Luxor Cadillacs and Ferarris
Our group rose early for a tour of the Valley of the Kings. It was already hot that morning, and especially warm as there was no shade and the sun reflected off the light colored rocks. In the welcome center I saw a young couple on the floor talking to a doctor. The girl had collapsed and was laying on the ground, her head on her boyfriend's lap. Apparently the heat had gotten to her, badly.
Our guide was very enthusiastic about the history of his country and leading us around. He had a very high pitched voice and blue eyes (the first blue eyes I'd seen on an Egyptian, and the only!). He chose three tombs to show us. The first was of Tuthmosis 3, and the tomb was created in an older style. We had to climb up a large, steep set of stairs to get to the entrance. Inside, the walls were painted with hieroglyphics and white stars on a blue background. After the first tunnel there was a large drop, but we walked over a bridge to get to the next room. More painted hierglyphics decorated this room. We had to go down another set of stairs to find where his body had been. Small rooms were carved off this main room, where most of his treasures had been buried.
Our guide had chosen the three tombs with a purpose of showing us the different styles that emerged in the different dynasties. The first tomb was more like I had imagined... complicated, with tunnels that turned, dipped, and had confusing directions. The next tomb we saw was of Seti 2. This tomb was from the 19th dynasty, and was unfinished. Seti died before builders and sculptors could adequately decorate and adorn his tomb. The tunnel was straight, without an elevated entrance or curving tunnels, and a short corridor led straight to his grave. The walls in the beginning of the tomb had light outlines of the hierglyphics. A bit further on some had been painted, and a few after that had finally been carved. The tomb was not as colorful as the first, and I thought it was rather boring as the tunnel was a straight shot to where his body (and treasure) had been laid.
The last tomb was from the 20th dynasty, and was by far the most ornate. Carved hieroglyphics decorated each wall from floor to ceiling, and paint that had been used in 1147 when Ramses 4 died was still easily visible. Shades of deep blue and red were everywhere. It was very beautiful. The tunnel leading to where his sarcophogus still sat was also straight, without any real tricks for graverobbers to overcome. I was very impressed with this tomb, but still a bit confused. I had pictured these tombs as having winding tunnels, fake entrances and internal tunnels, booby trapped exits and other puzzles to keep out grave robbers. I understand that the tunnels were sealed off, but it must have been incredibly easy for robbers to enter the tombs and steal the gold once they found the entrance of the tomb. They would have known that it was a straight shot in from the entrance. Apparently my imagination was more elaborate than the real thing.
We stopped next at the temple of Hatsheput, the most famous of all of Egypt's (few) female pharaohs. She was depicted in sculptures as wearing the straight beard the men had worn, knowing that Egyptians would respect her more if she acted more like a man. She ruled for many years until her nephew came of age and killed her.
The temple is also famous for the massacre in 1997. Extremists wishing for a more right-winged Islamic state tried to scare away tourists from Egypt, believing they were bad for the country. They hi
d in the rocks above the temple and shot visitors. 60 people, I believe, were killed in the end. Because of this incident and a few roadside bombings of tour busses, all tourists must travel by convoy in Southern Egypt.
Back at the hotel we had free time until a small coach would come to take our group of 10 to Hurghada. I wanted to take a carriage ride. Carriages with bright colored horses littered the streets of Luxor, more prevalent than cars. Some of the horses seemed healthy; many had ribs and hip bones poking at their skin. We had been advised to choose a carriage based on the health of the horse. We found one that had a shiny coat and no ribs showing, and agreed to pay 5 Egyptian pounds for a ride around town. Charlotte from England joined us. We should have known we wouldn't just get a ride...the carriages took us to different shops, trying to get us to buy things. The carriage drivers would get commission off the things we bought. Our first stop was a papyrus store. The papyrus was very cheap, and the owner gave us a 50% discount. I had wanted to get a few small pieces anyway, and bought two. Charlotte bought one. Ian stood back, looking bored. When we got back into the carriage, we asked the driver to not stop at any more stores and to just take us around the city. He let me take a turn "driving", which was fun. He explained that his horse was pregnant and was due in 4 months. He grinned as he told me and looked proud. She seemed to be happy and fed, so hopefully the owner was taking good care of her. This could not be said of many of the horses we saw along the way.
The locals liked to call the carriages "Luxor Cadillacs." Our driver, however, referred to his horse and carriage as a "Luxor ferarri". We had a short tour of the city and asked to be taken back to our hotel.
A coach picked us up at 4pm. We said goodbye to the group were leaving behind and we soon on the road, again by convoy, headed to Hurghada. This time, we were the only van in the convoy. We had a police truck ahead and behind us.
I have begun to liken all our time on the bus to Mario when he jumps down those magical transportation pipes. Remember Super Mario Bros? Mario jumps in, putzes around a bit, listens to weird music, then- SHOOP!- he is sucked out of the pipe and arrives in a brand new place. So it is with our bus journeys, without the pipes, at least. Time feels different when sitting in one place for extended amounts of time. In Turkey we averaged about 5 hours of bus travel per day. In Egypt I really can't think of an average...our train ride was 14 hours long, convoys to Abu Simbel alone were 6 hours. In Turkey we had an 8 hour drive, a 10 hour drive, and a 12 hour drive! Ian and I feel a bit like we've seen more of the inside of our tour busses than the places themselves.
We didn't arrive in Hurghada until 10:30 that night, and Ian and I were too tired to do anything but go to bed.