Monday, February 6, 2012

Jewel of the Nile: Luxor

After our shisha and mint tea, we made our way to the train station to catch our sleeper train to Luxor.  Trains in Egypt run on a loose schedule.  The trains can leave anywhere between two hours before and an hour after the scheduled time, so you have to show up to the station early just in case.

We got to Luxor around 7 a.m. and went straight to the Valley of the Kings.  The valley has more than 60 tombs; the entrance fee allows you to go in three of them.  The open tombs are regularly rotated to avoid too much damage to the artwork.  We weren't allowed to take any pictures, but trust me when I say it was absolutely fantastic!  We saw the tombs of Seti II, Sapetah, and Ramses III.

We were very lucky that the Ramses tomb was open.  Sal, our tour guide, says that tomb is one of the best.  I can definitely see why.  There were huge, intricate murals with very bright colors on all the walls and ceilings.  I really loved all the false tombs (rooms that did not lead to the actual mummy) and the niches carved in the walls.

image from here

We also paid a separate fee ($10) to see King Tutankhamen's tomb. The tomb itself is really small--especially compared with Ramses III--but when it was found in 1922 it was packed to the gills with treasures.  We saw a lot of those treasures in the Egyptian museum in Cairo, but here we got to see actual King Tut!!  His mummy is at the back of the tomb near his golden sarcophagus.  It was really crazy to see.

After exploring the Valley of the Kings, we made our way to Hatshepsut's temple.  This Pharaoh is widely considered one of the best ancient Egyptian leaders, though she was quite a controversial character.  Apparently, she fled the palace in the north after she got pregnant by her tutor who was 47 years her senior!  She established her own kingdom in the south and eventually ruled all of Egypt.

Temple carved out of a mountain



Pregnant Hatshepsut

It's hard to believe that the colors on these walls are 4,000 years old!

There are still lots of on-going digs in Egypt.  We drove by one that Sal actually has been a part of.

We also visited an alabaster factory and learned how they make the vases by hand.

Making an alabaster vase

Finally, we got to see our boat and take a shower!  The boat was incredible.  Our room was enormous (for a boat) and really comfortable.

Check out those windows!

That evening we saw the Luxor Temple.  It was incredible!  I am so happy we went at night because it really added to the whole experience.

The temple is huge and consists of three rooms: the outer room is for non-believers; the middle room is for worshipers; and the inner room is the holy-of-holies for the priests.  Outside the temple is a row of sphinxes.  So far, they've uncovered quite a few of them, but archeologists think that the row actually extends all the way to the Karnak Temple which is 3 km away!

Row of Sphinxes

More than 800 years ago a mosque was built inside the temple to honor the mayor of Luxor.  The mosque is still operational; hearing the evening call to prayer while looking at ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics was an interesting juxtaposition.

Mosque inside Luxor Temple

One really interesting part of the temple was the wall honoring Alexander the Great and depicting him as a Pharaoh.  Apparently, the Egyptians loved Alexander the Great and treated him as one of their own.  He is the only Greek who was afforded the title Pharaoh; everyone after him was a Ptolemy.

After the Luxor Temple we made our way back to the boat for some dinner and evening entertainment: belly dancing and whirling dervish!  The belly dancer was...interesting.  She was a little older and a little chubbier than I was expecting, but she did have some moves.  She showed them off best when dancing with a baby (?!) and with Dan.

I'd never heard of whirling dervish before, but it is fascinating.  It is a dance in which the performer spins the entire time.  He never stops moving, even while balancing things on his head or blindfolding himself.  He had two very colorful skirts that he used as props in his dance.
As you can see, it was a very long, but very exciting day.  Next up is the Karnak Temple!

Read about our other stops along the Nile:
Abu Simbal
Edfu and Kom Ombo
Luxor II

1 comment: