Tell-el Amarna: Guns, Stonings, and Akenaten's Palace

Tell el-Amarna Travel Blog

 › entry 22 of 30 › view all entries
Ferry.
So, how does one get down to Tell el-Amarna in 2003?  It was a week after the terrorists who shot a bunch of tourists at Deir el-Bahari were released from prison (they came from Middle Egypt which is where Tell el-Amarna is located).  Not to mention the area was also prime white slave trader territory.  Like I would ever let THAT stop me.  We couldn't rent a taxi to get down there.  The trains did not stop between Cairo and Luxor and nearly every tour company I spoke with laughed, said Inshallah, and then no.  But, my perserverence paid off and I fould one company just as crazy as I am - Soliman Travel.
Amarna.
  They are a small British based tour company that was willing to rent a car and driver to myself and my 5 unsuspecting friends.  Finding their office to pay for the car was a nightmare unto itself - but that story is neither here nor there. 

November 14, 2003, at the crack of down we pile into a Soliman travel van and begin our quest for Akhenaten's captial and necropolis.  It took 7 hours and 15 different military escorts to get us to Tell el-Amarna.  As we entered each different governorate a new military escort "protected" us.  We constantly had to stop at the different check points and wait about a 1/2 hour for the escort to arrive.  When we finally arrived at the modern day village of Tell el-Amarna we had to take a ferry across a river to the site.
Northern Tombs.
  At the "ferry" terminal a huge swarm is teenage kids mobbed the van, throwing rocks larger than the size of your fist at the car and lemons inside the rolled down windows.  (Have I mentioned I'm not the biggest fan of Egyptian children.)  Our military escort that was there to protect us just hung back and laughed.  Completely useless!!  Our driver ended up getting out of the van with a large stick and chasing the little monsters away.  The "ferry"  that we used to cross the river consisted of basically of a large flat wooden platform.  Some of the kids, who had just been tormenting us, decided to join us on the boat and try to sell us baskets.  Needless to say we kept the windows rolled up, not trusting this suddenly passive display.
Northern tombs.
  On the other side of the river, two military men with huge guns decided to join us in our van to make sure that we were extra "safe."  Again, remember before - useless.  The guns probably didn't even have bullets inside. 

Stop number one was the Northern Tombs.  Now to top off this bizarre story - it was also Ramadan.  This is a time when people fast during the day and eat when the sun goes down, i.e. work stops, people sleep during the day and party all night.  But, all ancient stuff is SUPPOSED to be open.  Catch is we're in Egypt and nothing goes as it is supposed to.  After much arguing with the guards at the Northern Tombs in our smattering of Arabic and their smattering of English, and a lot of "the guard with the key is at home sleeping because it is Ramadan" and us countering with "we don't give a f*ck, the tombs are supposed to be open, so go find the guy", we prevailed and us, our driver, our military escort, and our new found guard friends piled into cars and drove off to hunt down the guy with the key.
Entrance to Meryre's Tomb.
  Once we located him at his home, it was back to the Northern Tombs to begin our exploration.  The Northern Tombs were built high up in a cliff face overlooking the palace complex and the Nile.  None of the tombs were lit, so it was dark and we had to be extra careful for pit traps, but we were still able to make out the wall reliefs.  Of the Northern Tombs we went inside 3:

* All pictures taken inside the Northern and Southern tombs were done through bribery.  Photos are technically not allowed.  It's amazing what a little baksheesh will get you.  And remember - NO FLASH!! It fades the wall reliefs! *

1) Ahmose (No. 3) - 'Fan bearer on the King's Right Hand'. We were able to see some initial ink outlines and grids. 

2) Meryre I (No.
Meryre's Tomb.
4) - He was the High Priest of the Aten.  He was depicted being carried by his friends to receive rewards from the royal couple.  The reliefs were beautifully preserved and the color is still fresh!

3) Panehesy (No. 6) - He was the Chief Servant of the Aten.  Nefertiti is depicted driving her own chariot. 

Finally satisified that we had soaked up everything we could from the Northern Tombs, it was on to the Southern Tombs. 

1)  Ay (No. 25) - His titles were 'God's Father' and 'Fan-bearer on the King's Right Hand'.  This is the SAME Ay who advised Tutankhamun and ruled after Tut died.  Ay was buried in the Valley of the Monkeys in Luxor.  Yep, you heard that right - he used to be an Amarnanite.  There was also a pillared hall and beautifully preserved reliefs in the tomb.
Palace.


Akhenaten's tomb (or atleast his Amarna tomb) is located at the far end of one of the Wadi's (long canyons).  To reach his tomb, which is in theory open, you need to rent 4 wheel jeeps in Minya, grab a couple of topo maps and archaeological maps so you know where the tomb is, and head out.  A few friends and I were going to try this at the end of November, sadly, we got stuck in Luxor for an extra day since there wasn't a plane or train or car with a vacancy and thus had to scrap our quest to find Akhenaten's tomb.  Now it's on my list for next time, along with Siwa and Beni Hassan.

Our last stop at Amarna was Akhenaten's palace.  After his death, Amarna was labeled as tabooed and no one built over the palace.  This has continued through Arab times, making Amarna the only palace that was never rebuilt on.
Amarna.
  It is really amazing to be able to walk around basically untouched ground since Ancient times - you can still feel the raw energy seeping through.

7 hours and 15 military escorts later we were back in Cairo and off to the airport to fly down to Luxor.

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Ferry.
Ferry.
Amarna.
Amarna.
Northern Tombs.
Northern Tombs.
Northern tombs.
Northern tombs.
Entrance to Meryres Tomb.
Entrance to Meryre's Tomb.
Meryres Tomb.
Meryre's Tomb.
Palace.
Palace.
Amarna.
Amarna.
Amarna.
Amarna.
Amarna.
Amarna.
Northern Tombs.
Northern Tombs.
Ahmoses Tomb.
Ahmose's Tomb.
Ahmoses Tomb.
Ahmose's Tomb.
Meryres Tomb.
Meryre's Tomb.
Meryres Tomb.
Meryre's Tomb.
Panehesys Tomb.
Panehesy's Tomb.
Ays Tomb.
Ay's Tomb.
Southern Tombs.
Southern Tombs.
Southern Tombs.
Southern Tombs.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Palace.
Entrance to a Wadi in the cliffs b…
Entrance to a Wadi in the cliffs …
Tell el-Amarna
photo by: genkeeper