Day 3

We have looked at two ends of the Ancient Egyptian social scale, with the royalty on one hand and the workmen on the other. Today we start out by visiting the tombs of some of the nobility. This stratum of Egyptian society includes powerful courtiers and officials of the ancient city of Thebes. Some 400 hundred tombs cover the hillside between the Valley of the Queens and the road to the Valley of the Kings. Where royal tombs were decorated with spells and incantations from the Book of the Dead to guide their owners through the underworld, the Duat, the nobles, intent on celebrating their lives after their death, decorated their tombs with wonderfully detailed scenes of their daily lives.

All that walking over the hillsides of Qurna will have built up an appetite, or at least a thirst. Time to make our way towards our next mortuary temple and some refreshments.

“I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies…”

So wrote Percy Shelley in his poem “Ozymandias”, supposedly inspired by the arrival at the British Museum of a 7-ton section of a statue of Rameses the Great from our next port of call, our second mortuary temple, The Ramesseum. The House of Millions of Years of Usermaatra-setepenra that unites with Thebes-the-city in the Domain of Amun, to give it its full title, took 20 years to build and carries scenes of Ramses’ campaigns against the Hittites, notably the battle of Kadesh.

Like father, like son. Just down the road lies the Temple of Merneptah. Intense restoration has restored some idea of the layout of this 19th Dynasty temple, and it was here that Petrie discovered what is known as the Israel stele. The small, but interesting museum shows just how much stone was looted from the temple of Amenhotep III.