Enamoured in Egypt- Valley of the Kings and Karnak

After a hot air balloon ride and visit to Hatshepsut’s temple, we are back on the road for a short drive around the corner to the Valley of the Kings, one of the most famous archeological sites in the world. The area was used by the Egyptians as a burial site for their pharaohs and powerful nobles from the 18th to 20th dynasties and were built between 1539 and 1077 BC. So far there are just over 60 tombs that have been excavated. The tombs are cut deep into the rock, with long halls leading into the burial chambers.

The tombs are beautifully decorated with paintings on the walls, some depicting scenes from Egyptian mythology.

The tombs contained many treasures; everything one would need to continue their existence in the afterlife. And for this reason, most of the tombs were eventually looted by robbers.

Upon arrival, we jump on to the clunky little tram that takes us from the visitor’s center to the entrances of the tombs. The ticket price includes entrance to 3 tombs, and Ramez helps us to choose which ones to visit. There are also 3 tombs that you can visit by purchasing an extra ticket. I pick the one that only costs an extra $10; the other two cost around $25 and $90!! The expensive one is the tomb belonging to Tutankhamun; as much as I would love to see it I decide to skip it this time.

And as usual, it is extremely hot today…I feel like it’s the hottest I’ve been on this trip so far. Even though we will be underground exploring the tombs, it is still really hot down there too. First on the agenda is KV11, belonging to Ramesses III. It was originally built by Setnakhte, but it broke into an earlier tomb during construction so it was abandoned. No problem though…it was restarted and extended on a different axis for Ramesses III. Why waste a good tomb, right?

The decorations on these walls are just beautiful- with funerary texts reserved for pharaohs and nobles such as Book of Amduat, Book of Gates, Book of the Dead and Litany of Re. Here are some pics and I’ll admit I have no idea what is depicting what, but enjoy its splendor anyways!

Getting out of the tombs is a bit more of a challenge since it’s now an up-ramp climb. Not fun when you’re super hot and sweaty and some of the ramps are steep. Yay!! Next tomb is KV9 – belonging to Ramesses V but later taken over by his uncle Ramesses VI. This is the one I paid extra for.

The long corridors leading to the burial chamber are decorated with text from those books I mentioned earlier and there is a portion of the sarcophagus that remains in the burial chamber.

 Fun Fact: there is graffiti on these walls left by pilgrims (mostly from Greece).  And if you want to learn more about this tomb, here is a link to a full 3D model released in 2020. https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=NeiMEZa9d93&mls=1

Now onto KV8- this one is DEEP underground – 160M to be exact!

This tomb belongs to Merenptah. There is a set of 4 nested sarcophagi and the outer one is so huge that parts of the corridors had to have their doorjambs and pillars demolished and rebuilt so it would fit inside. Haha oops.

I realize I don’t have many pics of this tomb; maybe it’s because a lot of the paintings have been damaged by flooding. Or at risk of sounding spoiled, as you visit the tombs you see that the designs all look very similar so it’s tough to distinguish. To the non-Egyptologist eye….

The climb out of this tomb is a tough one; I’m starting to lose steam and I’m not feeling great. Time to break out the electrolyte powder! At this time, I run into Libby, and she’s looking as rough as I am. Luckily I have an extra electrolyte powder to give her, and we are saved from spending eternity in this tomb with Merenptah. And finally, it’s time to hit the last tomb on my list…KV2, belonging to Ramesses IV.

This tomb is also quite large with beautiful drawings on the walls, but a little more simplistic than the other tombs found in the Valley of the Kings

This one also contains some ancient graffiti similar to what was found in KV9. The sarcophagus here is broken and the mummy has been relocated, like most other mummies in the Valley of The Kings.

A borrowed photo to show you the sarcophagus because I slacked with my pics near the end

Exploration is now complete and we jump back on a boat across the Nile to go for lunch at African Restaurant.

It’s a popular place to eat here in Luxor, and we sit up on the rooftop patio. The service is great; everyone seems happy to be working there. I must have a bit of heat stroke because I’m feeling a bit dizzy and nauseous and I have zero appetite. I order a shawarma anyways, and it isn’t that appealing so I just nibble at it. But luckily, Ryan is sitting right beside me so no food goes to waste!

Back on the bus to head over to Karnak, which is an extra stop today since we ran out of time yesterday. This temple complex is like the Vatican of Egypt, and the largest temple in the country. It has 4 main parts, but only 1 is open to the public.

The way that Karnak differs from the rest of the temples in Egypt is the length of time over which is was developed and used. It’s estimated that over 30 pharaohs contributed to it – so it has a size, complexity and diversity and a long range of deities represented – unlike any other in Egypt. It is a vast, open site and as we walk up to the entrance(pylon) there is a corridor of sphinxes to lead us in.

This pylon is actually unfinished and undecorated. Then we walk through what was the Kiosk of Tahraqa, where only one complete column of this kiosk remains.

And just across from it is a large statue of Ramesses II. And someone’s leftover feet. Haha

Next, we are walking though the second pylon, and end up in the Hypostyle Hall; the 146 columns in here are super tall and quite wide.

And beautifully decorated of course. This hall was started by Seti I and then completed by Ramesses II with the décor being a mix of raised and sunk reliefs.

Outside of the hall are two massive obelisks belonging to Thutmose I and Hatshepsut. The unfinished obelisk that sits in Aswan was supposed to be brought here to Karnak.

There are also alot of cool statues.

Now I’m off to explore on my own and I’m really not sure what I’m looking at or where I’m going because this temple is so huge, and really, I wish I had a good map of the place. That’s one thing I need to do for my next trip…get good maps! I end up at the Sacred Lake, which was used mostly by the priests for ritual washing and navigation.

And then I just wander around and get “lost” in the ruins, soaking up the atmosphere of what once was.

Then we are back on the bus for a 5-hour ride to the seaside beach resort town of Hurghada. We napped, we drank a couple beers, we talked..and I will say again what an amazing group I am traveling with…we have been having so much fun!

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