Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Valley of the Kings and the Karnak Temple

Moiya, David and I took the trip to the Valley of the Kings – a fourteen hour bus ride, return. Wyona and Greg had gone the day before, telling us that it was well worth the trip. Fellow travellers have been cancelling their long trips, after their first 10 hour trip away from the boat.  I was listening to some British women.  I found their distaste for long days confusing, until I remembered that it is not unusual for Albertans to drive to Cardston early in the morning, spend a lovely day in southern Alberta, and then drive back late at night.  Brits don’t have the need to cover the country like we do, for they have so much in such a small space. 

The two sites (the tombs and then the temple) were to be covered, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with lunch and some driving in between.  The Egyptian government has instituted a new rule in the Valley of the Kings.  Guides cannot go inside of the tombs with their clients.  I think it is a way of keeping the traffic moving, since there are spots where I would want to stay an hour or two with the guide, and not move more than a few feet.  Wyona said that on the slope down into the Tomb of Ramses IX, there was only a sea of bobbing tourist heads.  That is because she went on a day when 15 busloads of tourists from our boat went to visit.  We went the next day. 

Moiya, Dave and I had the area virtually to ourselves.  Our guide had walked us through the sites, telling us which of the 63 tombs in the Valley of the Kings, he thought were best, since only 12 of them are open.  He ended by pointing out three especially, telling us what to look for inside of them, and then he sent us on our way.  We saved the most time for the last tomb and we were virtually alone in it.  We circled the rose-red granite sarcophagus many times, stood on a small board at the side of the room to elevate ourselves enough to see the figure on the top of the tomb and then we looked at the hieroglyphics on the ceiling as we had been told to do.  The more we looked and talked, the more we could sort out the Boy King, Ra, the journey into the afterlife, and the magic spells.  We searched the walls trying to look for where the priest had inscribed his own name into a cartouche – and we were successful. 

3150 B.C.  That is the figure the guide gave us as to when these ancient structures on the West Bank began, and then he worked through the 30 Egyptian Ruling Houses for us, but only by way of a short explanation.  Even though I am a sponge, there is a limit as to how much I can soak in over the period of an hour an a half; a good thing that I had no idea of the size of the “largest outdoor museum” that I was to see in the afternoon in the form of El Karnak.  At the visitor’s centre the guide situated us in front of a model of the temple and then said it was not really just one temple, but 100 acres and that he would show us only some highlights.  I only get a sense of how big 100 acres is, when I think of the land at the Shuswap: 50 acres.  I don’t know every inch of it.  Thinking about home gave me a chance to get into perspective what was ahead of me for the afternoon, and to judge my energy accordingly. 

Our tour ended at a small statue around which a tour of Oriental people were circling.  Pointing to them, the guide said,  “They are doing because it brings wealth. Circle that statue 3 times and you will be rich.” 

“I have sufficient for my needs,” I told Moiya.

“I don’t,” said Moiya. “I am going to do 3 rounds for LaRue and 3 for me.” 

I joined her.


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