The flight from Gatwick to Luxor was relatively run of the mill. We were met by our guides at the airport and ferried to the boat in two coaches, which was to be the arrangement for the rest of the week. We were subsequently split into two groups according to cabin number and assigned to an Egyptologist/Guide for the week.
We had Ayman in our coach to the boat, and he later turned out to be our assigned Guide. As he welcomed us to Egypt and gave us a run down of what would happen once we got on to the boat, he mentioned his colleague’s name was, Osama (I’ll let you create your own jokes). That's a picture of Ayman. It's not a good one, actually. He's more like an Egyptian Ben Affleck look-a-like in real life. Osama threatened to smash my camera if i photographed him.
After we’d settled in, we went up to dinner. The tables seated 6s and 4s. We ended up on a table of 6, and we were told to stick to the same table for the duration. Our table companions turned out to be a couple, Dave and Diane, from a small village in Northamptonshire, and Sharon and Davinda, East African Asian sisters.
The food was quite good. Lots of fish (surprise, surprise), but also beef, chicken, lamb etc. The food labels were a constant source of amusement, as for example, Carved Lamb was once labelled as Craved Lamp.
Each night, in the reception, they put up our itinerary for the following day on the notice board. We had early starts each day in order to beat the sun, nevertheless it was relentless. The temperature ranged between 44 – 47 degrees Celsius throughout the trip! My bottom lip used to be pink; it’s now the same colour as the top lip. I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
Before going in to each meal, we had to ‘purify our hands’ i.e. use the anti-bacterial hand gel from the dispenser outside the dining room. I once tried to slip past without complying, but I was summarily bounced back by the Head Waiter. I later began to refer to this as the purification ritual as we would all form an orderly line and approach the dispenser on our way in to meals.
Valley of the Kings
Our first excursion consisted of a trip to the Valley of the Kings (every time someone said Valley of the Kings for some reason, I would hear dramatic music in my head as in dun, dun, duuuunnnnnnnnnnnn), Valley of the Queens and Hatshepsut’s Temple, taking in the Colossi of Memnon – the guardians of the Valley- first.
The next stop was Valley of the Queens. The Ancient Egyptians apparently cared more about the after life than the present, and so they would prepare their tombs and amass great treasures throughout their lives so they could use them in the after life. Due to Tomb Robbers (tomb raiders, I guess), the Pharoahs began to move their tombs to harder to access places such as the west bank of the Nile in Luxor which borders the Sahara desert. This didn’t help much as, the tombs continued to get raided. The main reason the tomb of Tutankhamen and Tutankhamen himself is so famous is because his was one of only 3 to be discovered with all the treasures intact.
His tomb in the Valley of the Kings (dun, dun, duuuunnn) contains his mummy, but the treasures have been moved to a museum in Cairo. The entry ticket to the Valley of the Kings (dun, dun, duuunnnn) gives you access to 3 out of the 62 odd tombs, but there is an additional fee to see King Tut’s tomb. We chose not to (not because we’re cheap, I hasten to add!) but because it was very hot and would have involved a walk back to the gate to get a ticket and then back again.
Ayman sat us down for a talk about the Valley, and the Kings etc. Very interesting, you can watch and listen here. You can see he’s very passionate and knowledgeable about his subject. Whilst cameras are allowed through the gates, video cameras are prohibited in the Valley of the Kings (dun, dun......yeah, ok its getting old now), you have to leave them at the gate, presumably because recording moving pictures is not allowed. I completely forgot as I filmed this (besides, they should know that most digital cameras these days have a recording function) and Ayman didn’t say anything although I caught him giving me looks to say ‘oi, you’re not meant to be doing that’. I played dumb, and continued filming him, but finally gave in after about 10mins.
After the Valleys (Kings and Queens) we made a stop at Hatshepsut’s Temple. Hatshepsut, was the wife of Tutmose II. When he died, she co-ruled with her step-son because of his age, but later muscled him out and assumed the throne on her own. She faced lots of challenges along the way and to gain acceptance, she started to dress as the male rulers did with the kilt and headdress and a false beard. Her statues also represent her as a man. She also claimed divine lineage i.e. Amun-Re impregnated her mother who then gave birth to her.
She ruled for about 20 years, during which there were no wars at all (hmmm, i wonder why?). After her death, the step-son finally ascended the throne. He hated her so much for what she had done to him that he then proceeded to destroy and deface all her statutes across the land, and tear down buildings, temples and obelisks she'd erected.