In my previous post, I highlighted a few of the other ancient wonder of Egypt. We all know that the Pyramids and Sphinx are highlights of any visit to the Middle Eastern country, but there are a number of other incredible sites to take in as well, including the magnificent structures at Abu Simbel and the amazing Temples of Karnak and Luxor. But even those places are just scratching the surface of the historical sights and monuments than Egypt has to offer. In fact, there are literally hundreds of other places to explore, and travelers could spend a lifetime trying to take them all in.
But one of the places that is a "must do" while in the country is the Valley of the Kings and Queens. For more than 500 years this site, which is located not far from the city of Luxor, was the designated resting place for the pharos. Over that period more than 63 tombs were constructed there, some very elaborate in their design. Inside were placed the bodies of Egypt's rulers, along with all of the items they would need to successfully see them through to the afterlife. The chambers were intricately painted with brightly colored images and hieroglyphs, and the tombs were no doubt filled with a stunning amount of gold and other precious items.
Egyptian Museum in Cairo to this day.
On the day I visited the Valley of the Kings and Queens, we were up bright and early for a unique departure. Unlike most travelers, my group wasn't simply driving to the Valley. Instead, we chose to visit it the same way that the ancient Egyptians did – on the backs of donkeys. So, we set off not long after dawn, first crossing the Nile in a small boat, before meeting our trusty steeds on the other side of the water. The donkey's seemed even less thrilled at the prospect of beginning the day with a ride, but they dutifully allowed us to mount up, and began heading towards our ultimate destination.
Over the next hour or so we rode through the streets and backroads of Luxor along its west bank. Along the way we passed through parts of town that were only just beginning to wake, and eventually we wander out into the countryside, where farms and homesteads dotted the landscape. It was actually a very pleasant way to take in the Egyptian countryside, despite the growing pain in my posterior. Thankfully, my mount elected to behave the entire length of the ride, but some of my companions were forced to endure the more obstinate attitude that donkeys are often famous for.
Eventually our morning jaunt came to an end, and we were forced to abandon our mounts in favor of more modern transportation into the Valley itself. Loading up in 4x4 vehicles we drove off into the hills to cover the short distance that remained. Shortly there after, I found myself wandering through ancient tombs that were adorned with an amazing number of brightly painted images. The colors inside those tombs were so well preserved it was almost as if they had been painted yesterday. Unfortunately, none of us were allowed to take photos, so you'll just have to use your imagination. But if you've ever seen a Mummy movie, you'll have at least an idea of what the chambers looked like.
Surprisingly enough, archaeologists operating inside the Valley of the Kings and Queens continue to find new tombs there. The latest was discovered back in 2008, but there are indications that there are still more to be found. Whether or not any of them will reveal a treasure trove on par with King Tut's remains to be seen, but considering how thorough the tomb raiders of the past were, it seems unlikely.
The Temple of Hatshepsut is one of my favorites because it was carved out of the side of a mountain. It features an impressive number of pillars and chambers. It was dedicated as a monument to the god Amun-Ra, and even though it has been destroyed three times over the centuries, it remains an impressive site none the less.
The Temple was built to honor Egypt's only female pharaoh. Hatshepsut rose to power after her brother died at a premature age, and she was able to hold on to the throne for more than 20 years by disguising herself as a man. During that period, she established trade routes across Africa, explored the continent far and wide, and managed to expand the Egyptian empire. But she was overthrown by her nephew who returned to claim the throne, and later had her visage removed from all monuments that bore her name. At the time, it was impossible for a woman to rule Egypt, and the feud between the two nobles was a bitter one indeed.
After leaving Hatshepsut's temple we set off back to Luxor, but not without making one more stop to take in the Colossi of Memnon. This two massive statues mark the entrance of what was once a large temple, but little remains of the place now. The ancient site fell in the flood plane of the Nile, and as a result it was destroyed over the years. There is not much to see there now either, save the crumbling remains of what were once two magnificent statues.
With this final day of touring in Luxor behind us, my group prepared to set out for the desert. Soon we would leave the ancient wonders of Egypt behind in favor of its natural wonders instead. I was eager to embark on that stage of the journey, as it was a part of the country I hadn't seen yet. While it was said to leave all of the monuments, temples, and tombs behind, the desert was calling, and I was ready to see what it would have to offer.
I would soon find out.