Our first stop was at the Valley of the Kings, a huge necropolis with 63 tombs of Pharaohs from the 16th to 11th century BC. Only about ten tombs are open at any given time, and your entry ticket gives you access to three tombs of your choice (Tut's tomb requires an extra ticket). This was by far the most crowded sight we'd visited in Egypt and we spent much of our time waiting in long, single file lines of loudly chattering elderly Americans with canes and fat sunburned Russians in skimpy clothing (honestly, were we the only young (I was still in my 20s, after all), good-looking (ridiculously good-looking, really) tourists in all of Luxor?). We would file slowly through the long passageway into the tomb, pause briefly to look at a barricaded-off sarcophagus or empty burial chamber while people said things like “My word!” and “Wouldya look at that, Frank?”, and then filed slowly out. After the first tomb, Ramses IX, our strategy went from, “let’s hit the most popular (so clearly best) tombs” to “let’s hike up to where the old folks can’t go and visit the most out-of-the-way, least popular tombs we can.” The next two tombs – Merenptah, with a giant sarcophagus lid, and Tuthmosis IV, boasting detailed renderings of the goddesses’ intricately beaded dresses – were much better.
|The Valley of the Kings, from above.|
This is all we've got - no photography allowed in the tombs.
Click on the links above to see photos of the tombs we visited.
We were ready to get away from the crowds and off the beaten path, so we struck out into the desert towards a ridge that connects the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and the Temple of Hatshepsut (a lady pharoah!). Half a dozen boys who had been sitting around listening to cellphone music followed us for a while, insisting that we needed a guide and that without them we’d be helplessly lost, special price for guide, very cheap, very nice. We blew them off, hiked up to the ridge, turned right and, in fact, were immediately lost. Luckily we soon ran into a Canadian man who pointed us in the right direction We walked up and down the rocky slope, past a police outpost (we later learned that it was illegal for tourists to do this hike, but the police – smoking, lounging and listening to cellphone music, of course – just lazily waved hello) and along a ridge that took us above and around the magnificent temple of Hatshepsut. The path sort of petered out so we slip-slided our way down the ridge and headed over to the temple
|Setting off on the hike.|
LOOK AT MY HAT, MOM
|The Temple of Hatshepsut, from above.|
Hatshepsut was one of the only known female Pharaohs (most queens ruled together with co-regents, who could be their husbands but were sometimes just another male relative such as a son). Girl power!
|Dave in the desert.|
|In front of the Temple of Hatshepsut.|
We had hiked all along that ridge above.
|A close-up from the Temple.|
|The villain of our story. Also, the photo that saved the day.|
|One of the Colossi (a Colossus?).|
I don't know for sure, but I would bet this was featured in Transformers 2.
He sure looks like a Transformer.
|Believe me, this was of zero help. I think this sign pointed to the parking lot.|
|If I look a little nervous in this photo, it's because I was.|
Hey, even Indiana Jones got scared sometimes.
Also note that the column on the right appears to be crumbling. This did not inspire confidence.
Maybe there's a reason tourists are supposed to keep out of certain areas?
Then he beckoned us into a side room for the highlight - an "ancient" skull that he had undoubtedly placed there himself.
|Man, those olden-day Egyptians must have had tiny heads.|
We tried to visit the rest of the tombs we had bought tickets for but were soon discouraged. If we could find the tomb at all, we would spend the entire visit trailed by a guard offering unsolicited information. Standing next to me, he would point to the hieroglyph I was already looking at. If it was a hieroglyph of a Pharaoh, he would say "Pharaoh." Or if it was of a Pharaoh drinking from a cup, he would offer "Pharaoh drink." If I was examining a hieroglyph of a cow? "Cow." You get the point. When not stating the obvious, the guard would encourage us to do things like sit on the lap of a seated statue for a good photograph.
|We declined the offer to sit on and thus contribute to the destruction of the ancient statues.|
Anyway, eventually we climbed back into Ahmed's car and asked him to take us home. "First, you visit my uncle's papyrus shop" he said. We politely declined. "But you must. I already tell my uncle you are come. He wait for you." We explained that he shouldn't have done that since we had no intention of visiting any papyrus shops and we had told him so from the start.. "No need to buy. Just look. No charge for look." Again we demurred, and so Ahmed just drove us to the papyrus shop anyway, insisting "you tell my uncle you no want to visit shop." The uncle ran out when we pulled up and invited us into his shop. We cooly refused. He pleaded, cajoled, wheedled, got a little angry. "Very nice papyrus! You are my first customer of the day. Is very good luck. My nephew tell me all day you want to look. No charge for look! Make me a sale. You are my last customer of the day." But we steadfastly refused to budge from the car and eventually (it felt like forever) they relented and drove us back to the hotel, where Dave miscalculated what we owed and gave Ahmed - not our favorite person at ths point - a very large tip. He still to this day thinks constantly about that tip and every time we feel obligated to give money for bad service we say, "yeah, but at least it wasn't like that time with Ahmed in Luxor."
|A sunsetter mint tea on the roof of our hotel to make Dave feel better.|