Roger and I woke at a reasonable hour the day we visited the Valley of the Kings. Those on the tour that had decided to forgo the pleasure of the balloon ride which took in all the sights of Luxor and surrounds as well as a glorious sunrise had been woken at 3am to head off on their adventure.
Only four of us had declined the balloon trip and we had an adventure of our own that I valued possibly higher than being cramped in a balloon, fearful and desirous of jumping out.
We went with our guide to a small village in the valley of the Kings area where we were going to collect the balloon riders. Our guide loved his water pipe so he settled us in a local cafe ordering coffee for us and a hookah for himself. Across the road was Spongebob – a baby clothes and adult fashion store. Was it called Spongebob because of the square pants or the sponge to mop up baby accidents.
Once smoking our guide was happy.
and we watched the woman (one of the few women we had seen working in Egypt) prepare our coffee.
There was a constant parade of traffic past Spongebobs in both directions.
Before our coffee was made the call came that the balloon had landed. We needed to be off. Our coffee was given to us in the bus in crockery cups that our guide promised to return later in the day. Over the rough roads we bumped at speed and we wore most of our boiling hot coffee.
The trip along the way was fascinating with barren hills showing the evidence of recent digs for graves and I wondered if some were ancient houses dug into the hillside.
As we got closer to where we were to pick up the ballooners we saw others coming in to land.
and the furling of the balloon of those that had just landed. It looked like a mammoth task but there seemed to be plenty of hands helping.
The Valley of the Kings is the burial ground of the kings, queens, high priests and nobles from 1539 – 1075 BC. The bodies were mummified to ensure that it could reanimate in the afterlife. Great treasures, as well as mundane household items and food were buried inside the tombs with the deceased for their life in the afterworld. We were driven by auto train into the depths of the valley and the feeling was surreal – and a little eerie.
The cliffs towered up above us. It was in the Valley of the Kings I made my only mistake. I did not buy permission to take my camera as I considered the couple of hundred Australian dollars not to be worth it and our guide had promised someone who sold photos would meet us at the bus on our return thus being able to purchase some for a small amount. I left my camera on the bus as it would have been confiscated but phones were permitted. They weren’t for cameras after all.
We entered our first tomb. The man in gray at the door with the white turban was a temple guard. They were stationed all through the tombs.
On entering I knew I had made a big mistake. I have never seen such beauty and if I thought that the pyramids were going to be the most jaw dropping place we visited – I was wrong. I got out my phone and surrepticiously took some photos.
If only I could read what these heiroglyphs said.
I saw a temple guard arguing with a woman over the use of her mobile phone without camera permit. Money changed hands. I became a bit wary and when I saw a man pursued by a guard when he wouldn’t hand his phone over. He was caught at the entrance and his phone confiscated.
My photography became blurred as I worried about the guards.
There were no perfect shots to be had in this state of mind but I did see the guard coming towards me and I quickly turned my phone off. He came up and accused me of taking pictures. I lied – well kind of lied – I said show me the pictures I’m supposed to have taken. He grabbed the phone off me and of course it was turned off. He couldn’t get anything to come up. I said “See. I was just holding it.” I grabbed it back off him and said ” I’ll keep it in my bag so there is no question about what I am doing” and walked off, feeling guilty I had done the wrong thing but incredibly relieved that I had my phone back in one piece..
The tombs became progressively more and more colourful. Inwardly I cried but who could be upset when being faced with the most beautiful sight I think I had ever seen painted on the walls of these underground burial chambers.
Of course you had to pay extra to go into Tutankhamun’s tomb and again our guide had persuaded us that it wasn’t worth the visit. According to him the paintings weren’t that well preserved. That Tutankhamun was a minor king and not worthy of mention. The only reason he is known is because when Howard Carter discovered his tomb in 1922 it was the only intact tomb to have been discovered, most having been plundered years or centuries earlier. Naturally everything that was there has now been removed and the new museum in Cairo has replicated the tomb on site and all the treasures will be displayed.
Until 2005 62 tombs had been discovered in the Valley of the Kings. There is evidence of digging everywhere in the area and 63 was finally discovered. It is believed that there are probably more to come.
If you are ever in Egypt make the Valley of the Kings a must visit. Buy a camera permit. The photos were a waste of time – not what I wanted to have in my photographic memory banks but the images inside those tombs will live with me forever.