25 July 2014
In the morning, after another breakfast of pastries and melon, my holiday buddy and I met up with our new friend from last night and his friend took us all to the Valley of the Kings. The boys didn’t want to come in so waited in the hot car whilst we went in.
Our tickets bought us entry into three tombs of our choice and we could get extra tickets for the most famous tombs, including that of King Tutankhamun. As we bought our initial tickets, the guy behind the counter was chatting away and suddenly asked for a tip. He said he’d told us which tombs we should go into- only certain ones are open each day- and we should pay him for that. We hadn’t caught a word. He repeated himself and we gave him a few pounds. We hadn’t really asked for it but it was information worth having. I then tried to use my student card for a concession but apparently it wasn’t the right type. He said he would accept it for a tip. It was still cheaper that way so I agreed. On moving over to the next counter for our King Tut tickets, the guy said he would take my student card if I tipped again. Apparently, I didn’t give him enough so I handed over a few more coins. Then we paid for the shuttle that would take us up the hill and to the valley itself. It wasn’t exactly expensive but we were already leaking money.
Finally, we stuck to the tombs that had been recommended to us (Merenptah (8), Rameses III (11) and Tausert & Setnakht (14). I forget exactly which but two out of three were worth the tip. I think it was number 8 and 14- the latter of which was resting place to both the king in question and his wife. We did try to branch out after seeing a tomb at the top of some stairs, up in the rock, which we figured would have some amazing views. After making the hike in the burning sun, we realised it was closed and had to descend again.
In each tomb, we found that we were either the only visitors in there or some of a few. That meant that the guards were constantly trying to give us a running commentary in return for a tip. I would have been interested to learn more about the images in the tombs but sadly they were just pointing out thing we could already see. Since tourism in Egypt has declined, we knew they were just trying to make their living but we were starting to be treated like cash machines. It was a shame to feel like we had to rush in order to get away from the hassle but being alone in the tombs did have its advantages and we were able to get us close to some of the relics, including King Tut’s mummy, which we came face to face with. The tombs themselves were beautifully decorated with hieroglyphics and with images of the kings and the gods. Some also contained sarcophagi. It was rather unbelievable that so much had survived for thousands of years.
Our next stop was the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut- a woman who had reigned as a king. Her beautifully columned temple sat close to the Valley of the Kings. Whilst there were several tourists here, although not loads, we still got the same hassle as we looked around the statues and carvings on the walls. It was more than worth it though. As we waited for the shuttle train to take us between the temple and the ticket office. It was a relatively short distance but it was just too hot to walk, exposed in the sun. We treated ourselves to a Sprite to re-hydrate and increase our sugar-levels and chatted away to the guy in the cafe, who handed us cold water to splash on our face. He invited us to a wedding that evening. During Ramadan, weddings are not held but this one was for a Christian family so would be taking place. It was a tempting offer but we did already have dinner plans.
By the time we reached Valley of the Queens, we were exhausted from the heat and were reaching the end of our tether with getting hassled for money. This time, we were the only visitors in the valley. There were only a handful of tombs open, mainly of the sons of the kings, and we didn’t spend as much time in them as we would have if we had been able to look around the quietly alone. In the last, however, the guard started telling us information about the book of the dead, which we couldn’t have worked out by ourselves from the carvings. We ended up giving him some money as a thank you- that was the kind of thing we wanted to learn about.
Finally, our new friends took us back to the hotel, where we could rest before the big family dinner that night. We didn’t want to fill ourselves up so we treated ourselves to some crisps from the corner shop that stood outside the entrance to our hotel and we munched away, chilling by the cool pool.
In the evening, our local friends came to collect us and took us out of town to a little village. During the day, we had had the windows down in the taxi but now they were rolled up. We tried to wind them down only to find the handle was nowhere do be seen. One of the boys in the front however seemed to be played with one so we asked to use it. It didn’t fit. Instead, we pulled over whilst the other went off to borrow a handle from someone. He returned, we wound down the windows and we were off. En route, we stopped off at his house where we were presented with some coconut milk.
Finally we arrived at the house and met our host’s mother, father and sister, along with her two children. We were treated to a feast of bread, dips, soups rice, meat and more watermelon than I have ever seen in my life. We were stuffed. Particularly as we had our own spread, separate from the family. After we’d eaten we went over to join them. They didn’t speak English and our Arabic hadn’t progressed far but our friend managed to translate a few words and it was nice just to sit and relax in the living room, which appeared to have no roof and so looked out onto the stars. We even got a few appearances from the neighbourhood children who weren’t used to seeing Western tourists and wanted to see us for themselves.
Before we left, we were told we had to come back. There was a fish tagine our friend wanted us to try and we happily agreed to return in a few days time. We thanked our hosts and bid them good night before heading back into town where our friend took us to a cafe before heading down to a little garden park by the river where we could sit peacefully, watching some children play close by. It was a very relaxing way to spend the evening.
Our friend knew a guy with a horse and cart and tried to persuade us to take a ride with him back to the hotel. We had initially decided not to go on one as the horses looking rather malnourished and we doubted they had been kept well. This time, however, we found it hard to say no and since the horse looked in better decision we ended up agreeing and trotted back to our hotel for the night.
Read about the rest of my trip:
- Luxor Part One: the river, the souk and a new friend
- Luxor Part Three: a pool, cocktails and some minor detours
- Luxor Part Four: temples, museums and another family dinner
- Luxor Part Five: feluccas on the Nile, Banana Island and results day
- Luxor Part Six: farewells and a day in Cairo