Tutankhamen and the Valley of the Kings

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Visiting the Valley of the Kings and the tomb of Tutankhamun

On the west bank of the Nile in Luxor are one of Egypts most famous historical sites - The Valley of the Kings and its most famous tomb of Tutankhamun- but there are other sites of interest as well including the Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut's Temple & The Colossi of Memnon. On the way we also made an unschedule stop at a stone carving shop.

The Valley of the Kings

Sun had lost none of its strength from the day before but we set out early to visit the Valley of the Kings. It was a relatively short drive from the Iberotel Hotel in Luxor across the Nile to the Valley of the Kings.

It didn't look too busy as we drove up and got out in temperatures that were probably just below 40C! However our guide advised us that when we got into the site properly we should be prepared for many hawkers trying to sell us related items. He advised us to simply ignore them but I continued to take the English "polite" route of saying no thank you which was only marginally successful. One particularly insistent man followed us from tomb to tomb thinking that our polite no thank yous might be worn down. Watch out for the trick of saying "its free" and putting it into your hand (its difficult to get them to take it back). Especially difficult is when they give it to the children saying "its free". He was a little upset when we finally left and it dawned on him that we were not, after all, going to buy anything.

In the complex our guide collected some official photos of the tombs (which unfortunately didn't seem to be on sale anywhere - you needed to buy a whole book). No cameras were even allowed into the complex. We walked up the hill into the tomb complex and in thankfully covered area our guide explained the tombs in the Valley of the Kings that we were going to see. Our tickets allowed us to see any 3 tombs except Tutankhamen's tomb for which we paid extra.

I'm not going to reproduce all the historical facts about the Valley of the Kings and the tombs within it. That's not the point of this website - there are plenty of good guide books and sites for that and frankly I can't remember everything we were told. However it seems these tombs were built in a later age than the Pyramids, partly because they were regarded as being more secure and partly because the age had moved on from the significance of Pyramids. Indeed looking around the Valley you can see that before the tombs were opened up again there would have been little to mark them out if you didn't know they were there. The tombs we visited were all close to the centre which avoided a long walk further up the hill - Ramses I, Ramses III and Ramses IV.

To get into the tombs you need to follow the queue down the steps of the tomb, have your ticket stamped (so you can only see the three you've paid for) and shuffle along, looking at the amazing wall carvings and paintings which are still bright and colourful. Our guide had pointed out in advance all of the key things to look for so it was a fascinating game of spotting them and reminding the children (or being reminded by them in most cases) what the significance of the various pictures were. While the heat was oppressive on the surface, underground it was pleasantly cool and it reminded me that there was a balance to coming off season - while the heat off season is sweltering, the queues were small so we had a reasonable amount of time to see everything we wanted.

The Tomb of Tutankhamun

The queue for the famous Tomb of Tutankhamun costs extra but is well worth the visit. While the tomb itself is small and the extravagant sacophagus' and guilded shrines have been moved to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, it still contains the actual mummy of Tutankhamun. As with the mummy chamber at the museum we were all morbidly fascinated by staring at an actual dead body of a famous Pharaoh. As the crowds were small we were able to spend a good deal of time just staring in awe at the body! Its an experience not to be missed.

The Temple of Hatshepsut

After our visit to the Valley of the Kings we briefly toyed with the idea of visiting the Valley of the Queens. Kate, our daughter in particular felt strongly about the fact that the Valley was reserved for the men. However it was hot and we felt drained from the Valley of the Kings so decided (after a token photo at the entrance to the Valley of the Queens to move onto the Temple of Hatshepsut - at least here was an enormous temple, dedicated to a famous female Egyptian.

The Temple itself is impressive and strangely different from many of the other monuments we'd seen in Egypt. From a distance the many columns made the temple look almost like a model made of matchsticks. At the entrance there is the remains of a tree which the sign says was transported there by Hatshepsut herself.

We didn't really do the Temple justice, as it was now close to midday and the heat and become pretty unbearable. We wondered briefly through the impressive columns and statues of the only female Pharaoh of note who seems to have found herself in this position as a result of being the guardian of a young pharoah and remained in control by dressing as a man and spreading rumours about her direct connection with the Gods. The retreated to a handy cafe inside the complex for a much needed bottle of water and cup of tea as well as plenty more opportunities to be "sold" too on the way out which takes you through a line of shops on your way to the exit!

The Colossi of Memnon

On our way back from Hatshepsut's temple we briefly stopped at the enormous statues of the Colossi of Nemnon. The statues were originally situated at the entrance to an temple complex of Amenopolis III. The temple must of been enormous given the size of the two guardians at the entrance which are apparently around 18 metres high. By now the family were too drained to really take much notice and most decided to stay in the air conditioned minibus but Callum and I decided to at least get out and have a picture in front of these Giant statues which are pretty much all that remains of the original temple.

The statues were apparently damaged in an earthquake in Roman times and caused them to sound like they were singing when the wind blew at dawn. Unfortunately the Roman's decided to repair them so they don't make a noise anymore!