Our second day in Luxor took us to the Valley of the Kings, first stopping at an outdoor café – really more of an outdoor kitchen kiosk – to grab a bite of fῡl and falafel, two Egyptian food staples. We’d had it before in the hotels but the homemade versions, not surprisingly, were more delicious! Fῡl is a dish of cooked and mashed fava beans served with vegetable oil and cumin and optional toppings, and is eaten by using pita bread as a utensil. Falafel is a fried patty of mashed chickpeas, fava beans or both and is oh so yummy! Especially when right out of the fryer! We ate alongside the local workers who were happy, welcoming, and conversational. I do not think many, if any, tourists were common at the local “fast food!”
The Valley of the Kings is where almost all the pharaohs of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties were buried. There are 62 known tombs so you are not only awed by what you see but by curiosity over what lays undiscovered and unexcavated! The tombs are sunk deep into the heart of the desert mountain and are reached by descending a long corridor to reach the sarcophagus of the mummy. Storage chambers surround the sarcophagus where furniture, equipment, food – you name it – was stored for the king’s use in the after world. The walls are adorned with sculptors and painted pictorial stories of the pharaoh’s life and prayers to after world deities. The paint itself was as amazing as the hieroglyphics and art. Brilliantly vivid and colorful, it was unfathomable that it was as old as 1539 BC!
King Tut’s tomb was excavated from the Valley of the Kings. It was uniquely striking for several reasons. 1) His is the only remaining (discovered) mummy still in its sarcophagus because it is too delicate to move, 2) His is the only tomb that escaped pillage because it was well-hidden and he was a relatively unknown king that nobody was particularly interested in and, most incredibly, 3) One wonders of the treasures of the “important” pharaohs when compared to the magnificence of King Tut’s on display in the Egyptian museum!
During our visit to the Valley, Big Five and Travel Plus were able to secure a unique invitation to visit an ongoing excavation of the village where the people that built the kings’ tombs lived. Our guide pointed out homes, gathering spots and the paths used to transport the massive stones up the mountain. Most specially we were shown two tombs built for and by the workers themselves – usually reserved for the eyes of visiting dignitaries! Smaller but no less spectacular in their detailed and colorful stories, it was humbling to imagine the “regular” ancient Egyptians preparing for their own after life in the shadows of great pharaohs!
We ended our afternoon sightseeing in Luxor with a visit to the magnificent Karnak Temple. A must-see for anyone visiting Egypt, Karnak is the largest religious building ever constructed and is actually a city of temples. Simplistically put, the temple(s) are dedicated to Amum, Mut, and Khonsu, King of Gods, Queen of Gods, and Moon God respectively. The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St. Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame could all fit within its walls. The Hypostyle Hall, still the largest room of any religious building in the world, features 134 columns and to see them gives chill bumps!
We were honored to have as our guide at Karnak a member of the on-going archeological excavation team. We went behind cordoned off areas and got to see recently uncovered baths, monolithic statutes, and one never-before-seen- by-tourists sacred chamber of worship. Words fail me. One could spend weeks exploring Karnak recreating the wonders of ancient Egypt!
Our day in Luxor was capped by an evening horse and carriage tour through the city to the Luxor Market Bazaar. The noise! The traffic! The music! The color! The hookah! The aroma! You could feel the electric energy! The bazaar was a massive throng of shops and people all wanting to show their goods and chat. They were so happy to see us! Naturally I got absorbed in shopping and separated from the group. Once again Tamir appeared from nowhere to lead me twisting and turning through a maze of streets and alleyways back to our group. We enjoyed a short break over tea in a café and felt like regular locals amidst the Egyptian nightlife! I showed off my charm bracelet treasure and everyone agreed it was worth my getting lost! On our way back to the Winter Palace, our carriage driver stopped by a local sugar cane juice factory where we sampled the nectar. A little blast of sugar cane juice gives a big jolt! Rebecca
Previous Articles in This Series
- Protecting Traveler Equity Matters - February 1, 2017
- Never Tired of New York - May 16, 2016
- Italy for Spring Break! - October 1, 2015
- A Mother/Daughter New York Trip! - August 25, 2015
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Santiago, Chile - May 4, 2015
- Egypt: Hidden Treasures of the World - April 17, 2015
- Egypt: Loving Luxor - April 16, 2015
- Egypt: Luxurious Luxor - April 15, 2015
- Egypt: Amazing Aswan - April 14, 2015
- Egypt: Just the Beginning - April 13, 2015