Day 3 started with a split in our company as our last arrival needed to get her Luxor Pass, which meant a trip across the river to the offices behind the museum. Although it was nice and cool on the water, the general temperature was still in the 40s. The Luxor Pass process was quick and painless, and with our coffers refilled from the neighbouring ATM, we set off in search of the rest of the gang.
Not wishing to waste anyone’s time, we had sent them ahead to the mortuary temple of Ramses the Great. The Ramasseum, so named by Champollion, is another vast monument to the glory of this particular king. The fallen statue that lies by the second pylon would have stood 62 feet high. As with most of the Ramses the Great buildings, much is made of the Battle of Kadesh. Going further into the body of the temple, you cannot help but let your eye be drawn up the towering columns with their depictions of the erstwhile king making offerings to the entire panoply of mortuary deities.
The Abd el-Rasoul Family
Magnificent though the Ramasseum is, I couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere the ka of Ramses II is not a bit put out that the temple just down the road at Medinet Habu, that of Ramses III, is, perhaps, the more impressive.Having re-joined as a group, the next place to visit was the Ramasseum Rest House for a spot of lunch. Upon wandering inside, we were amazed to see all sorts of photographs of Howard Carter and Sheik Hussein Abd el Rasoul, the young water-boy made famous by the picture of him wearing one of Tutankhamun’s necklaces. All was explained when the owner revealed himself to be the son of the young boy who supposedly had noticed the first step on that day back in November 1922. What a pleasure and indeed an honour to be waited on by the son of such a legend, and of course the great grandson of one of the infamous Abd el Rasoul family of tomb robbers.
Tombs of the Nobles
Lunch over, it was time to cross the road and begin the walk up the slopes of the Qurna hillside. The tombs of the Nobles are scattered over a wide area and number in their hundreds, so with that in mind, plus the ongoing heat, we settled for a handful.
Ramose, Nakht, Menna, Sennefer, all well-known figures in and around Thebes during the New Kingdom, and their tombs reflect this. Perhaps tombs is somewhat of a misnomer as they seem to contain so much emphasis on life rather than death. The royal tombs and their associated mortuary temples are about the funerary process, and the importance of the deceased king in his relationship with the gods in the hereafter, while the Nobles tombs, and to a degree, the tombs at Deir el-Medina are about celebration, about keeping alive what made the tomb owner in life, and so we see scenes of the everyday; the sowing, the harvest, making beer or wine. We see the festivity of the burial, not the mortuary functions. It is important to remember that these so-called tombs, although housing the body of its owner, usually in a deep shaft somewhere in the back, were kept open, and were visited by the family and friends of the deceased to celebrate the now justified occupant and the cult of him and his life.
It was getting late and some of us needed to cross the river for certain items not readily available on the West Bank. We opted to take the National ferry rather than a private boat, and it was refreshing to travel with and in the style of the locals.
While we were crossing the river, others of our party, no doubt inspired by meeting a member of the Abd el Rasoul clan, had elected to make the long hike in search of DB320, the site of the important mummy cache from 1881.
Tut Ankh Amoun
We all met back in the foyer of our hotel at 7pm, and set out on foot, south along the river bank in search of the highly regarded Tut Ankh Amoun restaurant. As we stepped off the pavement onto a dimly lit dusty road, I couldn’t help but hear the uncertainty behind me, but soon we saw the sign. Up a few stairs and we found the restaurant with its splendid view across the river and one of the finest meals you could ask for.