Monday, October 15, 2007

Egypt - Day 4

Luxor. We did it up and stayed at the Sheraton. Even thought there is absolutely too much to see in Luxor, we made time for the pool because we were dying for some actual “vacation” time.

The train got us into town around 6:00 AM. We checked in at the Sheraton and decided to get right to business in order to beat the heat. We hired a cab for the morning and headed to the West bank of the Nile. Our guide book was last revised in 2005 so we kept waiting for the driver to pull over at one of the ferry landings so we could take a ferry across the river. As far as we knew it was the only was across. But apparently sometime between 2005 and now, a bridge was built and so, no ferry for us.

First stop: Valley of the Kings. Think middle of the desert, think hot, think lots of red-faced tourists wandering about.

There are 62 tombs in the Valley of the Kings and only a select few are open at any one time. The ticket you buy to get into the area allows you access to three tombs. I suppose more diligent tourists would have read up on each of the tombs before going, come up with a list of their top ten preferences, and then, you know, have seen which of those were open, etc. J and I opened our guide book once inside the park and said, this one looks cool.

The Tomb of Tuthmosis III (No. 34, for all you near-future visitors) was built 98 feet above ground and is reached by a long metal staircase.

Once inside, you then have to climb down a narrow, dark, rickety wooden staircase into the tomb. The tomb has two levels. The first is empty, save for the hieroglyphics lining the walls. Down another claustrophobic staircase—not to mention it is quite warm in there with little air circulation—the second level has more hieroglyphics plus a red granite sarcophagus. We climbed back up the stairs behind a fantastically out-of-shape tourist who moved in slow motion so when we came back out into the fresh air we were breathing easily. We sat down to check our book for the next tomb of choice and we were right outside the entrance to the tomb, after you come up the decently long flight of stairs out of the tomb but before you go down the metal staircase 100 feet to level ground. People are out of shape! Most people came out of the tomb sweating, red, and bent over at the knees trying to catch their breath. There’s a thing at the gym called the Stairmaster—if you want to visit the Tomb of Tuthmosis III, hop on.

Next up was No. 14, the Tomb of Queen Twasert/Sethnakht. Originally intended for Queen Twasert, the wife of Seti II, it was appropriated instead by the pharaoh Sethnakht because he was having problems with his own tomb. Photography was not allowed in any of the tombs, but open entering No. 14, J and I found ourselves all alone. We were right by the entrance where the light was still decent and the hieroglyphics on the walls were just spectacular. We might never be allowed back in Egypt for admitting to this, but we took a couple of pictures. And oh man was it worth it. Check this baby out:

Do you just feel like you’re so there?

Anyway, big, awesome, beautiful tomb.

For our last tomb, if I’m remembering correctly, we went next door to Tomb No. 15, which is not listed in the guide book because it’s not important enough. The guy at the entrance said, you guys know this is your last tomb, right? And we were like, yeah, we’re cool with that, and he looked kind of skeptical that we knew what we were doing, but let us in anyway. Way to sell your tomb, dude.

I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of the tombs. I was just as impressed with poor, neglected No. 15 as I was with any of the others. I mean, Tuthmosis III seems to get a lot of props just for being built so high up (fat lot of good that did from keeping the robbers out), but I would say his tomb was much less spectacular than No. 14 or 15.

Our three tombs were up and it was off to Hatshepsut Temple. Right this second, try to pronounce that. Say it aloud. Come on. I dare you. J and I couldn’t the word to save our lives. At first our driver looked at us like we were insane. Where did we want him to take us? But once he figured it out, he found us hilarious. He sounded it out for us. We repeated after him. But we could just not get it. It was beyond us.

Are you still thinking: hot? Because it was hot, people. Look how hot we are:

The temple was built for Queen Hatshepsut in the 18th Dynasty. It’s built into the mountain and looks out over the desert. It’s stunning.

After this we headed back to the hotel for lunchtime, pooltime, naptime, in that order. We had the best of intentions of heading back to the West bank and the Valley of the Queens, etc, but we just never made it.

In the late afternoon we walked into town to check out Luxor Temple, but once we got there we realized we had forgotten the camera and everyone knows if you don’t take pictures it’s like it never happened. So we decided to go back the next day and had a nice leisurely walk along the river and then back to the hotel.

Day 4 in Egypt also happened to be our one-year anniversary. That night we got all gussied up and had dinner at the Italian restaurant at the hotel. We sat outside by a fountain long abandoned to algae and ate mediocre food and it was just lovely. Truly.

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