Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 6 -- early rise, breakfast of omelets and fresh feta, whole wheat pita, fresh tomatoes and cucumber slices, oversweetened lemonade, and yogurt with honey, all eaten with the dawn breaking over the nile on the rooftop restaurant of our hotel. Then rush downstairs to meet our donkeys which our guides assured us would get us to the Valley of the Kings in half an hour. 90 minutes later, after riding west into the hills above the nile valley, climbing a narrow trail that ran along the top of a daunting cliff below us (a few moments of nervousness, when I wondered if my donkey could keep its' footing on the weathered shale), over the Temple of Hatshepsut, and down into the valley of the Kings. We left our guides to take our mounts back to town, while we descended into the Valley. The girls were hot and tired as the temperature at 10 am rose past 37C. We hoped the deep tombs would offer a respite from the heat, but our first, Tuthmosis III, went so deep into the mountain that we were clearly inhaling the exhaled breaths of previous tourists. Stiffled by the heat, we persisted and perspired looking at the comic-strip style account of the book of the dead -- how the pharaohs were transported to the realm of the gods -- in detailed color paintings and heiroglyphs -- painted by artists of the middle kingdom, 3,500 years ago. All this in lofty Cartouche shaped rooms carved 350 feet into the limestone.

No photos allowed, but you can see what we saw by finding the photos posted by those who broke the rules about no photos. We went to two other tombs -- Ramses III and the combined tombs of a king and his daughter-who-became-queen after her husband died and she simply extended his tomb a bit deeper and made a burial chamber for herself. All beautifully painted and carved with images of gods and pharaohs and baboons and crocodiles and a 3 headed winged snake with legs and beheaded prisoners and slaves being flogged and harpists serenading gods...

Just when we thought things would get really hot, we got in an airconditioned cab to hatshepsut temple. This scene is reminiscent of something out of Kipling or Edgar Rice Borroughs -- 3 flights of steps the width of a road rising out of the desert to the tiered temple carved into the cliff walls above. The heat really set in here and Sivan and Amali just wanted to get back to the cool of the pool...which is what we did...and where we are right now...

Just us at the nile valley hotel. Later we will cross the nile and head to the Luxor bazaar for --- more shopping!!! Seems to be Sivan's favorite part of each day... go figure.

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