So, the internet has been spotty again, and it's taken me more than a week to load up all these pictures. I hope that they were worth the wait.
Two weekends ago, my travel buddies and I took a 12 hour train ride to the world famous upper Egyptian town Luxor. Luxor is famous for it's east and west banks (relative to the Nile), the east bank is simply Luxor and the west is what used to be ancient Thebes. Thebes came to prominence at the onset of the Middle Kingdom under Montuhotep II (2055-2004 BC) who reunited Upper and Lower Egypt, setting the capital at Thebes. Following Montuhotep's reign, Thebes became the religious capital of Egypt by serving as the center for the cult of Amun, while Memphis (aka Giza and the Cairo area) was the political capital.
With the end of the Second Intermediate Period and subsequent beginning of the New Kingdom, Thebes experienced a resurgence of prominence and became the most glorious city of ancient Egypt.
After getting a good night's rest and eating a hearty breakfast in the morning, we jumped in our van and crossed over the Nile onto the west bank, home of the Valley of the Kings (Queens and Nobles, as well), numerous temples, and the Colossi of Memnon. Our first stop was the Valley of the Kings.
When you go to the Valley of the Kings, you purchase a ticket and are quickly encouraged to buy a bus ticket for the long journey to the actual site of the tombs. Little did we know, but that long journey to the beginning of the valley was actually a 10 minute walk. As my roommate and I say, SNESA- Situation Normal, Egypt Strikes Again! So, the tickets we bought were eligible for viewing three tombs, so we had to be smart about which ones we chose. Our first stop was the tomb of Ramses VII, who ruled from 1136 to 1129 BC.
Picture of Ramses VII
First, I must note that we weren't allowed to take pictures. However, I was able to snap these (with my flash off of course) without damaging the art. Hopefully, I didn't damage your perception of me. Anyways, as you can see, the entirety of the walls and ceiling is covered with hieroglyphics and other carvings. The end of the walkway you see is the burial chamber. According to my guidebook, Coptic hermits once found refuge in this tomb, as evidenced by Coptic graffiti (which seems to find itself on most ancient Egyptian artifacts). From here, we began our walk to the tomb furthest away, the tomb of Tuthmosis III.
Valley of the Kings
Tomb of Tuthmosis III
Tuthmosis III (1479-1425 BC) was once called the Napoleon of ancient Egypt and was one of the first pharaohs to have his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. This tomb was very different from the first in that it was hidden high in the valley and required us to descend deeply into the mountainside. The glyphs in this tomb were noticeably different as well, since most of them looked like stick figures and lacked the detail of Ramses's tomb.
From Tuthmosis's tomb, we walked back towards where we began and decided the tomb of Ramses the IX to be our last stop.
Tomb of Ramses IX
From my LonelyPlanet guidebook: "Opposite Ramses II is the most visited tomb in the valley, the Tomb of Ramses IX (1126-1108 BC), with a wide entrance, a long sloping corridor, a large antechamber decorated with the animals, serpents and demons from the Book of the Dead- then a pillared hall and short hallway before the burial chamber." I was able to stealthily get a shot of this burial chamber, which luckily enough, was well lit. The glyphs in this tomb seemed to mark a return to the style of Ramses VII as opposed to the stick-figures from Tuthmosis's tomb. Having explored our three tombs, we hopped back into our van and made our way over to Deir al-Bahri, where the Temple of Hatshepsut is located.
Temple of Hatshepsut
The Temple of Hatshepsut is partly carved from the cliffs that rise behind it. Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BC) is widely regarded as one of the most successful female pharaohs, noting her long comparatively long reign. The Temple has been vandalized, defaced, and restyled over the years; it does, however, retain many of the vestiges that gave it the name "Most Holy of Holies" from ancient Egyptian times.
As I began my ascent up the steps leading to the entrance, I noticed the immensity of this temple. Once atop, you see the carvings lining the colonnade in front, and a few of them are pictured below.
Passing through the colonnaded terraces, I walked straight into the upper terrace, with the Sanctuary of Amun opposite me. In this upper terrace I noticed a lot of damage to the glyphs and reliefs lining the walls. From this terrace, we walked down back towards the middle terrace, which divides the Hathor Chapel and Chapel of Anubis. Not surprisingly, the Hathor Chapel had many depictions of Hathor, an ancient goddess that is usually depicted as a cow, while the Chapel of Anubis had reliefs of its namesake lining it's walls.
Well-preserved relief in the Chapel of Anubis (not Anubis)
After leaving the Temple of Hatshepsut, we stopped at the Ramesseum next. The Ramesseum, as its name implies, is a massive memorial temple built by one of ancient Egypt's most famous rulers, Ramses II, who actually called it "the Temple of Millions of Years of User-Maat-Ra," and it served as part of his funerary complex. Much of the temple, as you can see, has undoubtedly felt the effects of time. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic site to see.
Entering the grounds of the Ramesseum
Standing in the Second Court
The Colossus of Ramses II
This destroyed Colossus of Ramses II is absolutely huge. I can only imagine how great it must have looked like in ancient times when it stood more than 50 feet tall. This crumbled statue actually served as the inspiration for the English poet Shelly's "Ozymandias."
One of the reliefs at the Ramesseum
One of my favorite parts of the Ramesseum was the Great Hypostyle Hall, which consisted of 29 of the original 48 columns, each of which is covered with glyphs from top to bottom. You can sort of see them in the shot of the whole Ramesseum. From the Ramesseum we went to another temple, Ramses III's memorial temple of Medinat Habu. Immediately walking towards the temple, you are confronted with two large reliefs facing you on either side. One of them depicts Ramses III defeating his enemies. If you can remember my post in which I describe the Narmer palette, I mention the importance of the smiting pharaoh. As you can see here, the pharaoh is smiting his enemies albeit this time, with more details and help from the gods.
Pharaoh smiting enemies
Another relief that became popular in ancient Egypt was the pharaoh shooting an arrow from a horse-drawn chariot, which is pictured above.
One of the better preserved reliefs
After walking around the temple and realizing how little we understood, we decided to head over to our last stop of the day- the Colossi Memnom. The Colossi of Memnom are about 18m high and were once a part of Amenhotep III's large memorial temple, which would have been the largest temple in ancient Egypt (even larger than Karnak, which will be the subject of my next post). Each colossi was carved from a single block of stone weighing roughly 1000 tons. Visitors during the Graeco-Roman times attributed these statues to Memnom, the famous African king who died at the hands of Achilles during the Trojan War.
Me with the Colossi
In one day we saw half of Luxor, so as expected, we were pretty tired. That night, we found a local bar and met some other travelers and even played pool. Needless to say, we slept well and were excited for the next day of sight-seeing.