. Some of the people on the bus refused
them, so I took three.
I felt bad because there were little girls begging for us to buy items as we got back in the bus. One little girl in particular singled me out and kept on looking at me with her big brown eyes and appealing to me to spend the £E5 or whatever on her dirty homemade camel. I had given a similar anount to a little boy who had been pestering me - and he only gave me a few bits of rock - so he should have been pleased, but all the constant begging both upset me and annoyed me. You couldn't give to everybody - and we didn't want what was being offered. We felt bad when we saw two of the little boys throwing stones at a donkey which was tethered so found it difficult to avoid getting
hurt. There were no adults around to supervise these children, who were more or less left to do what they liked. They were barefoot and rather dirty looking and their village looked very poor with no glass in the windows and many of the houses with no roofs. Sometimes they appeared to have animal houses on the roof.
So eventually we got back on the bus and left, went back by ferry and then bus and got back to our hotel about 2. I was quite exhausted but not hungry, and I spent the rest of the day reading, and playing bridge.
That evening after a very good meal, but missing out salad, and only water, we had more bridge. I was very tired and really felt ill, and was not at all looking forward to the balloon ride scheduled for 4 a.m. the next morning. We had paid £130 each for the privilege and when some of our opponents at bridge said how disappointed they were that they hadn't been able to get on the trip, we sold the our tickets, right then and there so they couldn't change their minds.