Thursday, February 22, 2024

Colossi of Memnon

As we have been remembering our World Voyage, I have been posting about our time in Egypt.  It was a dream come true for me to stand in the sand where this ancient civilization lived!  Today I'd like to continue with our excursion in Luxor.


After visiting Valley of the Kings we continued with our group to the Colossi of Memnon.  Two large statues of the Pharoah Amenhotep III are the remains that stood guard of the Mortuary (Memorial) Temple of Amenhotep III, the largest temple in the Theban Necropolis.  Though the temple no longer stands, the very large statues still stand guard and are quite impressive to view.



The statues were known by the Greeks and the Romans and have stood here since 1350 BC!  


You can clearly see their enormous size in relation to the people viewing them. They stand 60 feet tall and weigh approximately 720 tons each.  Amenhotep III is depicted seated with his hands resting on his knees as he faces eastward.


These statues are made from quartzite-sandstone that was from an area in el-Gabal  el- Ahmar that is now modern day Cairo.  Considering that is 420 miles from Thebes that is quite a feat!  The stones were too large to ferry up the Nile so they were transported overland.


It is believed the statues were toppled by two earthquakes.  The damage is quite visible.  The Romans rebuilt them and placed them on the pedestals that we see here. 


The statues contain Greek and Latin inscriptions dating from AD 20 and 250.  References to the Greek mythical king Memnon (a hero of the Trojan War) has given the Thebes Necropolis the name, the Memnonium.  They did not know these were actually twin statues of Amenhotep III.


Though the damage is evident, of course the fact they still remain is astonishing after thousands of years of earthquakes, sand storms, and floods.


After an earthquake in 27 BC the northern statue fractured from the waist up.  It was said that afterwards the remaining lower half would "sing" usually within an hour or two of sunrise in February and March.  




The legend of the "Vocal Memnon" is said to bring luck to the listener.  We did not hear the singing, but we both certainly enjoyed seeing the Colossi of Memnon.  


It was now time for us to continue with our tour.  We have more to show you in Luxor as time permits.  Thank you so much for visiting and helping us to remember these special times, my friends. 









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. 





 




Saturday, January 27, 2024

Traveling from Safaga to Luxor Egypt

When I was in elementary school we studied ancient Egypt.  I was fascinated by all things Egyptian. I even had a scarab bracelet and a watch with a scarab band. Later my sweetheart gifted me a scarab necklace and a scarab ring.  In high school my world history teacher took us to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to an exhibit with Egyptian mummies.  I remember visiting this fantastic place that showcased everything from jewels to ancient vessels used in the mummification process.  I remember thinking how wonderful to be viewing things that were three to four thousand years old. I've never lost my interest in ancient Egypt.  Never in my wildest young dreams did I think I would be able to visit the ancient land of Egypt! 

Today I'd like to continue sharing one of our World Voyage destinations.  When the Queen Mary 2 docked in Safaga, Egypt we had the perfect opportunity to take the excursion of my life!  Though it was going to be quite a long day on our journey to Luxor (ancient city of Thebes), we felt honored to have this opportunity to travel with an Egyptologist to the land of the Valley of the Kings.

This is our first visit to Egypt, so please pardon our excitement as we take off on our journey to Luxor.


The scenery out the coach window was desert with mountains and beautiful blue skies.  As we rode along our guide filled our heads with so much information about Egypt.  He called us all by the Arabic enduring term--Habibi.  Clearly this gentleman loved his job!

As we giddily looked out the window, it could have been a landscape from the moon!


 Continuing on we see small villages doting the landscape along with small farms. We see a canal that allows crops to grow along with people to live in small villages.


Egypt's major cash crop is cotton.  Because of the long strong fiber and softness of Egyptian cotton it is popular all over the world.  You may have Egyptian cotton towels in your home.




Islam is the official religion of Egypt.  The government only recognizes three religions--Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.  
 

Everywhere we looked folks were busy going about their daily tasks.  


The modes of transportation varied greatly.  We saw a lot of mopeds, small trucks, and carts pulled by donkeys.  Men were selling fruits and vegetables alongside the roads.  


Muslim Mosques dot the landscape.  The tall tower (minaret) call the followers to prayer five times a day by a man called a muezzin.  Some mosques use recordings and we heard both.  


Passing Police checkpoints we were cleared for our journey to Luxor.  Though troubling to pass through these areas, it made us realize that the world is not the same as it is at home. These checkpoints occurred every 30km (18.64 miles).  Of course we wanted to be safe and felt that way during this journey.


I could hardly believe we were about to cross the Nile and enter Luxor!  


The Nile river runs north flowing into the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria.  Most of the population of Egypt, since ancient times, have been around the valley of the Nile. It is considered the longest river in the world, but when we went down the Amazon a few years ago they made that claim as well!  Let's just agree that they are both long flowing rivers.


We are headed into the Valley of the Kings as our first stop.  I can hardly hold my excitement upon visiting a site that was part of the ancient city of Thebes.  It is the burial site of almost all of the pharaohs from 1539-1075 BC.  
 

Our guide tells us that the structure we see was the home of Howard Carter.  You may remember that he was the British archeologist and Egyptologist that led the team that discovered Tutankhamun's tomb.   


Lord Carnarvon (of Highclere Castle) hired Howard Carter to lead the excavation in the Valley of the Kings.  In November of 1922 Carter and his team discovered the secret chamber of the Boy King known as Tutankhamun.
As most of you know Highclere Castle was used in the filming of Downton Abbey. 

Hopefully I'll be sharing our time at this extraordinary site that will forever be imprinted on our hearts and minds.  I need to post this time in Luxor in several parts as we visited many sites that day.  I hope you will join us as we remember our time in Luxor!