Journal: Friday 18 July 1997
Once more it was almost time to say goodbye to Luxor. Our flight was leaving late in the evening so we wanted to make the most of our last day. Robin and I had become rather attached to the West Bank of Luxor, not only for its monuments but for its peaceful tranquillity and friendly atmosphere. There was never any hassle here or people constantly trying to sell us things. We had arranged with our taxi driver, Ali, to pick us up from the ferry at 6.30am and to go to see more nobles tombs. We had been lucky on this trip to be able to buy student tickets for the monuments, giving us a 50% reduction.
We drove to Asasif, an area close to Deir el-Bahri, and went first to the tomb of Kheruef, who was ‘Steward of the Great Royal Wife, Tiye’, the wife of Amenhotep III. The tomb complex was very large, as befited a man in his exalted position, but was unfinished at the time of his death and he was never buried in the tomb. We entered Kheruef’s tomb down a staircase and passage which led to a large open court and several other later tombs. The guard took us first to another tomb in the courtyard and opened a metal door so that we could have a look inside. Unfortunately the hundred or so bats who lived there had different ideas and flew out of the door at us as soon as it was opened. I don’t mind bats in ones or twos but a whole cloud of them coming straight at my head was just too much and I declined the offer to go further down the steep dark staircase. Besides, the reek of bat dung was unbearable! We crossed the courtyard to Kheruef’s tomb. Most of the inner rooms of the structure were closed off, but the portico was well worth a visit. The wall reliefs were fascinating, referring to the reigns of Amenhotep III as well as Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) and were so beautifully carved, though now devoid of paint. On the left of the portico were scenes of female singers, dancers and musicians. Four pairs of girls were depicted carrying jars and vessels which, according to the text, were made from gold and electrum. The inscription also implied that these were daughters of foreign leaders, who may have been brought up in the Egyptian royal court. This was one of the most beautiful reliefs in the tomb. The princesses were wearing long elegant gowns with broad collars, short, elaborately carved wigs with sidelocks and a curious square-shaped head-dress. In another scene we saw Kheruef standing before Amenhotep III, who was seated in an elaborate kiosk, with Hathor as ‘Mistress of Dendera’ (holding a protective arm around the king) and Queen Tiye behind him. On the right hand side of the portico the reliefs depicted celebrations of Amenhotep’s jubilee festival, with men boxing and stick-fighting and various preparations for the rituals, including the boats which brought produce from different areas of Egypt. Nearly every new tomb I see, becomes my favourite – until the next one. Kheruef’s tomb however has remained among my favourite places to visit. It is not as elaborate or as colourful as some, but it’s exquisitely carved reliefs, in my opinion, are only equalled in the tomb of Ramose, and they were probably done by the same craftsman.
Our next visit was to the tomb of Pabasa, who was ‘Chief Steward of the God’s Wife Nitocris’. It was a very different style of structure and of a later date, with a long straight staircase leading down into an extensive suite of rooms. These were also very well decorated and the paintings were rare and quite famous for scenes of beekeeping and viticulture. In Pabasa’s tomb there were also rare cartouches of some of the ‘God’s Wives of Amun’ who acted as female proxy rulers in Thebes during the Saite Period.
Time was moving on, so we went for lunch in the cafeteria at Medinet Habu, so that we could sit and gaze at the temple for a little while before we had to say our goodbyes to the West Bank. We kept meeting some of the new friends we had made on this trip and had to explain that we had no time left to accept their invitations as we were leaving today. The drive back to the ferry was a sad one for me, knowing we must leave Egypt again. We said goodbye to Ali with lots of handshaking and hugging and promises that we would get in touch when we next came to Luxor. This all took so long that the ferry left without us and we decided to take a motorboat across the river so save waiting. This was an expensive!! LE5 but the trip was another new experience and a very speedy way to cross the river.
Later in the afternoon we did a little shopping in the bazaar and before we knew it, my four friends and I were on a coach on our way to the airport. This was the time I had come to dread most about being in Egypt – the leaving. We hardly dared look at each other as we knew we all had tears in our eyes. Waiting at the airport was awful, the plane was delayed an hour which seemed now to be a normal occurrence and we didn’t fly out until 10.00pm.