We start with an amendment to Part 1. Our contributor, Allen, pointed out that we forgot to include the following information on the visit to the Abu Simbel Temple.
“An Interesting fact, on the wall, where we see stories about King Rameses leading the battle of Kaddish in which he destroyed the Persians. According to the story Rameses took prisoners, and chopped their heads and hands off. Then to demonstrate his supreme power and strength he held their king’s head in his hands. He was powerful and he was strong! However, in Persia, there is a temple, with a relief showing what appears to be the same battle, and guess who won there, the Persians! So we can see that social media hasn’t changed much since then”.
Apologies to Allen. And now we continue with Part 2 – SGW.
Life on the cruise ship.
All rooms have a French balcony, traveling down this ancient river where life is practically unchanged. Wildlife is plenty, and we watched the villagers doing their daily chores. Every now and then, we would hear the “Adhan”, the Islamic calling to the prayers, beginning at dawn. The food is fantastic, and the service is super. Meeting people from all over the world, it’s an eye-opening experience. At night, I would sit on the upper deck, watching the milky way. (The river, for the most part, is so remote that there’s no light pollution). And watching the world go by, so to speak.
In Arabic Luxor means “The Palaces” and during ancient times used to be known as “The city of Hundred Doors“. It is considered by many to be the globe’s greatest open-air museum for the fact that on an area on 417 sq km (161 sq mi) lies some of the most majestic temples such as the Valley of the kings, the Karnak temple, Queen Hatshepsut temple, and Luxor temple that holds some of the most extraordinary ruins and artifacts.
The Colossi of Memnon
The two 60 feet tall monumental statues represent Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE) of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. They are the protectors of the King’s Tomb. Before 1500 BC, the Pharaohs used to build Pyramids and were buried with their treasures. However, the pyramids attracted thieves. Very often the Pharaohs found themselves waking up in heaven with absolutely nothing. Since then, they buried and their tombs were hidden out in an arid mountain range, awaiting the eternity express.
It was all about protecting their treasures safely into the afterlife. There were ancient abandoned and sealed-off villages in the area. People there found those tombs, and instead of making trips to excavate them, they just build a home on top of it. These abandoned houses all have a hidden tunnel inside, so they can get into the tomb, and get what they needed to sustain life. They live there from generation to generation.
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is famous for its royal tombs. For over a thousand years, the kings, queens, and nobles of the New Kingdom (1500-1070 B.C.) were buried in this valley, which is the world’s most magnificent burial ground.
The tombs were cut into the limestone rock in a remote wadi on the west side of the Nile. The saying was, “The east side is for the living, and the west side is for the dead.” We were allowed to go inside the tombs and marvel at all the fine details inside and the 5000 years of civilization here.
While walls were painted and sculpted with magnificent murals depicting scenes of daily life and the land of the gods. The chambers were filled with treasures – everything from furniture to food, statues, boats and jewels, which a person needed to sustain life into eternity. The royals and their courtiers hoped to find refuge from robbers and their enemies, who caused such havoc in the pyramid tombs of their predecessors. The valley contains hundreds of tombs, many of which have yet to be excavated and others that have not yet been found. The most famous tomb belongs to the boy king Tutankhamun.
A few km drive away, is the Temple of the Queen.
Temple of the Queen
There are many great monuments and temples throughout Egypt from the pyramid complex at Giza in the north to the temple at Karnak in the south. Among these, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) stands out as one of the most impressive. Queen Hatshepsut the second historically confirmed female pharaoh, her reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Egypt’s history.
The temple itself is considered to be a masterpiece of ancient architecture. Its three massive terraces rise above the desert floor and into the cliffs of Deir el-Bahari (designated as one of the hottest places on earth). Sadly two decades after Hatshepsut’s death, under the direction of Thutmose III, all references to his stepmother’s name were erased, usurped, or obliterated. An earthquake around 1000 BC created further damage. The temple resurfaces in the records of the modern era in 1737. Several visitations followed although serious excavation was not conducted until the 1850s and 60s. Since 1961, there has been extensive consolidation and restoration work throughout the temple.
The almost-modern-looking temple blends in beautifully with the cliffs from which it is partly cut – A marriage made in heaven. While I was enjoying the place, I can’t help remembering that this was also the site of a terrorist attack in 1997 in which more than 60 people, many of them tourists, like me, were killed.
And then it was back to Luxor
Do you remember the James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me”? There is a scene where 007 is fighting with Jaws in an ancient temple with huge columns and that was the Karnak Temple. It was, at its peak, the largest and most important religious complex in ancient Egypt. The most significant structure, and the largest religious building ever constructed around 1971–1926 BC. Karnak is believed to have been an ancient observatory as well as a place of worship where the God Amun would interact directly with the people of earth. The most striking feature is the Great Hypostyle Hall of 50,000 sq ft (5,000 m2) with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. One hundred and twenty-two of these columns are 10 metres (33 ft) tall, and the other 12 are 21 metres (69 ft) tall with a diameter of over 3 metres (9.8 ft).
The temple had ten massive pylons, or large, monumental gateways. The pylons hold images of the pharaohs who built them. One set of the pylons faces the Nile River and the other faces the south. One courtyard holds 20,000 statues. The oldest area of the temple holds the largest obelisk in Egypt. It was begun under Hatshepsut and dedicated by Tutankhamun, about whom, more to follow.
Avenue of the Sphinxes
Also dubbed the Way of the Rams and the Path of the Gods — connects the famous Karnak and Luxor temples. Lined with statues of rams and sphinxes on pedestals, the ancient road stretches for several miles and had been under excavation for more than 50 years. It’s the Avenue des Champs Elysees in the old days, where all the parades and carnivals took place.
The Luxor Temple is a mark of the ancient Egyptian civilization, a strikingly graceful monument in the heart of modern Luxor. Different than other temples in Luxor, the Luxor temple was not built in adoration to a god or to a god figure of the kings and pharaohs; instead, Luxor Temple was built in dedication to the rejuvenation of kingship. Construction started in 1390-1352 BC and was then finished by Rameses II (1279-13 BC).
It’s our last stop on this river cruise, and we chose to visit it at dusk. With the lights turned up it gave us that sacred and yet mysterious feeling. While I was in Europe, I was amazed at all those historical sites, which are 4-500 years old. But here in Egypt, anything starts from 1500 BC., 3500 years ago. It’s a beautiful yet very poor and unstable country. So rich in history, and civilization. I couldn’t but help to fall in love with it. Especially the time on the River Nile where time has stood still. “Hasta la Vista”, I shall return.
A quick note on the Curse of Tutankhamun
No travelogue on Egypt would be complete without a word on Tutankhamun’s Curse. It has become the subject of many articles and even a few movies. In Egyptian folklore, a curse followed anyone who desecrated a tomb. This could entail serious illness, insanity, and even death. It was thought that the authorities were happy to spread the rumour of a curse in order to deter tomb raiders and vandals.
Whether you believe in curses or not it is worth noting that ten westerners that entered his tomb fell prey to ‘mysterious’ ends.
There are numerous sites dedicated to the subject on the internet and anyone interested enough can browse to your heart’s content.
Stewart Goes Walkies is once again very grateful to our old friend and climbing partner, Allen Lai, for his wonderful report and photographs. Allen has been mentioned in many of my climbing and camping exploits but my favourite must be ‘Kowloon Peak – Howling Winds and Condensed Milk – Camping and Climbing with Allen’. You can read about it here.
We hope to learn more about Allen’s travels soon.
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