The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hanging out with dead people

The following takes place on Day 192, June 7, 2011

Luckily, for the five of us, we didn’t have to get up so bloody early on this last official day of our tour of southern Egypt. And when I mean not so early, I mean 7am. We had breakfast in the hotel which came with the room(omelette’s made to order, OJ, sausage, potatoes, etc.) and crawled into the van. Today’s journey would take us to the West bank of the Nile and into the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.

IMG_7805The Valley of the Kings was created after the mistake the Ancient Egyptians made regarding the pyramids. That is, they’re easy to spot. Grave robbers would have no trouble finding a way in to steal all the gold and other items left behind for the deceased. And so, starting in the 18th Dynasty, the Pharaohs of Egypt began to build underground tombs in the valley near Luxor, hidden from prying eyes. Once covered, they were lost to the ages, protected from the greed of ancient grave robbers.

IMG_7837Until, of course, archaeologists showed up and began to find them. Now the tombs have been raided and emptied of their treasures to be housed in museums, and tombs opened for the public to view. The tombs, hidden away from sunlight, still retain the original paint and colour that the workers placed on the walls.This made these tombs even more spectacular than the ones in Giza.

For us, our first stop was in the Valley of the Kings where, among others, King Tutankhamen's infamous tomb was found. It was the last tomb found of the 60+ in the valley. And being such a popular site, you have to pay extra to visit that one. With your entrance to the valley, you get three tombs included. The sad thing though, besides not being able to take pictures inside the tombs(an effort to preserve the paint), you are no longer allowed to take pictures in the valley at all once you pass by the parking lot.

I’m not sure on the logic of that one, but oh well.

It’s hard to really describe the tombs. Once you see the striking colours, the reds, blues, greens, yellows, among others – you immediately begin picturing all the other temples and pyramids with these colours. Having been exposed to sun and sand for centuries, those places have lost their colouring, but these tombs haven’t. The carvings on the wall seem to have an almost comic appearance with the striking, yet simple, colour scheme.

The same could be said for the Valley of the Queen’s, which we visited next. This was the valley that the wives of the pharaohs, as well as the children, were buried. Most of the tombs were not as ornate as the Kings, but some were definitely contenders. All were built deep into the earth and the side of the mountains, but were no where near cooler than the heat outside. Apparently when you’re dead you don’t need air flow. Who knew?

IMG_7817Finally, after visiting the two valley’s, we got to a place where we could take photos. Hatshepsut's Temple. You all recall how I mentioned this first Queen Pharaoh of Egypt and how her son/step-son hated her. Here’s the story. Hatshepsut's husband cheated on her with a commoner who bore his son. Husband died while the son was still too young to rule. The mother was a commoner so they didn’t even consider her to rule in the kid’s place. But in order to get the people to accept taking orders from a women, the chief priests of Egypt devised a story of Hatshepsut being the daughter of Amun-Ra, therefore having the blood of a god running through her veins.

When the kid was eight years old, she sent him off to “military school.” Apparently this was the last straw. He grew to be a great soldier and general and, when he was 21, came back to take over from his step-mom, who conveniently disappeared soon after he arrived. Curious. He then proceeded to try to erase all images of his mother. He mostly succeeded except for this one area. Where he couldn’t destroy, because there were images of gods there, he pulled a Ramses II and put his name on her statues.

Talk about mommy issues.

This pretty much concluded the day for us. We said our goodbyes to Vitally and Ying who had earlier trains than the rest of us and spent the night just relaxing. For the first time in almost a week, we didn’t have a wake up time. For that, I was the happiest man alive.

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