Kings, Queens and Family Drama

We docked our cruise ship in Luxor, formerly the ancient city of Thebes, on the east bank of the Nile at about 5:30 Wednesday evening. We hopped on a bus and drove a couple of minutes over to Luxor Temple. Another beautiful temple that was built by Amenhotep III (1390-52 BC) but completed by Tutankhamun (1336-27 BC) and Horemheb (1323-1295 BC) and then added to by Rameses II (1279-13 BC). Toward the rear is a granite shrine dedicated to Alexander the Great (332-305 BC). What distinguishes this temple from the others is that this temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day. During the Christian era, the temple’s hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian church. Then for thousands of years, the temple was buried beneath the streets and houses of Luxor. Eventually the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was built over it. This mosque was carefully preserved when the temple was uncovered and forms an integral part of the site today. It is interesting to note that the original entrance to the mosque is many feet above where we stand in the temple today. Hard to believe that until a few hundred years ago, people did not know it existed.

The next morning we were up bright and early and on the bus to the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile. During Egypt’s New Kingdom (1539-1075 B.C.), the valley became a royal burial ground for pharaohs such as Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Ramses II, as well as queens, high priests, and other elites of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. There have been 64 tombs discovered to date but only a few are open to the public. With our admission ticket we were allowed to go inside three tombs. We chose Ramses IV, Ramses IX and Meremptah. We did not enter King Tut’s tomb as it was a seperate entrance fee and our tour guide said that there was nothing to see there as all the artifacts have been removed to the Egyptian museum. Each tomb was similar but also very different. Merenptah was the largest and we had to walk a fair ways down into the ground to reach the burial chamber. (I don’t think that you would have liked this Mom). Ramses IX had brilliant colors, well preserving the hieroglyphics on the walls and ceiling. Ramses IV was similar but also had some Coptic Christian graffiti on the walls. Again, the details in the workmanship in all the tombs was magnificent!

Our next stop was the Hatshepsut Temple. A daughter of King Thutmose I, Hatshepsut became queen of Egypt when she married her half-brother, Thutmose II, around the age of 12. Upon his death, she began acting as regent for her stepson, the infant Thutmose III, but later took on the full powers of a pharaoh, becoming co-ruler of Egypt around 1473 B.C. Built in a half circle of cliffs, this memorial temple marks the entrance to the Valley of the Kings and was a marvel of ancient architecture. It boasts three levels and from the third level you can see across the Nile to the Karnak Temple obelisk. Once Thutmose III became an adult, he resented his stepmother (also his aunt) for being on the throne. Once he came to power, he ordered all of her statues destroyed and built a wall in front of the obelisk at Karnak Temple so that it was no longer visible from her temple. Not a happy camper, that one!!

We had to see what all the fuss was about at Karnak Temple so crossed back over the Nile on a motorboat, had some lunch at a dockside restaurant and went to check it out. The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction of temples started in the Middle Kingdom and continued into Ptolemaic times. Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen elsewhere.One famous aspect of Karnak is the Hypostyle Hall with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters. Though most of Karnak is in ruins, these pillars still stand mostly in one piece. There are also two obelisks that are mostly intact and another that is lying horizontal giving us a closeup view of the carvings and workmanship of this artifact. We wandered around this temple for an hour or so and it wasn’t until this point that I actually made the connection between Ramses II (who built much of this temple) and Moses. Was this one of the temples that Moses was overseeing construction on? Did he walk on this ground? Much food for thought and another “pinch me” moment.  

Back on the bus we headed to The Three Corners Sunny Beach Resort at Hurghada along the Red Sea. We arrived at 8 PM, grabbed some supper and headed to our room. We freshened up, headed down to the pool area and had a couple of drinks and lots of laughs with some of our new friends from this tour group – Elvis and Lise from Estonia, Ellen, Ben and Vicki from Australia, Wojek and Abey from the US, Trudy from London, Ont and our tour guide Peter. Again, the people are always the highlights of our journey.

Looking forward to a day of R&R by the Red Sea and an opportunity to absorb all of the sights that we have experienced. Only a couple more days in Egypt and we head to Jerusalem for Christmas. Time is flying by!!

The Luxor Temple, the pictures were at night so they did not come out that great.


The Mosque that was built on top of the original temple.  As you can see they are not able to use the original door anymore.


The picture below may be of interest to some of you.  It is a statue of King Tut and his wife.


The valley of the Kings.  As Col said, we visited three tombs and I have put a picture that was at the entrance of each tomb to differentiate and identify the tomb pictures from each other.




Notice the sarcophagus just below the ceiling.


More Coptic Christian graffiti.  In hindsight I guess they didn’t realize they were defacing wonderful historical sites.


Hatshepsut Temple.



For those of you who are muppet fans you will notice that Sam the Eagle showed up at Hatshepsut Temple.


Karnak Temple.


The bug from the Mummy Movie which would burrow into your skin and then travel up to your brain.  Apparently that was just a Hollywood trick as it never happened in real life and yes it was worshipped as a minor god.


Now I know where they got the idea for Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode 1.