November 29, 2022
The underground labyrinth of tunnels and tombs of the Valley of the Kings.
I remember how, a few years ago, strolling around the rocky landscapes not far from the Namibian town of Lüderitz (which is the place where what is now South America broke away from Africa, and why the rock formations there are so unique), I was so amazed by the unusual rocks there that I uttered the words, “Mom, I want to be a geologist!” Just the other week, I uttered something similar. I was in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. And this time my refrain went: “Mom, I want to be an Egyptologist!”
Such a rich (ancient) history presented in a language unknown to me – it was something I wasn’t expecting somehow. The experience turned out to be just marvelous…
You can walk around here for hours – or for days if you want to check out simply everything. Endless corridors/tunnels, halls, and… the inevitable tombs and burial chambers, naturally.
And more frescoes and hieroglyphics (ancient smileys) than you can shake a pharaoh’s scepter at. Also Ancient Egyptian gods, and tales of the lives and times of the royalty that’s buried here:
And there’s just soooo much stuff to look at here. Very impressive…
I’ll be telling you in this post about what I saw and found out here, but this place really needs to be seen with your own eyes.
In all more than 60 burial grounds have been discovered in the Valley of the Kings. As ever, we were short on time, so our guide showed us just the “greatest hits”. First up, the entrance building to the complex. Here there’s an interesting 3D model: above – a map of the Valley showing the entrances to the tombs ->
…And underneath – the layout of the tunnels, corridors and halls ->
So if you’re ever here – don’t forget to look down below!
After checking that out, it’s back outside and into a buggy and up the valley ->
It was soooo hot here – on a November morning! I can’t imagine what it’s like in summer. All those folks there to the left aren’t at that café primarily for the sweet tea and coffee – they’re there mainly for the shelter from the hot sun!
Thankfully you’re underground a lot, and though it’s hardly cool down there, it is by far not as hot as it is outside. Btw – quite a few tombs were closed. Here for example, that of Ramesses II ->
Our guide informed us it’s due to open shortly.
Alas, the tombs have been looted of their precious and sacred contents for almost as long as they’ve been in existence. With varying degrees of success they’ve still been plundered in modern times, though that plunder has been renamed “scientific excavations” (I’ve already told you what I think about digging up ancient graves). The most famous of modern excavations robberies was that committed in 1922 from the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Actually – that’s not only 100 years ago, but 100 years ago to-the-week (the last full week of November 1922!). These days you can enter the tomb and inspect everything (which remains, which is still a lot), for the price of a ticket: it’s been slow, but I guess that’s progress of a sort ).
These frescoes are 3300 years old!
All the symbols, the monkeys and screech beetles – they all mean something. Oh, how I want to be an Egyptologist!
This is a copy of the mummy that was once here. The original is in the Egyptian Museum (in the (only) hall where photography wasn’t allowed) ->
The tomb of the fourth pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, Merneptah:
The long corridors’ walls are all covered in hieroglyphs. Judging by the occasional small section having dropped off, it’s all plasterwork into which “texts” were pressed:
A sarcophagus cover made out of granite:
And here’s the sarcophagus itself. It’s so huge it wouldn’t have made it through the tunnel here from outside, so it was cut out of bedrock here, in situ! Btw – it was covered in a thin granite veneer (you can see it clearly in the pic; some has fallen off). Now how did they manufacture that?! ->
Ramesses IX ->
Another long corridor, hieroglyphics on both the ceiling and walls. Btw: the snakes guarded the tombs against plunderers. Alas, they didn’t quite manage to properly fulfill their professional duties…
Further below, none of the plasterwork remains. It seems that, after having robbed the tomb, the thieves failed to hermetically reseal it, so rains would submerge the corridors. The delicate plasterwork didn’t stand a chance:
No mummy, no sarcophagus; both robbed millennia ago. At least they didn’t take the walls with them too…
Next – the tomb of Ramesses III.
Another long corridor, with mercifully plenty-intact plasterwork:
No doubt tales from the pharaohan side: exploits, accomplishments, heroism and assorted other deeds of valor, and probably his death too… ->
Woah: a three-headed serpent – with legs!
Here – another, much longer snake, with chopped off human heads on its back. Oh my grisly! And there are more dead folks laid out all along the bottom – oh my ghastly!
Here are the gods Thoth and Ra leading a young pharaoh on his journey of learning:
Here a pharaoh appears to be being served something tasty ->
And on and on – depictions of the lives and times of the pharaohs ->
A great many halls – you could be in here for ages checking it all out…
…But that was all for us for one day. We were saving ourselves for the following day, during which our guide promised us the very best feature of the Valley of the Kings…
And so, the next day, we headed on over to the Tomb of Seti I, what is considered the most striking of all the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. It’s big, it’s grandiose, and its delightfully decorated…
Down we go ->
As per the template, first – a long corridor, walking through which our guide regaled us with long Egyptian tales from the ancient side…
We descend deeper and deeper. The further we descend, the better the quality gets of the pictures on the walls:
At one point we crossed a modern-day bridge over a deep (ancient) well. I wonder – was the well put there to trap robbers? Or maybe it was intended to drain the rainwater if it ever made it down this far?
We finally we make it to the main halls. Fresco time! ->
Here are severed heads being carried atop an impossibly long snake again ->
This hall’s frescoes appear to be unfinished ->
In this fresco – various gods. From left to right: Horus, giving the pharaoh power on earth; the goddess Isis, offering him some tasty tidbits (the red or the blue pill?!); and Anubis, signifying it’s time to die (that’s my guess anyway given he was the god of death, but I could be wrong; I’m no Egyptologist).
And the godly tales from the ancient side just go on and on…
To get into the following hall, you need to pay a small fee to the member of staff at the door, so make sure to have some cash on you (I can’t see a bank card terminal working down here, and I sure didn’t see one:) ->
Again snakes: remember – they should have provided protection against the looters; apparently they didn’t fulfill their job duties here either. Still, they appear in this engraving to have bitten two ~human (thieves’?) heads off, so perhaps they at least tried their best )… ->
The god under the snake is apparently Amun, but what the whole engraving means I can’t remember:
Apparently this is the pharaoh both alive (to the right), and dead (to the left) ->
There are plenty of animals depicted in the engravings – crocodiles, birds, cows – but, curiously, no horses, no donkeys, no camels. Imagine – Egypt without camels. Isn’t that like… a sandwich without bread?!
You could stroll around here forever…
That three-headed serpent with the legs is back – but this time it’s grown wings too!
But our time was nearly up, so we headed for the exit…
What a walkabout that was. Mind-blowing. Next up for us were some above-ground Ancient Egyptnesses. But more about those in my next Egypt-themed post later this week…
All the pics from Egypt are here.