So another early start. We began at 5:30 and made our way to the Valley of the Kings. We focused on the most beautiful tombs, the ones still covered in paint and that held up well despite their 3,000 years! We started with Ramses VI which had incredible coloring, as did Merenptah’s tomb. They felt alive and I felt as if I were being led down to a tomb indeed. You walk along distracted by the fantastic pictures that are all so brightly painted and it’s a surreal feeling because people made this tomb, carved and painted those pictures and then buried a dead man within it all! Here I am thousands of years later. What the first discovery must have felt like I cannot imagine. And nowhere was this feeling more prevalent than in Tut’s tomb. I had seen the gold and treasure, I knew where everything was found, but I had not realized how small the tomb was. And it was gilded, painted with strange Amarna-style art and then oh! that’s King Tut’s mummy. It’s right there, behind the glass! The man/boy I’ve read about and has been made so famous is right here and I can see his toes. I can see that one toe tucks behind the one next to it, that his hands were no bigger than a young boy’s, his face youthful despite its age. I have never felt that I was seeing history before, but then I felt it.
We went next to Hatshepsut’s Temple. The clever woman pharaoh built it between the Valleys of the Kings and Queens – what a statement. It almost looks as if it were carved out of the mountain itself, it sits like shelves on top of each other, three levels of sandstone floors covered in pictures and paintings. It was fully restored in 2002, but it took decades to complete. An earthquake and Tuthmosis III were the main causes of destruction. Though it is put back together and Hatshepsut’s statues stand tall to look out on the valley, her name and image were chiselled out of every part of the temple. By the way, it’s a lot more work to purposefully chisel out those sole portions rather than destroy the whole temple – it’s a statement. I felt like I was in the house of one of the women I admire the most in history.
Before venturing into the Valley of the Queens we stopped at an alabaster shop where they showed us how real alabaster products are made. They also showed us how to tell the real alabaster from the fake. They had some really old pieces as well, but I settled for a little cup that reminded me of the “You chose wisely” goblet in Indiana Jones.
The tombs in the Valley of the Queens were in impeccable shape. Some of them I thought they had repainted because it looked so perfect. We entered Nefertari’s tomb, the wife of Ramses II, which felt so real and like walking through a portal to another time. The paintings here and in Queen Titi’s tombs were so vivid it almost felt unreal. Queen Titi had a son that died and he had his own tomb entirely separate from his mother’s. This child died while still a fetus, he was a miscarriage, but he had an entire tomb to himself. He was depicted as a grown child throughout and then as an adult, a prescribed story of what his life could have been. His tomb was most vibrant of all.
We made it in time to the boat and went to the roof as we went underway. My dad was very generous and purchased massages for my sister and I, as both of us were essentially hunch-backed and stiff-legged by now from the horse and busy days since. We went to the “spa,” a very tiny room that the two of us, plus our two masseurs barely fit in. During the massage we heard someone yelling “hello” outside the window. My mind was racing because we were on the water now. I assumed it was another boat but it was so loud! Later in my room with my limbs back to working order, I heard the chant again. I went out on the balcony and realized there was a small boat that would tack onto our ship and people were trying to sell us things from their boat! They would toss up scarves and carpets hoping you would toss down some bills – insane!
I went up to the roof and relaxed with Agatha as I baked in the sun with a handmade strawberry juice by my side. Bed followed dinner as we prepared for Edfu Temple the next morning.