Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Luxor, Sunday, August 12, 2012

By 6:30am my hubby and I were on the sundeck watching life at the side of the Nile unfold. People were already working in the fields before the day became too hot.

My chest felt a bit wheezy. I don’t know if I was reacting to dust in the air or not. My stomach also felt a bit heavy, there was definitely signs of a digestive disturbance in the force.

Graham felt off today. His nose was running as if competing for a gold medal. Poor guy.

We docked in Luxor after breakfast and we met Sayed in the lobby and drove to the West bank. We stopped at two twin, huge but slightly crumbled Pharoah Amenhotep III statues called the Colossi of Memnon.

We were immediately surrounded by adults and kids hocking souvenirs. You need to just ignore them, however they still continue to follow you.

Next we went to Queen Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple, Deir al-Bahri. From the parking lot and visitors centre, tourist trams take visitors up to the temple. While the trams are driving (at a pretty quick pace), kids often jump on and try to sell souvenirs.

Now the story of Queen Hatshepsut is a wild one…She was the legitimate royal child of a pharaoh, but the pharaoh also had a son by a commoner. When the pharaoh died, Hatshepsut married her step brother but didn’t give him a son. Her step brother/husband had a son by a commoner. When her husband died, his son was very young, so she made herself pharaoh and ruled the country for him. From that time on, she had statues and likenesses made of her looking like a man. When she died (from a cancerous tooth), her 28 year old step son took over. He was quite bitter about her keeping him from the throne so he had a lot of her liknesses feature’s chiselled off. The ancient Egyptians believed that if the likenesses of the dead person are erased, they cannot come back.

Hatshepsut had help staying in power from her influential architect/priest Senenmut. There is actually a secret picture of them having a romantic interlude together. Hmmmm.

The temple is amazingly beautiful. It is built straight out of the cliff and directly in line with the temple of Karnak, miles away on the East Bank.

The front is flanked by large statues of Hatshepsut in the manifestation of Osiris.

The boys were quite excited when one of the police guards with an automatic rifle came over and let them have a picture with him and touch the rifle. Of course a tip was expected after that.

Because it was very hot, after leaving the temple, Sayed and our driver took us to an air conditioned Alabaster factory and shop for some refreshments and a washroom break.
The alabaster guide for the factory explained how the pieces were made. Behind him the workers (all in a line) did their thing and in perfect unison reciting important points right on cue.

Next it was on to the Valley of the Kings. As we arrived into the parking lot, we were immediately surrounded by souvenir hawkers.

We went in to the visitor’s centre where there was a great model of the valley with all the known tombs shown. The model was very cool because not only the entrances from above ground were shown but the carved out tunnels underneath were represented.

People are not allowed to bring cameras into the Valley. In the past, people were allowed to bring their cameras but only take pictures outside because flashes inside would eventually ruin the gorgeous paintings. Of course, people didn’t listen so now no cameras are allowed.

Our ticket allowed us to see three tombs. If we wanted to see King Tut’s tomb (and one or two other pharaohs) there was an extra charge. We had read (and Sayed confirmed) that King Tut’s tomb was smaller and the big draw besides celebrity was that his mummy was there. Since we saw the mummy room at the Cairo museum, we decided not to go to Tut’s tomb).

We reached the tomb by tourist tram. As Sayed told us things about the valley and tomb in front of the first grave, I felt a twinge in my tummy.

Guides are not allowed into the tombs with their charges due to crowd control so we went in on our own.

I was amazed how bright the colours inside the tombs were after all these thousands of years. They were clear as everything. I am starting to recognize a lot of the Egyptian gods now. We returned to the surface.

As Sayed explained about the second tomb, my stomach complained more. Despite the pains I still thoroughly enjoyed the tomb paintings and did not feel the least bit of claustrophobia like I did in the pyramids.

By the time we got to our third tomb, I was crouching over with pains. Sayed looked concerned and cut his talk short but I was determined not to miss the last tomb. He pointed me to one tomb that had an easier climb down and Graham, whose nose was running full force, joined me. My husband and Cameron did the other tomb.

They said that when they entered that tomb, a guard offered them Egyptian air conditioning…a piece of cardboard that you swish in front of your face.

Despite excruciating pain, I still found the three headed snake that Sayed had told us about and recognized more gods.

When I came out of the tomb, I informed Sayed that I needed a bathroom pronto. He was fast to flag down a tram and my hubby and Cameron had to run to get onto it in time.

As soon as I jumped out of the tram, I was surrounded by kids trying to sell souvenirs. I think I scared them with my growls as I dashed to the restroom. As I ran past the washroom attendant, who was waiting for payment first, I heard Sayed explain something in Arabic.

Thank goodness, I made it in time because I was dressed all in white.

Afterwards, we made our way to the van, but shortly after we started driving the pains came back again…even worse. I told Sayed that I needed to stop for a washroom asap. He asked if we needed to stop in the desert or could I make it for five minutes.

We returned to the Alabaster factory and I ran past the performing workers and went straight to the facilities.

The situation remedied itself both rapidly and forcibly. I felt as good as new when I walked out almost as if nothing happened.

We went back to the boat for a rest and lunch before heading out to Karnak temple.

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