After an early breakfast, and with sunscreen, hats, and water on board, we set out for the world’s most famous cemetery. The Valley of the Kings.
In an attempt to beat the gathering crowds of tourists, we made our way straight to KV62, the final, and current, resting place of Tutankhamun. Our Luxor Passes make the Valley of the Kings, if not the entire West Bank, so much easier, and of course in the valley itself, it means all the open tombs are yours to see; no extra ticket for Seti I, nor for Tutankhamun. To most of the guardians of the sites, the Luxor Pass seems to carry with it an unwritten qualification, as often, as a pass holder, one gets referred to as Doctor (Egyptologist). For most of our group, the coffin and the King’s mummy were definitely the highlights of this rather small, rather plain tomb. Time to change all that.
Seti I KV17
Across the central area and up to the right of the rest house lies KV17. The tomb of Seti I, the father of Rameses the Great, rivals that of Queen Nefertari on the other side of the mountain. Over 450 ft long, most of its eleven chambers are beautifully decorated, although there is a fair amount of damage caused by later excavations. There is a further tunnel that descends deep into the bedrock for an astonishing 570 ft, but so far this tunnel has revealed nothing. This is a must do tomb and well worth the extra cost (LE1000), if you do not have the Luxor Pass.
Rameses III KV11
Our next port of call was a little further up the valley. One of my favourites, KV11, the tomb of Rameses III. Although small compared to Seti I, it is the stark contrast of the hieroglyphs against the white painted walls that always gets me. It is this tomb that ran into another whilst under construction, hence the sharp dog-leg in the middle.
Rameses V/VI KV9
Later in the same dynasty is the tomb of Rameses V, who started the construction, only for it to be finished by his uncle Rameses VI. This tomb is definitely for those interested in ancient astronomy, as the ceiling depictions are outstanding, as are the scenes from the Book of the Earth showing the Sun’s journey through the hours of darkness. Another magnificent tomb.
Rameses VII/IV KV 1 & 2
Sticking with the 20th dynasty there was just time to drop in on KV1 and KV2, the tombs of Rameses VII and Rameses IV, respectively. Both of theses tombs have been open since antiquity, as evidenced by the Ancient Greek and Roman graffiti (some things never change). It is perhaps a pity that other than Tutankhamun’s tomb, all the open tombs are Rameside, and that there is little chance of visiting the earlier Tuthmoside tombs.
The Marsam Hotel
Lunch, and a late call saw us pull into the parking area of the oldest rest house on the West Bank, the Marsam Hotel. We were lucky enough to get a large table under the trees in the open courtyard, which was a hive of activity, as a television crew was busy filming world-famous Egyptologist Salima Ikram.
Full of great food, and mountains of it, we headed north once more to the Kings’ Valley road, stopping off at the house of Howard Carter. It is worth a pause at this well-cared-for residence, if for nothing other than to get an idea of how life was a century ago as Carter worked the Valley.
Next stop the Western Valley. The Valley of the Monkeys, as it is sometimes called, is a lonely stark place compared to its sister valley to the east. No tourists here, just row after row of buckets and wheelbarrows, evidence of the ongoing excavations taking place. We drove as far as we could and then walked up the slope to the tomb of the successor of Tutankhamun, Ay.
One can see immediately how close the two respective tombs are; the style of artwork, in particular its lack of finesse, is exactly the same in this tomb as it is in KV62. It looks like it was painted by the same hand. The much damaged scene of the hippopotamus hunt is unusual in a royal tomb, and there are all sorts of theories as to whose tomb this originally was.
Ay heralded the end of the 18th Dynasty, leaving only Horemheb to turn out the lights and open the door for the 19th, and as the sun had set on the glory of the 18th Dynasty, so it began to set on our day and it was time for us to return home.