Monday, 30 March 2009

Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens....

3000 years ago the Egyptian Pharaohs lived on the east bank of the Nile but when they died they wanted to be buried on the west bank where the sun set, believing that, like the sun, they would be resurrected. The imposing limestone hills were the obvious place for their tombs and so were born the Valley's of the Kings and Queens.

From the moment a new Pharaoh was crowned his tomb was begun - so those who survived many years like Ramses II, who lived to be 92, had huge tombs with many chambers - whilst those like Tutankhamen who only ruled for 9 years had much smaller tombs. These tombs told the story of the Pharaoh's life, in hieroglyphics, and contained everything he would need for his journey into the next life. When a Pharaoh died his priests had 70 days in which to mummify and entomb him. Then the tomb for the next Pharaoh would be started.

The Valley of the Kings is huge, absolutely massive, containing 64 tombs so far discovered, with many more the Egyptologists who work there know are yet to be found. The work is slow and painstaking as they always restore existing tombs before excavating a new one. There are only 2 or 3 tombs open to the public at any one time and unfortunately no photos are allowed in them - and my words cannot possibly do justice to the magnificent engravings and paintings in there. The paint is 3000 years old and yet in some it appears as if completed only yesterday. Over the years most of the tombs were plundered, only Tutankhamen's was discovered intact, and they are now empty apart from the sarcophagus. The Mummies are mostly in the museum in Cairo. Its difficult to describe the eerie feeling standing inside one of these tombs, even with dozens of other tourists, the sense of the ancient civilization who lived and worked there is overwhelming.

The Valley of the Queens is much smaller, but contains the best preserved tomb - that of a young Prince. It is very small having been hurriedly constructed within the 70 days allowed, but the paint and engravings in there are brilliant - so bright and vibrant - telling the sad story of a young life. It was very moving being in there and having the hieroglyphics deciphered for us by our guide, Mamal.

It was also very hot. And hard work walking around on the uneven ground and queuing to get into each tomb. But the feeling of being there is something I will never, ever forget - I touched the tomb where a long forgotten Pharaoh died thousands of years ago.


Andrew Petcher said...

Eygpt is on my to do list. It sounds great, I would love to see the pyramids.

Andy said...

Would love to go there.

Sybil said...

Thank you thank you for tellimg us of these marvelous tombs. I feel as if I have almost been there...think that is as near as I will ever get...Can't see the terrain being wheelchair -able !!
still with firends like you to give me a deciption I don't have to worry about that do I.
Hope sinse you cam ehome you are having plenty rest !
Much Love Sybil xx