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image Our itinerary for the day was given to us the day before and included two visits in the morning but nothing scheduled for the afternoon as we would be sailing out of Luxor at 6 pm. The itinerary was for a visit of the West Bank, to the tombs found in the valley of the Kings. The second visit was to the temple of Hatshepsut. As these two sites were around half an hour’s drive away, and as they were in the middle of the desert, it was decided that an early start would be best to try to avoid the heat as much as possible. So it was decided we would start out at 8 am. The disappointing fact that photography is completely prohibited in the Valley of the Kings forced me to try to take in as much as possible of the tombs we visited, and to remember the details to be able to describe them as no pictures would be available. We started off with a ride in an open train like the one used in Disneyland, which took us from the outer gate to where the tombs were. From there on, all our movements were on foot. The weather was warm and the ferocious sun quite punishing. We were ready with head covers, water bottles and comfortable foot wear. But still the climbs into the tombs and out again were brutal. This type of sightseeing is for the young and the healthy. I could barely keep up, but I did anyway. The reason photography is prohibited there is because the inscriptions on the walls of the tombs have preserved their vivid colors and any use of flashlights would be detrimental to such paintings. The first tomb we visited was that of Merinbetah. This was a very long, descending path all the way to the burial chamber. Right throughout there are little chambers on both sides and the walls lining that path are all decorated with inscriptions and all in the most vivid colors. The reason these colors have survived to this day is twofold. First these paintings were made on walls that are buried underground, so the sun did not touch them. Secondly the purity of the materials used for paints ensured their longevity. By the time I reached the burial chamber I must have walked down that slope for a good part of a kilometer. I was so taken up by the beauty of the colors, the variety of the drawings, with every little chamber on the way having a different individual design, that I did not notice how deeply we had walked into that tomb. After reaching the burial chamber, looking around, then turning to start on my way back up, my heart sank! The climb looked practically impossible, but it was either that or I get buried right there with Merinbetah. I started up and it took me a good twenty minutes to reach the top, but I felt totally drained. I wasn’t alone. The rest of the group was also a bit ragged, so we rested in the shade for a bit, till we could continue with our exploration. The tomb of King Tut was closed, and our guide said that it was not really that interesting because all it’s treasures had already been transferred to the museum. The fascinating part is that King Tut’s reign was absolutely nothing compared to that of King Ramses II, but the former is much better known because his tomb was found intact and all the treasures were there. Had Ramses II’s tomb not been thoroughly looted, that would have been a treasure indeed. The next tomb we visited was that of Ramses III. He built a huge tomb to accommodate all his children. He had nearly 200 children, and during his lifetime 12 of them died and were buried there. But after he died, the next King, who was his 13th son, decreed that the rest of his siblings would not be buried there as these were tombs for Kings only. Ancient Egyptians consider the number 13 a lucky number. The Third and final tomb we visited was that of Ramses IV. What all three tombs we visited had in common were the abundance of inscriptions on the walls and the fascinatingly preserved colors. What most of them also had in common, was the fact that the tombs were stripped of all their treasures. The ceiling of the burial chamber in that last tomb is fascinating. There are a great many inscriptions, some of which we could not identify as being any known language, and on the right side farthest corner of that ceiling were figures that, on closer inspection looked like astronauts wearing helmets with antennas! Or, with a touch of imagination, like our stereotypical Martian! So theories started flying about our “real” ancestors who were probably superior beings who arrived from outer space, which would dovetail beautifully with all the ancient Egyptian lore about the start of creation, and we would even find echoes of it in the three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There is an intriguing theory about why King Tut’s tomb was the only one not robbed, and this is because one of the later Kings built his tomb right next to King Tut’s, and the workers building the tomb, inadvertently covered it up with dirt they had dug up. This way it was totally lost to civilization till Howard Carter found it. The story goes that Carter, after trying to find the tomb for six years, wanted to give up and go home, but Lord Carnarvon who was sponsoring him refused. As it happened that at that time one of the Egyptian workers who was with Carter was having a rest and a cigarette nearby and started idly pushing the sand with his foot, right and left, where he sat. After a few strokes he felt a solid piece of stone. Out of curiosity he started to brush the sand to see what that was. The stone uncovered was getting bigger, and the more sand he brushed the bigger the stone was revealed to be. He became excited and rushed over to Carter and brought him back to the spot. Then work began in earnest and the tomb was discovered. The rest is history. This was Howard Carter’s house when he lived in the Valley of the Kings. image We finished with the valley of the Kings, then took the bus to the second location: the temple for Queen Hatshepsut. image This is a temple built in a very different style than that of the rest of the temples. This was built on three floors, and the last floor was not built, but was carved out of the mountain. image The statues of Queen Hatshepsut are depicted as a man with a beard, a ploy by the very intelligent Queen to get her people to accept her rule. image More than 60% of that temple was destroyed, this time, not by earthquake or flood, but by the King who came next who happened to have been her brother whom she had imprisoned for over twenty years. He finally escaped and went after his sister, it was suspected that he killed her, but we have no proof, then he claimed the throne. He tried to wipe out everything of her history. The final stop we made was at an old funeral temple which was guarded by two huge statues. Returning to the boat we had lunch then hurried to our class. The boat was supposed to sail around 6 pm, and we were told that the boat will have to go through the Essna lock to continue on it’s way to Aswan. Some of the group wanted to see that. It was around four hours out before we reach the lock. Unfortunately the boat was delayed taking off as the new group that was supposed to join us, had a delayed flight, so came in rather late. The boat left at 11. The evening was spent very pleasantly on deck with a few of the writers’ group, and though some intended to stay up to see the lock, I opted to pass as I was really sleepy and as the boat was delayed around five hours, so the lock would not be reached before 3 am. I turned in at around midnight and went directly to sleep, but was woken up by the boat scraping against the side of the lock and all the engines turning off. I got up and watched the boat rising with the water in the lock until it finally reached the higher level then continued on its way to Edfu and Kom Ombo. Next morning I found out that most of the people who wanted to watch the lock had stayed up till nearly half an hour before it was reached but finally succumbed to fatigue and went to bed, missing the sight. It really wasn’t much, just a boat taking an elevator up! To be continued