Journal: Friday 6 March 1998
The morning dawned clear again, last night’s wind and sand had disappeared, leaving a thick dust on the balcony and piles of rubbish in corners of the street. In England I’m hopeless at getting up in the morning, but here in Egypt I feel like I don’t want to miss a minute of the day. This morning I was woken early by dogs barking nearby. It sounded like the whole village of dogs had urgent communications to make with each other. Then the gas-man came by, bringing his cart-load of bottled gas cylinders and beating them with a stick to advertise his presence. Robin and I had a quite lazy morning, crossing over to Luxor on the ferry to go and change some money and then to visit Gaddi’s bookshop. Hmm.. maybe I should have gone to the bookshop before I changed money, as I ended up buying several books. I would regret this later when I came to pack my suitcase to go home.
In the afternoon we were back in the King’s Valley with our faithful inspector, Hamdi and this time his brother Mohammed too. We went into the tomb of Rameses III (KV11), the 19th Dynasty king who had built his temple at Medinet Habu. The tomb is in the central part of the Valley, is very large, long and straight and was begun by his predecessor Setnakht, before he abandoned it to usurp another tomb. It is sometimes called ‘Bruce’s Tomb’, after the modern explorer, or the ‘Tomb of the Harpists’ because of it’s lovely relief of two blind harpists and has been open since antiquity. The design and decoration is fairly typical of the later Ramesside tombs but it has some interesting variations.
The entrance at the bottom of a steep staircase has the usual sun disc with scarab and ram-headed god on the lintel and inside the first corridor. Also in the entrance are two cow-headed pilasters on either side (which seem to be unique to this tomb). Texts from the ‘Litany of Re’ are depicted in the first corridor along with the usual scenes of the king before Re-Horakhty. Two niches or side-chambers open off the middle of the first corridor, uniquely decorated with pictures of bakers, cooks, butchers, brewers and a leather-worker in the east chamber, and pictures of sailing boats in the west chamber. The first three corridors were originally decorated for Sethnakht. The second corridor also depicts characters taken from the ‘Litany of Re’, with Anubis, Isis and Nephthys. There are eight side-rooms along the length of this corridor and each one is decorated with interesting and unusual pictures, including the famous blind harpists (for some reason harpists were often blind). The end of the second corridor turns a sharp right bend, where Sethnakht abandoned the tomb because he ran into the roof of the adjoining tomb of Amenmesse (KV10). Rameses relocated the axis to run parallel with the original and carried on further into the hillside.
The third corridor, decorated by Rameses III shows scenes from the ‘Amduat‘ and the ‘Book of Gates’ and leads into a ritual well-room before entering a hall with four pillars and a sloping floor. On the east side of the pillared hall are scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’ and representations of the four human races. The western side of this hall opens into an annex with scenes of Rameses being led by Thoth and Horus and being offered the feather of Ma’at by Osiris. Neith and Selket can be seen in the doorway. A barrier closes off the entrance to the fourth corridor which descends further into the tomb towards a vestibule and the burial chamber, but we could see scenes from the ‘Opening of the Mouth Ritual’ and the king before various deities. The decoration of the eight-pillared burial chamber has suffered from severe flood damage but was evidently decorated with scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’ and the ‘Book of the Earth’. There is no astronomical ceiling. Side-chambers contain extracts from the ‘Book of the Divine Cow’ the ‘Book of Aker’ and the ‘Fields of Iaru’. At the end of the burial chamber is an extension of several further annexes. The red granite sarcophagus of Rameses III was sold to the King of France and is now in the Louvre. It’s lid, which was found by Belzoni was sold to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the mummy of the king is now in Cairo Museum. I loved the brightly coloured paintings in this tomb – there was so much to look at and so many funerary books to work out that we stayed most of the afternoon and felt that I could have spent even longer. I would have to come back!
Although it was late afternoon, Robin and I decided in a wild fit of energy that we would walk back over the mountain to Deir el-Bahri as we hadn’t arranged a taxi back today. We climbed the steep narrow path from the end of the King’s Valley up to the top of the mountain, hoping we wouldn’t get lost. The view from the top was truly spectacular, with the sun setting behind us and the cultivated area turning a bright gold. It was well worth the climb, even though someone tried to sell us ‘genuine antiquities’ while we were there admiring the view. The young man had materialised from behind a rock and we had to laugh as we didn’t imagine he’d find much trade up there, but maybe he was just on his way home. We were too late to visit Hatshepsut’s temple but walked down the mountain path and across Deir el-Bahri causeway to Asasif where we met a guard who showed us down into the massive tomb of Mentuemhet. This tomb was not open as it was being consolidated, but the courtyard was very large and fitting for this important character, a mayor of Thebes during the 25-26th Dynasties. By now it was almost dark so we walked down to the road and hopped on a passing arabeya back to Gezira.
In the evening we were invited to a party at the Novatel in Luxor by some of the staff at el-Gezira and we enjoyed an evening of Egyptian music and watched brilliant dancing by some young guys down from Cairo, which made a big contrast to spending so much time recently in tombs. Evening entertainment in Egypt never begins until about 10.30pm, so it was not until 4.00am that we finally got to bed, exhausted but happy.