My daughter Pam and I awaken in our cabin aboard our cruise ship, the Royal Lotus. Although no longer cruising the Nile, the Royal Lotus will stay docked at Luxor and be our hotel while we explore the sites in the area. Luxor is located on the east bank of the Nile River in Upper (southern) Egypt. In earlier times, Luxor was the thriving capital of Ancient Egypt and known as Thebes. We will stay here one more night before returning to Cairo for more sightseeing and the end of the tour.
After breakfast, our tour group crosses the Nile to visit the west bank of the city, where the famous and impressive Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are located. The site is a large, arid, rocky, sandstone necropolis built into steep cliffs where Pharaohs, Egyptian nobles, and others were buried from the 16th to the 11th centuries BCE.
Pharaohs, their families, and those who served them sought immortality in these Valleys. The religion of the people of ancient Egypt held that after death, the body had to be mummified to preserve it for the life that was to follow death on earth. Given their beliefs, the Valley was a suitable place for Ancient Egyptians to be buried. Mummies survive in the Valleyâ€™s hot, arid climate. Moreover, nothing grows here making the tombs a suitable bridge to the underworld and to becoming one with both Osiris, the god of the underworld, and the sun god Re.
As of 2008, 63 tombs and chambers had been discovered in the Valley of the Kings, and all have been the victim of tomb robbers. The largest tomb was built for 52 sons of King Ramses 2. The longest was built for Queen Hatshepsut, who lived in the 15th century BCE, and the only woman who ruled as a Pharaoh. Queen Hatshepsutâ€™s tomb is the one that Pam and I explore the most and the only one covered in this post.
The magnificent Temple of Hatshepsut has a long and varied history, including serving as Deir el-Bahri Monastery for monks after Christianity was introduced to Egypt. The longest tomb in the Valley, it extends about 689 feet into the hillside and descends about 328 feet.
Pillars line the Templeâ€™s porticos.
Close view of a colonnade pillar in the Temple of Hatshepsut
Paintings cover the walls . . .
Wall painting on the interior walls of the Temple of Hatshepsut
. . . and extend to the ceiling.
The wall painting reaches the ceiling.
The Ancient Egyptian god Horus watches over the tomb.
Wall painting of a falcon, the Egyptian hieroglyph symbol for god. The Ancient Egyptian god Horus was depicted as a falcon.
Hatshepsutâ€™s temple is a busy place.
Visitors walking up the ramp arrive at the second level of the Temple of Hatshepsut in the Valley of the Kings.
An ankh symbol carved on a pillar gives the purpose and meaning of the temple: eternal life for the deceased buried here.
Ankh hieroglyph at the Temple of Hatshepsut. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, the symbol represents eternal life.
Overawed by the extensiveness of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, to the point that I donâ€™t seem to be absorbing much anymore, Iâ€™m glad to climb on the coach and return to the Royal Lotus for lunch.
This afternoon we head to Karnak, the greatest city of Ancient Egypt. Hearing the word Karnak, I remember the late Johnny Carson for many years playing the role of the turbaned psychic, Carnac the Magnificent, on The Tonight Show. I wonder if Carson got the idea for this character while visiting Karnak, Egypt.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (The photo on this UNESCO page is of a site in Karnak. Karnak will be covered in my next post on Egypt.)
Previous posts on Egypt
Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 6. Edfu. Six photos. Posted June 5, 2011
Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 5. Cruising the Nile River. Twenty-three photos. Posted May 12, 2011
Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 4. Abu Simbel. Nine photos. Posted April 22, 2011.
Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 3. Aswan. Thirteen photos. Posted March 24, 2011
Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 2. Memphis and Saqqara. Eight photos. Posted February 25, 2011
Egypt: A cradle of civilization. Part 1. Giza. Twelve photos. Posted January 22, 2011
Future posts on Egypt will cover Karnak and Cairo.