Monday, April 5, 2010

Up the Nile: Day 3 (Luxor)

Day 3 of my trip saw me oversleeping to meet Farouk's group for their West Bank tour, but luckily the guys at my hotel (The Nefertiti, definitely recommended but rather basic) know tons of guides and I squeezed into a small tour group heading out at 8am.  This is late by West Bank standards because the Valley of the Kings and the temple of Hatsepsut are situated in one of the hottest places on earth, so it pays to get there and get out nice and early.  No matter, it was my last morning in Luxor so I had no choice but to go when I could so I cheerfully tagged along with an international group of travelers, including a good-humored Finnish guy from my hotel whom everyone assumed I was in a relationship with the whole day.  We laughed and shrugged it off while wandering from tomb to tomb in the heat, playing a game of "spot the tourist with the most impressive sunburn!"

There are no photos allowed once you enter the Valley of the Kings complex, as the flashes damage the tomb paintings, and when they allowed photography at all the no-flash rule was never respected.  Apparently tourists make quite a horrible eroding effect on these beautiful, ancient tombs, adding tons of moisture to the air, etc.  So long story short, tombs are carefully rotated in and out of being off-limits to tourists, and flash photography is definitely verboten.  We saw 3 tombs, which were in various styles and different time periods.  I really believe you'd have to go there yourself to understand the experience, but I just kept finding myself thinking how exciting it must have been for the archeologists who discovered these treasures of painting and architecture.  In the tombs we visited the colors were very well-preserved, and the lovely paintings were full of detail that you just wanted to oggle for ages, despite the thin air, floods of tourists, heat, and close quarters.

After that we drove around to the other side of this rock formation that the Valley of the Kings inhabits, to the temple of Hatshepsut (Deir al Bahri), which was amazing and rather hot.  We scurried through amid scores of tourists, taking our time however to enjoy the small attached temple to Hathor with it's images of the cow-eared goddess and the shrine which the guard let us peek into around a curtain.

After that it was a quick stop by the Colossi of Memnon, two huge, weathered statues which are the only remnants of a massive temple complex.  Everyone was exhausted by then so it was on to a felucca across the Nile for a buffet lunch, before my Finnish hubbie and I wandered back to the hotel via the area where the avenue of sphinxes is being unearthed and restored.  I hear the goal is to clear the way from Luxor temple all the way to Karnak, displacing whatever residences in the way...interesting project considering there wasn't much to see of the sphinxes except their plinths in the restoration sections we passed by.

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