Saturday, December 11, 2010

An adventure to the Middle East ( Part 4 ) Valley of the Kings and Colossi of Memnon


Our boat arrived in Esna at 4:30am.... I had a good night's sleep except for the early chanting of the Arabs. Do you know that they chant 5 times a day??? They usually start their chanting as early as 4:30am and end up at 8:00pm. These chants usually take at least 10 - 15 minutes. It was good in a way.... I was able to get a nice sunrise shot from the deck of the boat. It was a bit chilly that morning up on the deck but it did not discourage me in taking my photos. I guess I will have to get used to the change of temperature when you are travelling in the desert..... HOT HARSH temperature during the day and it cools down around 4:00pm. Be sure you bring a sweater when you take the cruise!!

We will be disembarking our boat and riding a tourist bus to visit the west bank of the Nile River. Our destination??  The Valley of the Kings. Randa warned us ----" It will be a long day.. "... and she was right!!!! It was a long tiring day....

While having breakfast ---- I heard that 4 persons in our group fell ill. I started to get picky with the food I was eating.... I didn't want to get sick on this trip. No one knew what caused it... Was it the food?? was it the water??? Upon learning about the casualties in our group --- the captain of the ship gave them some Egyptian medicine to take .... and in less than 2 days they were up and about again. But they had to be left behind for today's tour.

What to do in order to avoid getting sick:

* Make sure to drink ONLY bottled water. Even if they say that their tap water is safe to drink, DON'T DO IT. You can buy bottled water on the tour bus ( they sell 2 bottles of medium-sized water for $ 1.00 ).

* The rule of water also pertains to ice. You cannot be sure that the ice was made using bottled water. However, they serve sodas and bottled water cold.

* AVOID eating raw vegetables and fruits unless you can peel them. Save your binges for salads when you get back home.

IF YOU GET SICK------ your entire vacation will suffer. BE CAREFUL and you will be fine.

That evening I had a back and feet massage ( yes, they even have a spa and gym ) aboard the ship. Can you imagine having a massage while watching the sun go down on the Nile River???? The massage was really good --- I needed that kind of pampering after all that walking around I did that day!  They charged $80.00 for an hour -  full body massage and $50.00 for 40 minutes - a foot and back massage. IT WAS WORTH IT!!!!!

Our first  stop was at the Colossi of Memnon

Towering like sentries in the sky above the necropolis of Ancient Thebes in Egypt. These statues are all that remains of the funerary temple of the 18th dynasty of king Amenhotep who ruled the Egypt in the 18th century. Hopefully in the coming years the statues of Amenhotep III will rise again. It will be a hundred meters behind this 2 existing colossis that mark the entrance to the temple.

The statues are 59 feet high... and it seems like they are watching the roads leading to the temples of the Valley of the kings. These statues are made from blocks of sandstone which was quarried in Giza.

Unfortunately we only stopped here for 15 minutes. We visited this statue on our way to the Valley of the Kings and I highly recommend this timing for those who like to take photos... The sight of theses huge monuments being kissed by the sun is remarkable. But I think it is surely worth a visit especially since you do not need hours in order to appreciate these impressive statues. Make sure to walk around the statues. The sides and backs of the statues are covered with hieroglyphics.

The tomb of Monthemat - He was not of royal blood but his tomb lies outside the Valley of the Kings. He was the Mayor of the City of Thebes-- one of the most powerful officials. Sadly his tomb was not opened to the public so this is the only image I can share with you.

The scenes taken below are on board the tourist bus --- on our way to the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. At this point --- the sun was glaring and getting hotter by the minute. It was good that they were selling bottles of mineral water inside the bus ( it costs $ 1 for 2 medium sized bottles ). Make sure you bring a bottle with you while touring the sites in Egypt. The heat of sun really depletes your energy. Most places have very little shade where you can sit and rest -- a lot of sites have NO shade spots at all!!! Remember you are in the desert !!

The photo below is a university or school for guides. They need to spend at least 3 years at this school before they are allowed to go off and become tour guides.

Next stop.... The funenary temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

Queen Hatshepsut was the first greatest woman recorded in history. Her rise to power went against all the conventions of her time. She was the wife and queen of Thutmose II and on his death proclaimed herself Pharaoh.

She remained in power for more than 20 years and during this time the economy of Egypt flourished. Her temple was built between 1473 - 1458.

From our bus, we got a good view of the temple we were about to visit. It was a huge stone structure, that  could almost be part of a the mountain itself. It was in pristine condition. Randa explained to us that it was restored recently by a Polish team. Around in the mountains are lots of small holes, these are apparently the tombs of her lovers.

Upon reaching the site we were ushered to waiting trams to bring us to the temple of Hatshepsut. They reminded me of the trams in Disneyland.

Our next stop was the Valley of the Kings  contains many of the tombs of the pharaohs including Tutankamun and Ramses the Great. One of the dilemma for the normal tourist is trying to decide which tombs to enter. A normal ticket that is given to you as you enter the premises permits you to visit 3 tombs. However, the tomb of Tutankamun requires a separate ticket. His tomb was discovered only in 1922.

Randa recommended that we visit Ramses IX, Ramses V/VI and Ramses XI. We ( once more ) were not allowed to take any photos inside the Valley of the Kings. Therefore--- I do not have any  photos to share with you. There was very little to see above the ground. You need to enter the tombs !!! If you are claustrophobic I would advise you not to enter these tombs... It is very hot and humid inside and have very little ventilation.

I do recommend that you should visit The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings.  Another " MUST SEE "... when you are visiting Egypt.

On our way out of the complex--- we passed through a souk ( market ) in order to buy souvenirs to take back home. Beware though as you walk down the street, aggressive merchants will not stop inviting you to their shops.

These are called SCARABS.... ( courtesy of Ernie Kamatoy ). It was based on the image of a dung beetle used by the ancient Egyptians. They are used for recording historical events, inscribing prayers to be placed on mummies for protection against evil.  They were also used as seals by officials.

Alabaster pyramids ( courtesy of Ernie Kamatoy )

It is the same shopping rule as anywhere else in Egypt.... you have to BARGAIN all the time. Bargaining is a way of life in the Middle East. If you think that the price quoted to you is too high -- thank him and walk away. Generally they will come after you with a lower price--- negotiate from there. Yes --- this is where your one-dollar bills are needed. They accept dollars at most souks -- but they do not have change for bigger bills. You might end up getting Egyptian money in return.

The souks are usually indoor markets ( which one really needs after walking under the heat of the glaring sun) with various stalls selling almost everything from Djelabas, scarves, camel bone jewelry, wood carvings to scarab bracelets. The yellow and white scarves that you see in the photo above costs only a dollar. Do not pay more than that!!! The merchants try to sell some of their handicrafts and souvenirs. But it will be very difficult to tell which are good buys and which are not.

Most stores will not allow you to exchange or return purchased merchandise. So take time choosing what you want to buy.

I would recommend that you buy a CARTOUCHE. A cartouche is an oval circle with a name written on it. It is like a name tag. In the early days of ancient Egypt, a cartouche was attached to the coffins of kings and queens. You can have your name written down on the cartouche in hieroglyphics too. They come in silver or gold. When you  decide to buy one ---- try to buy it at a jewelry store and not from any stalls that you see in the market. You can ask them to engrave your name ( in hieroglyphics ) for free and it usually takes 2 - 3 days for them to get it done. The cheapest cartouche I saw was around $ 20.00--- and it was in silver. Gold cartouches usually costs more since they use 18K.

Tips on what to do in the souk:

* Never pay the first price offered --- you can easily get them down to about 40 to 50 percent of the price  they quoted to you. Just walk away if the price isn't good enough and they will come and chase you almost every time.

* Never make eye contact with the merchant when you are not interested in their wares. They might follow all over the place trying to get you to buy their merchandise... who knows they might follow you back to your hotel just to make that sale.

* Do not say "  I will be back " or " Later " ---- these merchants take it --- as a sign that you will buy their merchandise. They will not stop hassling you till you end up buying from them. Just say  " La shukran "  ( meaning No Thank you ) and walk away.

I did not buy a single thing in the  souk --- all I have to take home as a souvenir from Egypt is the TAN I am getting in this trip!!!!

Happy Bargaining at the souk!

Tonight we are sailing to Edfu and Kom Ombo.... goodnight all !!



  1. When you say the people selling their wares won't leave you alone if you make eye contact, you weren't kidding. They kept grabbing me and trying to pull me into their stores. It made Sam and I late getting back to the bus because they wouldn't let go of us. What ever you do, DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT!!!

  2. The "eye contact" thing is kinda scary. Yay!