Thursday, May 24, 2007

Egypt! Luxor, Valley of the Kings and more

This is going to be one long post! It was a 13 hour excursion, starting with a three hour drive, in a convoy (a well-suited silent man in the front of our bus carried a piece!), to Luxor from the port in Safaga. There were A LOT of tours going out today, look at all these buses. For the first two hours, our scenery was desert and basalt mountains, interspersed with the occasional checkpoint complete with armed guards (indeed, armed gurads were on every street corner, I'm not exaggerating) and camels. I'm going to keep words fairly brief, and concentrate on the pictures, which really do speak for themselves. Also, we recieved so much information on the various tombs, factories and temples we visitted, that unless I took notes I knew I'd never remember all of it, and some of my "facts" will be fuzzled a little. Another reason to keep my text to a minimum, then! The tour was awesome. This was our guide, Adel, who has been on the Discovery Channel previously, and has earnt the right, through 7 years of study, to call himself an Egyptologist. He rocked.
On the journey, Adel offered us his Cartouche service. Any of these designs, silver, gold, silver with gold etc. with your name in Hieroglyphs (this is the alphabet, I was dismayed to see that my name is comprised of a foot, 3 feathers and a basket, where as my friend Carla gets Horus the hawk God, a lion and an eye with her name. Needless to say, she had a Cartouche made, here it is, and I did not. I have to admit, useless though my name would look, I'm jealous I never got one!) made "while u tour" to pick up at the end of the day. I was convinced there must have been a man in the trunk of the bus, chiselling away on pieces of silver for us!

They also sold soft drinks. This is what a Sprite looks like to an Egyptian!

In Luxor, there are many donkeys. Adel told us the donkey cart was the Volkswagen of Egypt. Here are a few I managed to capture.

And here's another armed guard. I love this picture of children, who came running out to wave to us in Safaga.
This is the bridge we took (I love these Falcon, or maybe Horus-the-hawk-God statues) over, wait for it, THE NILE!

Our first stop was the Valley of the Kings. This is the house of Mr. Carter, who discovered King Tut's tomb, it's on the edge of the Valley. This is the map of all the tombs unearthed here. At the entrance, this group of men were genuflecting in unison. It was extremely hot outside, we got a bus up to where the tombs are located. We had tickets to go into three of them, this was the first one.

Get ready for illegal photo number one! Actually, I am outside the tomb here, and it forbidden to take pictures actually IN the tombs. That is, unless, you pay the guard a couple of dollars to look away, as I discovered in the second tomb we visited, another Ramses, (Ramses was the name of our tour, I yelled "Ramses!" to register my presence in the group throughout the day. Well, I didn't want to get lost amongst the collumns now did I!) where I got these pictures. I love them, especially this one, the story goes that a scarab beetle pushes the sun to these two women deities, one spits out the sun, and the other ingests it, to give birth to it every morning. Again, forgive me, my details are fuzzy, but that's the general idea!

Only one of the three tombs we saw contained an actual coffin. I have to admit, I was amazed at the clarity and seeming newness of the tombs. It literally looked like the plaster had just been laid, like plaster of paris, and the paint could still be wet, not thousands of years old! Some of the tombs date from 3000BC, some are even older.

We didn't go into King Tut's tomb, that required an extra $18, or £5 (yes, Egyptians have Egyptian pounds!) and we are told that all the interesting artefacts are in the museum in Cairo (which we'll visit soon) but I have to admit I'm slightly disappointed I didn't see it.

Adel next took us to an alabaster factory. We were shown a demonstration of how the alabaster is ground, with various tools, into a hollowed shape and then sanded by these men, (check out how it's placed between his feet!) into bowls or vases. We went into the factory shop and were served excellent mint tea (but told that men should not have too much mint, it is bad for their virility, better to have more lettuce, but Roque didn't seem too bothered) where I bought a white alabaster bowl similar to the one this man is holding, for $35, and I'm very pleased with it. It isn't good for holding water as it's not glazed, but I want to put light or candles inside it eventually and it's beautiful.

I was even given these freebie alabaster rocks from the artists outside, and tipped them a few bucks for their workmanship. Ah look, Fido definitely had a bit too much of the old Hookah pipe!

Back on the bus, Adel gave us blue scarab beetles. All of these items are welcome additions to the Hybrid Shrine, which I will photograph soon, in all it's glory!

We did a photo-stop at the Colossi of Memnon. They're huge, look, that's Eric down there! The temple they guarded was destroyed by an earthquake in 27BC, imagine how huge it must've been. They are so-called because when the Greeks came over, in maybe 300BC they saw these images, already ancient relics you understand, thought they bore a resemblance to the Ethiopian hero Memnon, and the wind blowing through them scared them into thinking the spirit of Memnon (killed by Achiles in the Trojan war) was within them. Apparently the noise was coming from one of the damaged statues, and once it was built up with blocks of stone, under Septimus Severus, the noises ceased.

We next went to KFC and the adjoining pizza hut for lunch. Afterwards, Eric and I went on a wander, and found an English carvery restaurant. We stopped for coffee, talking to a waitor in an England football shirt who had lived in Croydon, and saw this on the cocktail menu. Oh, SO English.

The first of the temples we went to was Karnack temple. It's massive. There are 134 collumns here, the paint is still visible in some parts. They were filming a documentary too, what a naughty picture I took of them, mid-take! I'll just post some pictures now.

This is one of the four obelisks discovered.
The reason people seem to be crowding this scarab beetle is that it's good luck if you walk around it seven times anti-clockwise. I had to do it.
Luxor temple was slightly smaller, but equally as interesting. It reminded me of the Acropolis in Athens. This graffitti dated from the 1880s, some Roman graffitti was also evident, and even better, look, Christian frescoes painted right on top of hieroglyphs! Amazing, I can just imagine the folks in maybe 1300 AD saying "Ah, nobody believes in any of that now, let's paint over it, make it better!" Back in the inner chambers, here's the Sun God Amon're, er, really very pleased!
This window and door, built much MUCH later on top of the temple (pre-excavation maybe, I'm speculating!) looks Jewish to me, it's about 20 ft up though now.
Our last stop was to a papyrus paper-making factory. We saw another demo -Eric was pleased that he got to bash a piece of papyrus until the sugar and water was beaten out of it thus making it plyable- about how they soak the papyrus strips (a papyrus stem looks very much like a huge Dandylion flower) and lay them on top of one another, horizontal and vertical to make the paper. The way to spot fake papyrus is a) with banana-paper fakes, there will be no horizontal lines and b) they don't interlace the papyrus strips in authentic paper, pieces are literally laid on top of each other. I bought two blank pieces of paper, and was very thankful when offered this strong Turkish coffee to perk me up after all this energetic sightseeing.
I slept on the long journey home, the band were late for shows, and all was well.

1 comment:

Runaway Rubber Duckie said...

That's too funny Becky, I have about 5 of the exact same pictures up on my blog as well! I swear I didn't see yours when I wrote mine. And I wrote the same thing about the dog!!!!