We depart the ship around 7am and take a bus to the airport where we boarded a chartered plane to Luxor.
Luxor is in the desert (Egypt is 96% desert) and is home to the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple and the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (just to name a few). It used to be called “Thebes” in ancient times (which was the capital of Egypt when King Tut & Ramses II ruled). It is believed that Ramses II was the pharaoh when Moses came along asking for him to let his people go. Rams apparently didn’t know Moses (aka Charlton Heston) was an active member of the NRA and thus should’ve taken him seriously.
We arrive in Luxor about an hour and 15 minutes later then board a bus to drive to the Valley of the Kings (“VOK”)…the necropolis of the New Kingdom pharaohs. The VOK (which is home to King Tut’s tomb) is located on the West Bank of the Nile River. The Nile is beautiful (and much more so in the country than in the city). The one thing I was not able to do due to lack of time was take a felucca ride (which is basically a sailboat) down the Nile. It is on my list of things to do when I go back (along with taking a hot air balloon ride over Aswan).
The VOK is purposefully built on the West Bank because the ancient Egyptians believed that this is where they should be buried since the sun sets in the west. I was unable to take pictures inside VOK because, unfortunately, the people at VOK are like Kanye and Sean Penn as they absolutely forbade cameras. In fact, if you tried to bring a camera in, it would be confiscated and if you tried to be slick and take a pic with a camera phone…they took your phone and fined you $400. So, y’all are just going to have to use your imagination as I describe VOK. I do have some pictures of the entrance and the Theban Hills in which the tombs are built.
It ends up being 104 degrees (which apparently is cool since a few days before it was 120). I think I saw the devil when I was walking toward the tombs. He was selling bottled water like, “Welcome to Egypt, y’all.” Anyway, we end up seeing 3 tombs (the tombs of Ramses IX, Ramses I and Ramose). Now, remember when I told you that Egypt was the birthplace of hustling? Well, after you paid the fee to get in to see the tombs, there was an additional fee if you wanted to go into King Tut or Ramses VI tombs. Hustlers. You have to show your ticket to the guy at the entrance of each tomb who uses a hole puncher to validate it. This system ensures you don’t see more than 3 tombs without paying extra. Hustlers.
The tombs are built into the desert Theban Hills and they are incredible. It’s hard to believe that such wonderful artwork was done so many thousands of years ago! So far, 62 tombs have been found. Tombs (before they were discovered and open to the public) held almost everything that the pharaoh owned (including his bed, jewelry, statues of servants who would serve him in the afterlife, etc.)…basically anything they felt the pharaoh would need in the afterlife. Since the tombs contained such valuable items, it’s said that the slaves who built the tombs were killed afterwards so they wouldn’t reveal its location. Too bad they didn’t have Confidentiality Agreements back then. That has got to suck.
To enter most tombs, you have to walk down into the opening of the mountain and while you’d think it would be cool since it’s dark…it’s just hot and stuffy. However, you don’t focus on that too much as you quickly get caught up in the hieroglyphics. The sarcophagus (coffin) of one of the pharaohs was still in the tomb. You know they had a guy standing right by it. Probably to charge you if you touched it. Hustlers.
Each tomb contained funerary hieroglyphics. Ancient Egyptians believed in eternal afterlife and they had a complex funeral tradition. Bodies of the pharaohs were mummified so that their soul could live on in its embalmed corpse. They took 4 organs (liver, intestines, stomach & lungs) and placed them in beautiful marble jars. The only organ left in the body was the heart which would be weighed in the afterlife. The entire mummification process took 70 days! What I found the most fascinating was the weighing of the heart. That was the final stage in the journey to the afterlife. The god, Anubis (which has the body of a man but the head of a jackal), would weigh the deceased pharaoh’s heart against a feather on a set of scales. If the heart weighed more than the feather (because of living a sinned life) then this beast named, Ammut, devoured it and the pharaoh’s soul would die and they would not live on in eternity. I’m pretty sure that Ammut kept a full belly because a lot of these pharaohs were killing their brothers and fathers and basically doing a lot of dirty stuff to get the throne. You can read a detailed description of the funeral customs here [http://www.crystalinks.com/egyptafterlife.html]. It was so fascinating that I bought a papyrus painting of the Egyptian Funerary Scene.
After you leave the tombs, you have to wait in the heat (next to the Beelzebub) for the little train to come get you and take you back to the entrance. In the meantime, you have to just sit in Hustle City. Those folks were trying to sell you EVERYTHING! They are relentless. It’s like their mantra is “Hustle or Die”. Seriously. I’m gonna see about getting them a record deal because this is just plain ridiculous. You know the package of fold out postcards? Well, they had those (which had seen a better day) and would whip them out and let them fall down all dramatically like they are David Copperfield getting ready to show you a magic card trick. If you refused to buy it, they wanted to know why. It didn’t matter if you had already bought one from Muhammed. Ali Babba doesn’t care about that. He wants you to buy his 1970 postcards with the coffee stains. You can get it for $1! What? You still don’t want it? What about a book on the VOK? You can’t read? No problem. It’s got pictures. It can be yours for $5! Why are you walking away? Oh, they will just follow you and worry the mess out of you (while smoking their cigarettes). They were determined that you were going to do a customer feedback survey. You would think you are saved when the little trolly/train shows up to take you back to the entrance. Surprise! Foodoo gets out of the driver’s seat and brings his postcards and books to sell them to you BEFORE HE WILL TAKE YOU BACK TO THE ENTRANCE. Stop the madness, Egypt. It’s 104 degrees in the hot desert…and I left my water on the bus, people are stinking and the hustlers are swarming around you like mosquitoes with the West Nile virus.
We finally leave Valley of the Hustler (I mean, Valley of the Kings) and make our way to the Colossi of Memnon…which was so neat! I can’t get over how massive their statues are (60 ft tall). These are 2 enthroned statues of Amenhotep III which were originally meant to guard his mortuary temple but apparently didn’t do a good job because it was robbed for building materials by later pharaohs. Reminds me of the Dave Chappelle sketch when he was portraying Rick James putting his dirty boots on Eddie Murphy’s white sofa. Speaking of which…every time the tour guide assistant saw my Dad, he would yell out “EDDIE MURPHHAAAYYY”. LOL. Since he was on the tour, this happened at least 10 times.
Then, it was on to lunch. On the way, you can really see just how poor people are. It really did break my heart.
Their primary mode of transportation is by donkey. I’d say at least 60% of the cars are from the 70’s.