just had an unusual incident. As I was walking to the internet cafe, one of the
shopkeepers called out to me, "where are you from my friend?", I
smiled and nodded and kept on walking, as they continued "what is a
destination?". Philosophy instead of a sales pitch? I stopped, turned
around and listened to the shopkeeper, a young man. He continued, "can I
ask you what this word means? A destination?". I answered. He then pulled
out his mobile phone and asked me to read him a message from someone written in
English. I read it word for word, but didn't translate the subtext to him,
which was, "I am pregnant, I need your details for the birth certificate
and maybe for legal reasons and I won't ever see you again you bastard".
He smiled and asked me to text her back, which I did, then continued on my way.
This morning I started with the Valley of the Kings,
where later Pharoahs were buried once they saw that pyramid stood out and were
The valley has nearly a hundred tombs in it, with no outward display,
just a small entrance blocked with rubble. They have all been cleared out now
(all but one by graverobbers, Tutenkahmen by the Egyptian museum). The valley
is overlooked by a pyramid shaped mountain called Al-Qurn (‘The Horn’).
We visited the tomb of Rameses IV (20th dynasty), which was lived in
by Coptic Christians ~150CE, and contains antique Jesus-graffiti. It was just a
short passageway leading to a small room with a giant sarcophagus, but what was
amazing was the carvings on every surface, hieroglyphs and religious scenes,
all still with fresh colours on. The tomb was decorated with the Book of Gates,
the Book of Caverns, the Litany of Ra, the Book of Nut, the Book of the Night,
and the Book of the Earth.
The second tomb I visited was that of Rameses III (20th dynesty).
This was a larger tomb, with additional chambers of mummies of muscians to keep
him company. The tomb had a kink in it, as the builders bumped into a lost tomb
while digging, and had to redirect their efforts. It contains paintings of the
burial offerings, the king with the gods, the Litany of Ra, the Imy-dwat, the
Book of Gates, the Book of the Eart, the Book of the Dead, and astronomical
scenes. The third tomb was that of Rameses I (19th dynesty). It was
tiny (it is assumed it was a hasty burial), but the paintings were the most
vivid of all, and I could imagine the Temple of Karnak
in its full glory of colour.
After the Valley of the Kings we visited the
Tomb of Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut was the most powerful Queen of Egypt, ruling
~1500 BCE after her husband died. She made herself coreagent, displaying her
step-son, and ruled for many years, building temples and tombs, waging major
wars and so forth. When she finally died, her stepson took her place and
removed her carvings from all of her monuments. The Tomb of Hatshepsut is
enormous, a three tier columned monument carved into the mountain, looking more
like a modern five-star hotel than an ancient tomb. The area is now desert, but
at the time she built a three kilometre canal to irrigate the valley and plant
a garden, complete with trees imported from the land of Punt (modern Somalia),
the tree roots are still in the valley.
Finally, we went to the Valley of the Queens.
Like the Valley of the Kings, it is a barren
valley surrounded by high stone cliffs, with many hidden tombs. We went in two,
the plain Tomb of Tyti, and a Tomb to the prince Amunherkhepsef, who died when
he was nine. His mother was so upset she gave him her tomb, then miscarried the
child she was carrying and left it in the tomb to keep him company.
Just as a side note to the Valley of the Queens, Herodotus, the ancient Greek
historian (~500 BCE) had this to say about embalming: When the wife of a
distinguished man dies, or any woman who happens to be beautiful or well known,
her body is not given to the embalmers immediately, but only after the lapse of
three or four days. This is a precautionary measure to prevent the embalmers
from violating the corpse, a thing which is said actually to have happened in
the case of a woman who had just died.
On the way back we visited the Colossi of Memnon. The ancient Greeks believed
they were statues of Memnon (slain by Achilles in the Trojan War), but they are
actually the only remaining quartzite statues for a temple built by Amenhotep
III. After an earthquake in 27 BCE a bell-like ring was sometimes heard from
the statues, until the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus tried the repair the
statues in 199 CE, and stopped the ringing.