Day 10: Valley of the Kings, Luxor

by - November 25, 2010

On the roof of the Seti Temple
On our last full day in Egypt, we wanted to do something suitably epic.  It seemed appropriate then, to visit the burial place of the Pharoahs at the Valley of the Kings - it’s a place that just sounds dramatic.  We split up in the morning, with the others going to Karnak and me going off to the west bank by myself.  You will follow my side of the story, because Karnak has already been covered.  I hired a bike and cycled to another temple, the temple of Seti I.  This wasn’t quite as dramatic as any of the others, but I decided to let one of the locals give me a tour, and while he didn’t tell me much, he did let me clamber up onto the roof with him.  The view from the top was epic and gave me a unique view down into the temple, that I am sure not many tourists will ever get.  I am pretty sure if the Antiquities Police (Egypt has a police force to protect its heritage) had seen me, I would have been arrested.  But as it was, I survived to blog another day.

Howard Carter’s House
After the Seti Temple, I decided to make a detour to a new site that has opened up on the West Bank - Howard Carter’s house.  I was under the impression that everybody knew who the famous archeologist was, but Tom brutally proved me wrong with the immortal phrase “so Howard Carter was Indiana Jones’ dad, right?”, obviously thinking that the Egyptian government had built a house for a fictional character’s father.  Needless to say, he didn’t see the same appeal in visiting it as I did.  The building was a very grand house set in a verdant garden which had an extensive sprinkler system keeping it green.  The house was interesting - with things like a dark room and a small cinema, but was only worth about 10 minutes of wandering and I left quickly, choosing not to stay in the massively overpriced restaurant.  I hadn’t planned it that way, but I was now about to embark on a bicycle version of the trip Howard Carter made the day that he found Tutankhamen, as I cycled from his house to the Valley of the Kings.
Road to the Valley of the Kings

KV62 - Tutankhamen
The road up to the valley was impressive in itself - a road with a long, gentle incline which was flanked by high, sandy cliffs, but was quite tough on a bike.  I am sure that the thousands of tourists who passed me found it very hard to comprehend why somebody would prefer to get all hot and sweaty cycling up, as oppose to sitting in their air conditioned coach.  They don’t realise that cycling is eminently more bloggable.  Anyway, once I had arrived at the Valley of the Kings I had to surrender my camera to security - because photos can damage the inside of the tombs.  For the sake of showing you what I saw though I will try and find some pictures on the internet.  The Egyptian tourist authority, knowing full well that everybody wants to see it, charges an extra 100EGP to see Tutankhamen (the Valley of the Kings itself costs 80EGP).  As I had come from Carter’s house, I had to see the most famous of the tombs, but when I got down there I found it was pretty poor.  I had heard it was small, but it was very very unimpressive and frankly a bit of a waste of money.

KV14 - Tawosret/Sethnakht
KV34 - Tuthmosis III
It was after I had finished in Tutankhamen's tomb that the others turned up.  A general ticket to the Valley of the Kings allows entry into any 3 tombs, except for Tut and Ramses II, which require an extra ticket.  There are 63 tombs in the Valley, but only 15 or so are open at any one time.  This still meant that we had to decide which to go down, so we sat down for a bit and discussed the recommendations from locals and Lonely Planet. We eventually settled on Tawosret/Sethnakht (KV14), Tuthmosis III (KV34) and Ramses III (KV11).  The KV (King’s Valley) followed by a number shows the order in which the tomb was found, with Ramses VII being KV1 (which has been known about since the Greeks were here), a storage tomb found in 2005 being KV63 and Tutankhamen's tomb being KV62 (discovered in 1922).  KV14 was recommended by the locals and was the first one that we went down.  It was in here that I realised just how puny Tutankhamen's tomb was - where his only consisted of one room, KV14 consisted of two chambers and several corridors, all with heavily decorated walls.  The next site, KV34, was the oldest of all of the tombs.  It was right at the back of the valley and was interesting because the owner had wanted his tomb to be very secure and had installed a number of pitfall traps and other means of catching thieves.  This meant the tomb was fairly hard to get to, with lots of steps up and over man made and natural ravines.  The artistic style of the wall paintings are very different here, with a basis around stick figures and basic symbols, rather than the elaborate pieces which are found in the later tombs.  The tombs are very hot and dank, so there was a local sitting at the entrance giving out pieces of cardboard to use as fans.  Amusingly, when we came back up, he wanted baksheesh for them.The last sight was Ramses III, one of the more popular tombs.  It is the longest tomb in the Valley of the Kings and had to be adapted several times because it began to run into the tombs of other Pharaohs.  The wall paintings in this one were particularly impressive.

KV11 - Ramses III
After our three tombs we decided we wanted to go and relax - we had spent five full days in the sun at Bawiti and Luxor, so were starting to feel a bit light headed.  We cycled/taxied back to the hotel and got ready to go out for our last meal together at the place we had been to on the first night in Luxor - a place called Sofra.  If you are ever in Luxor, make sure you go here as from what I have seen and heard, there are few restaurants that actually serve proper Egyptian food, let alone good quality Egyptian food. It is cheap too.  Having had pigeon, prawns and chicken between us last time we visited, we opted for rabbit and veal for our last meal together.  Danni and I didn’t want to stay up too late at the restaurant however, as we had decided to go for a hot air balloon ride in the morning as a spectacular way to round off the trip.  Unfortunately it meant getting up at 5am, but we were pretty sure it would be worthwhile.

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