Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Travel Tuesday : Valley of the Kings

We got up early, went to breakfast, and we went over to the front entrance -- right at 7 -- to meet Hamdi, our hard-sell taxi driver we'd arranged to go to the Valley of the Kings with after he drove us into Luxor the previous day. Imagine our surprise when Hamdi turned up with another driver as well and told us we'd be going with him. Nice. We figured that he'd gotten a higher amount from the other group and would have ditched us in a heartbeat. So we rather unhappily climbed in the other car. It was fine, of course. He stopped along the way for us to buy water and made sure we didn't get too fleeced. Then drove us quickly and safely to the Valley of the Kings.

I'm not sure what I expected -- but there's an attractive visitor's center and a not too chaotic ticket window. You buy a ticket that gives you entrance to 3 tombs for 60 LE. You can then buy additional entry tickets to Tutankhamun (100 LE) and Ramses VI (50 LE). We bought Tut tix and then set off. I had picked out some tombs to visit -- unfortunately 2 of my 3 were either closed or required a supplemental ticket. oh well.

At one point two guards beckoned me over to take a photo. This was a terrible idea... because I knew at the end they would want a tip. And they had machine guns. But it was fine and there were handshakes and thumbs up and big smiles. And machine guns.

We started off in Tut's tomb -- a deep, angled walkway down, then a small room. There's a red quartzite sarcophagus -- massive and perfect and beautiful -- and the outermost gilded wooden coffin (we saw the other 2 in Cairo). In a smaller case on the other side of the chamber rests his mummy, looking very frail, with spindly toes peeking out from the too-short covering. Some very nice painting on the walls -- a chubby young Tut with his wife, for example. It's one of the smallest tombs in the valley, but special because of Tut, and because the mummy is there. The tickets are overpriced at 100 LE, but it did keep the crowds down.

Tried to go to Ramses VI, but it needed an extra ticket so we decided to think about it. Moved on to Seti I. Closed. (So sad, because it had lovely crocodile and hippo paintings.) Tried some others. Ramses III? Closed. Amenhotep II? Closed. Sigh. Went to Seti II largely because it was open. Pretty paintings, nice carving (the walkway starts as carvings but then just goes on as paintings -- as if they were either running out of time or of interest. Some of the painting is really just sketches in red paint -- sometimes added to with black paint. Pretty cool. The guards in the tombs follow you around, calling out names or things in the carvings. "Cartouche. Osiris. Crocodile." and then expect a tip. This "walking wallet" thing is tiring.

Then we went "next door" to the tomb of Tawosret / Sethnakht -- a double tomb of sorts. Two big burial chambers... a little like train carriages. Really nice paintings -- have they been restored (repainted?). Lots of stars on the ceiling. Pretty.

For our final tomb we went to Ramses VII Big tomb, lovely painting, etc. Clearly the heat was getting to me at this point. Decided therefore to skip the Ramses VI tomb -- we had been in the Valley nearly 2 hours already.

So to the exit and the gauntlet of vendors. Everything so cheap -- but almost all of it crap. So tiresome. But it's their livelihood, I know.

Then back to the car and to Deir al-Bahri, aka the Temple of Hatshepsut. Her temple is beautiful -- looks fantastic and modern.

Most of it has been rebuilt using modern stone. But there are some beautiful reliefs carved on the terraces... including the bringing of trees to her garden, a couple of which "survive" (or linger as dead stumps) near the ticket gate. Lots of annoying touts -- taking pictures of people with their camera and then refusing to return them till they are given a tip. We didn't fall for it, of course.

the bringing of trees!

sadly, it's a tiny stump that they're hoping will re-grow...

 I love when you can see the pain still on the statues:

Super hot there, and we finished the water. As we braved the tourist gauntlet, one clever vendor had posted a large price list for his cold drinks. That's all I want, really. I'm happy to pay over the odds, but not to be fleeced all the freaking time. Really. So we bought Coke Light and water and guzzled it.

Then back in the taxi -- where the driver encouraged us to go to an alabaster factory (we said no). We didn't have time (or, by that point, ENERGY) to go to the Ramesseum, so we just went to the Colossi of Memnon to snap a couple of pictures and then headed back to the hotel.

We asked the driver to take us somewhere to buy water and soda and he stopped at a place in Karnak, not far from the hotel. We loaded up, even buying two expensive bottles of mineral water (12 LE each, when soda is only 5).

Spent the rest of the afternoon lolling by the pool and reading trashy books. I had finished "The Host", and got most of the way through the horribly written "Atlantis Code".

In the evening, we took a shuttle into town and went to the Kings Head pub. Wil had a Heineken while I made the grievous error of ordering a whisky sour. I mean, I wouldn't order that in a proper English pub, so what was I thinking? I suspect they had never made one before ... it was lemon juice (not lemonade, just sour lemon juice), and a splash of whisky. So nasty, almost undrinkable. Totally my fault.

Then a wander through Luxor in the dark, and we walked home along the corniche. So many cruise ships! Moored 4 deep. Are any of them going to move? Weird. Spent the whole walk fending off taxis, carriages, and felluccas. Tiresome.

Walking through Karnak village, we stopped to buy soda. The kid tried to charge us 10 each for the soda, so we started to walk out. We quickly dropped to 10 total.

Some little lad followed us for blocks and blocks, shouting "Hello! Money!" over and over. Really annoying. Then back to the hotel. Did I mention I burned my legs really badly? Idiot.

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