The Quest for the Warrior Pharaoh – Valley of the Kings

14th May 2006

We arrived at the Valley of the Kings and my breath was taken away by the isolation of this place. It was stark, dead and desolate. We got off the bus and of course were immediately attacked by souvenir hawkers, we then boarded a small train into the valley. Before we could enter, we were told that video cameras were not allowed, I managed to get mine in anyway and do a few seconds worth of filming. We were given a ticket that let us into three tombs, the first tomb we were to go in with Ramez and the other two we were allowed to choose ourselves. Ramez decided to take us into the tomb of Ramses IV, which is a large very well-preserved tomb. I marvelled at how bright the colours still were inside and of the magnitude of its construction. I also had my photo taken outside its entrance.

I then set off to the next tomb I wanted to visit. It was a strange feeling being in a place I had studied in so much depth. I had never been to this place but seemed to know my way around it very well. I managed to find many of the 18th Dynasty tombs I had wanted to visit, but they were all closed. The only one I couldn’t seem to locate was the most well-hidden and whose path was the most treacherous in the valley, that of Thutmose III. After some deliberation I decided to go in search of this tomb. I found a map and carefully studied it, it was a long way away from the group and indeed a long way away from anyone, it could have been worse I suppose KV55 wasn’t even listed on the map….final insult to Akhenaten I thought.

I set off and started away from the tourists, I made a left turn from the main area, which led me up a wide deserted pathway, completely surrounded by cliff faces. The only other human being I met on the way was a sentry doing his duty, sitting by the side of the path in a chair with a rather large M-16, wearing a bright white uniform. He commented “Pretty Girl” as I walked past, which made me feel a little uneasy. “Come on Kristina, you can do this” I said to myself. The path continued and started to wind around further to the left, I remember thinking that if anything happened, I would be done for, I was so far from the rest of the group that no one would be able to hear me scream, I was totally alone. At this chilling thought I quickly spun around to see if the sentry with the machine gun was following me, luckily, behind me was only a pathway as deserted as the one that lay ahead. I continued on and at the final turn was faced with a vertical cliff face, a dead end apart from the almost vertical metal staircase that led up into the rock.

Outside the tomb of Ramses IV in the Valley of the Kings
Outside the tomb of Ramses IV

I climbed the staircase and then walked up and around up some stone steps, I then came to the entrance to the tomb. There was an older man in a turban seated at the entrance that tore my ticket and handed me a flashlight. When he gave me the flashlight I thought, wow I’m really in for it here, aren’t I. I descended another steep metal staircase and ducked as I entered the tomb. The entrance was almost identical to the entrance of Kharfre’s Pyramid which I had visited only days before. The ceiling was around one metre high and a metal staircase, which was actually stepper than Khafre’s continued down into the tomb.

As I walked along the first corridor, I came to the tomb robber pit which was very deep. It only had one small wooden bridge over it and no hand railings or barriers. The ceiling was still very low, and I had to crouch as I walked over the large drop, still carrying the torch. I felt like I was in some kind of Action-Adventure movie and with a laugh gave a glace behind me to see if a giant bolder was rolling towards me. When I reached the other side of the pit I crawled into the antechamber of the tomb. I was not only amazed by the wonders I found inside, but also at how deserted it was, I was literally the only one in there.

I walked all around the tomb admiring the stick figure like depictions on the walls, and could actually see the fingerprints of the ancient people in the plaster on the walls. How wonderful, I thought, traces of the everyday man of thousands of years past. I admired the burial chamber for its shape, an elongated oval or “cartoche” shape. The cartoche or sacred ropes is the shape used to enclose the name of the pharaoh. The sarcophagus of Thutmose III is also this shape. I left this tomb and spent a small amount of time in the tomb of Ramses III, whose tomb interests me not for its spectacular artwork but for the fact that it accidentally intersects with another tomb. It was also interesting to see that a man who had been the victim of a murderous plot had been buried with the same ceremony and pomp as all the other great pharaohs.

We got back on the little train and as we were leaving a man came up hawking spectacular postcards of the tombs, he wanted ten Egyptian pounds for three packets of them, I thought that was pretty good, especially as photography was not permitted inside the tombs and bought some, much to Dad’s annoyance. We then got back on the bus and headed for Deir el Bahri, Hatchepsuts mortuary temple. Ramez did not tell us where we were going and when I saw the temple through the cliffs, I yelled to Mum and Dad, “Look there’s Hatchepsut’s mortuary temple!” Ramez gave a rather surprised and interested glance in my direction before he announced that this was indeed where we were going. As we were getting off the bus, I overheard Mum telling him about my newly gained qualifications. While I had resolved not to play dumb anymore, I was still not keen to shove my resume in people’s faces.

This temple was exactly how I had imagined it would be and as I walked around, I felt more and more like I was in a daydream. The temple is completely surrounded by cliffs and the scenery looks very imposing, especially when you climb to the top. From the top you can see, the desolate desert, cliffs and the buildings left over from when the Polish helped restore the temple. I thoroughly explored the temple and even managed to find the Punt expedition scenes and the depiction of the fat queen of Punt, which used to amuse me in my studies at school.

Stairs leading to the tomb of Thutmose III in the Valley of the Kings
The staircase leading to the tomb of Thutmose III

We then went back to the ship, on the way back we went through Luxor in the daytime. How different it was to the eerie, deserted streets I had seen in the early hours of the morning the day before. The city that I had seen in a deserted state the previous morning was now alive, and I mean alive. Cars jammed the streets in every direction, people ran here and there selling their wares, old men sat outside shops smoking water pipes and the instrument causing the traffic jam appeared to be a bulldozer tearing up the street in front of us. It was chaos and no one cared, and I loved every second of it.

It was now very hot, and we went back to the ship to relax. I decided that I wanted to wear my new cartouche pendent and went to the jeweller, who always had a smile on his face every time he saw me coming, to get a chain. I knew exactly what I was looking for, the traditional Egyptian silver eye of Horus chain. The chain I picked out was too long and had to be shortened, the jeweller said that I could borrow another one so I could wear my cartouche as long as he could put the chain around my neck himself, which I thought was funny and let him. How wonderful the people here are I though, I thought about the jewellery shops in Australia and thought, I wonder if Michael Hill Jewellers would let me borrow something for the night at no charge and no security deposit. Fat chance I thought.

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