We took a tour to the West Bank on our last day in Luxor after our Balloon ride. I thought we would start the tour straight after our ride but apparently we were driven back to Hotel and the guide would pick up us again.
Our guide for the day is a very lively and cheerful lady, named Shima. She explained to us very interesting story about Valley of the Kings as we ride the car to the West Bank where Valley of the King is located.
Valley of the Kings (VoK) is one of the most famous sights for visitor to Egypt. It is not as iconic as the Giza Pyramids or Abu Simbel because it is a lot harder to depict an image as you can see in our picture. From above it just looks loke a dirty pile of sands and rocks in a desert with absolutely no shades.
Valley of the Kings have become one of the must visit in Egypt particularly after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
Standard ticket to VoK allows you to visit three tombs (aside from few special tombs such as Tutankhamen tomb which cost additional 250 EGP. ) so you need to choose carefully. There are 64 tombs in total but there are only 18 that are ever open to public and they are never open at the same time. The authority rotate the tombs regularly to help preserving them. Recently 30 new mummies have just been discovered in VoK which will be added to the collection sometimes in the future.
These are the 3 tombs which we choose to visit:
Tomb of Ramses III
This is the first tomb that we visit. The tomb has the most beautiful design out of the 3 Tombs we entered. We maybe thought that Pyramids were the greatest monuments of the ancient Egyptians, but there was one huge problem with the pyramids. They were too big and too impressive and as they were built as tombs for the pharaohs, with them the enormous troves of treasures were buried with them. And became the perfect prey for the grave robbers.
After all the treasures been robbed, it didn’t take long for the Ancient Egyptians to start laying their kings to rest in secret places which we now called Valley of the Kings in the west Bank in Luxor. The Pharaoh and his treasures would be buried and their tombs would be dug down into the ground and the entrances covered over with sand and rock, so that they would never be found by grave robbers.
Tomb of Merenptah
Merenptah was not a particularly famous pharaoh, even though he was the son of the greatest ruler, Ramses II. That was probably the problem, though. He was at least 60 by the time his father (and 12 of his older brothers) had died, so he only ruled for about a decade before he passed away himself. Still, his tomb is relatively long and there’s a steep incline to get down into it. The paintings that have survived on the walls of the corridors are quite beautiful, although they get simpler the further you go, suggesting they were done in a hurry as the pharaoh neared death. Out of the 3 tombs, this one is the hardest because of the steep climb. What stands out from this tomb is the architecture is more advanced Vs the other tombs.
Tomb of Ramses IX
This is the easiest tomb out of 3 tombs we went because the steps are not steep. The tomb has colorful paintings on the walls and the ceiling. It’s only at the very end that there’s a short set of stairs that lead down to the small burial chamber.
As we finished with the three tombs, Shima took us to Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut.
We visited this temple the night before when we watched Opera Aida but what we didn’t know then was Queen Hatshepsut’s story and her struggle being the first Egypt Woman Pharaoh. She could only take the throne after her father King Thutmose I passed away by marrying her half brother Thutmose II around the age of 12.
Upon his death, she began acting as regent for her stepson, the infant Thutmose III, but later took on the full powers of a pharaoh, becoming co-ruler of Egypt around 1473 B.C. As pharaoh, Hatshepsut extended Egyptian trade and oversaw ambitious building projects, most notably the Temple of Deir el-Bahri, located in western Thebes, where she would be buried. Depicted (at her own orders) as a male in many contemporary images and sculptures, Hatshepsut remained largely unknown to scholars until the 19th century. She is one of the few and most famous female pharaohs of Egypt.
Her being a woman pharaoh was highly controversial, Hatshepsut fought to defend its legitimacy, pointing to her royal lineage and claiming that her father had appointed her his successor. She sought to reinvent her image, and in statues and paintings of that time, she ordered that she be portrayed as a male pharaoh, with a beard and large muscles. In other images, however, she appeared in traditional female regalia. Hatshepsut surrounded herself with supporters in key positions in government, including Senenmut, her chief minister. Some have suggested Senenmut might also have been Hatshepsut’s lover, but little evidence exists to support this claim.
As pharaoh, Hatshepsut undertook ambitious building projects, particularly in the area around Thebes. Her greatest achievement was the enormous memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri, considered one of the architectural wonders of ancient Egypt. Another great achievement of her reign was a trading expedition she authorized that brought back vast riches–including ivory, ebony, gold, leopard skins and incense–to Egypt from a distant land known as Punt (possibly modern-day Eritrea)
Hatshepsut commenced her life in a family of five, along with her brother and sister. However, the early death of both siblings left her as an only child at a young age. Without a son, Thutmose I (Hatshepsut’s father) named one of her step-brothers (Thutmose II) as heir. Hatshepsut was pushed to marry her step-brother in a bid to keep the royal line pure.
After the death of their father, Thutmose II became pharaoh, with Hatshepsut now queen. However, he only ruled for a few years before passing away. During this time, Hatshepsut had begun to take an active role in running the country. The new leader for Egypt was now the only male heir to the throne, her young nephew Thutmose III. As he was of a young age, Hatshepsut was names regent and would run the country for him.
After a couple of year of regent, she names herself pharaoh. She took charge of the country and appointed people in the government of whom were very loyal to her. Naturally, this caused anguish between herself and her nephew. In remaining powerful, she established trade relationships with many foreign countries rather than going to war. Through such an act, she made Egypt a rich nation. Constructing building and monuments throughout Egypt was another way in which she remained powerful. Cleverly, she placed many statues of herself at these sites, in order to remain remembered and to have the people think of her as their leader and pharaoh.
In order for people to accept her as pharaoh, Hatshepsut began to dress like a pharaoh. She wore the pharaoh’s headdress with a cobra and even wore a fake beard and a short kilt like the men wore. Here commenced the depiction of both masculine and feminine traits of Hatshepsut.
What stood out from Hatshepsut temple from her era is the architecture; this is the first temple which consist of three levels and the quality of the stones used is as strong as Abu Simbel which is carved from a huge rock walls
The Colossi of Memnon
are two monumental statues which we can see as we are entering the Valley of the Kings area. They are representing Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE) of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. Located in west bank of the Nile. The statues depict the seated king on a throne ornamented with imagery of his mother, his wife, the god Hapy, and other symbolic engravings. The figures rise 60 ft (18 meters) high and weigh 720 tons each; both carved from single blocks of sandstone.
They were constructed as guardians for Amenhotep III’s mortuary complex which once stood behind them. Earthquakes, floods, and the ancient practice of using older monuments and buildings as resource material for new structures all contributed to the disappearance of the enormous complex. Little of it remains today except for the two colossal statues which once stood at its gates.
We ended our tour with a lunch onboard a felucca which took us a ride along Nile river. We had to skip Valley of the Queens which has a special tomb of Nefertari (it cost 1200 EGP for 10 minutes viewing), because we didn’t have enough time and all of us are worn out due to the heat as well. Do bring a wide brimmed hat or umbrella if you are going to valley of the Kings. It was so hot as there is literally no shade in the area. Shima told us when she went in August even her shoes melt lol. A portable small fan will also come useful when you are going down to the tombs.
Review on Winter Pavillon
I want to write a bit about Winter Pavillon. We decided to stay there because of the nice review in TA and also the location. We want to stay in a central location, near the temple. Winter Pavillon is a cheaper sister of Winter Palace, but the hotel shared the swimming pool and the garden with Winter Palace. You can also access Winter Palace from the back door. We totally recommend the hotel if you’re looking for a nice place in a central location, with a cost half of Winter Palace.