Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Valley of the Kings

Luxor is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.  Luxor is often said to be the "world's greatest open air museum."  Today I'd like to share with you our visit to the Valley of the Kings that lies on the West Bank of the Nile.  This open air museum is the burial site for most of Egypt's New Kingdom rulers.  The site was chosen by the Theban rulers because it was only a short distance from their village and temples.  The valley was easily guarded because of the steep cliffs that surrounds the area.  As you know, even that didn't deter thieves from robbing the graves.  Above the valley is the towering mountain of Qurn.  This name is derived from the shape of the mountain and means "horn" in Arabic.  The shape reminded them of the sun god Re. 


As you can see it was a hot and hazy day in the valley.  We needed to stay with our guide while he secured our tickets for entrance into a place we had read about for so many years.  


We then boarded small little trolleys that took us to the valley.  I could hardly hold my excitement as we entered this ancient site!


There are over 65 royal and private tombs in the Valley of the Kings referred to as KV.  More and more are discovered as I write here. There are some that have huge labyrinths with over 120 corridors and chambers that are chiseled into the limestone. 


Our guide told us to make sure we stayed hydrated on our visit.  We both carried bottles of water that were given to us as we exited the coach.  We also had our masks on when we were in the crowded tombs or around crowds of folks.

We were able to visit four tombs.  Three of them were Ramesses pharaohs and Tutankhamun was the fourth pharaoh.  The convention of numbering pharaohs with the same name did not exist in ancient Egypt.  Modern scholars did this to distinguish the different times of reign in history.

Our tickets for Ramesses tombs were punched as we entered each entrance.


With reverence and awe we both entered the first ancient tomb of King Ramesses VI.  He was the fifth ruler of the Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt.  He made the tomb of Ramesses V his own and had it enlarged and redecorated for himself.  Ramesses V is believed to have died at a young age with one of the earliest known cases of smallpox.


 Walking inside we are immediately struck by the clarity and vivid color that remains on these ancient walls that were hand carved!


The long corridor reveals the many hand carved features that adorn this unbelievable place.


These tombs were designed and worked on when the king started his reign.  Using very simple tools these plans were carried out by many different artisans.  It usually took from six to ten years.


Symbols in the tombs were hoped to protect the interred in the afterlife.  Some of the scenes depicted rituals or life experiences of the deceased.




It's hard to contain my excitement as we toured this very special place.


We walked the pathway down the corridor while studying as much as our brains could take in.



When we stepped outside of the tomb we stopped to take in the view.  Unbelievable to us!


Reading about the tomb of Ramesses VI we learn that its location probably protected the tomb of Tutankhamun.  Grave robbers went for Ramesses VI and didn't realize that Tutankhamun treasures were next door!  Though these treasures are now scattered about the world, many still reside in the museum in Cairo (GEM-Grand Egyptian Museum).  The gold funerary mask resides there.



With grateful hearts we next head to Tutankhamun's tomb.  How can I possibly be in this space?  With our tickets in hand we enter the corridor.




I mean no disrespect to the dead.  This is the remains of King Tutankhamun.  


The corridor in his tomb is quite small compared to the Ramesses.  The burial site of Tutankhamun is modest in comparison to the other tombs as well.  Grayden and I watched a documentary that revealed that behind these walls the corridors go on and on, but the permission to break through these walls has not been granted.


We headed down a flight of stairs when suddenly the lights went out as Grayden was taking my picture.  There are many stories and superstitions surrounding this tomb.  I must admit to wondering about the lights going out at that particular moment!



It was quite dark and we were in a long line of people that were touring with us.  Feeling our way to the light at the top of the stairs was quite interesting! 

Tutankhamun was only nine years old when he became King of Egypt during the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.  His reign marked the end of the dynasty's royal line (1333-1323 BC).
 
If it weren't for Howard Carter's discovery this era would be lost to history.  His tomb and artifacts have given historians a wealth of knowledge of ancient Egypt. 

We moved on to visit Ramesses III tomb.


Ramesses or Rameses spelling is accepted here we noted.  You will also see it written as Ramses.  Rameses III reigned 1186-1155 BC.  He was known as the "Warrior Pharaoh". 
 


The carvings are so exquisite!  We looked in awe and wonder at the magnificence before us.




There is so much symbolism portrayed on these walls.  It's rather mind boggling.  It really takes an Egyptologist to understand all of the symbolism. 






In a later post I will be blogging more about the Ramesses and their importance to this civilization.

We had the chance to visit one more tomb so next up is the tomb of Ramesses IX.


Ramesses IX reign was 1129-1111 BC.  He was the third longest serving king of the Twentieth Dynasty of Egypt. Let's take a look inside at this extraordinary tomb.


 

Continuing down the corridor the colors become more vivid with more decorative paintings on the ceilings.


 

You can see there are glass enclosures to protect these works of art from being handled.



 

Volumes of information have been written on the life and times of these Pharaohs and their influences on ancient Egypt.  Clearly their importance and their concern for the afterlife took enormous time and money to fulfill.  Seeing these tombs left a serious impact on me that day.  I am so grateful to have seen a small part of the history that shaped the men of this era.  


It was time for us to get back on the trolley to head back to our coach that will be taking us to another very special place in Luxor.  I hope you will join us as we remember.