Journal: Friday 20 March 1998
On Friday morning I woke with a guilty feeling because I should have been at work this weekend. I work as a florist and Sunday is Mother’s day – the busiest time of the year when the rest of the staff would be working 16 hours a day and they would be short-staffed because of me. However, I couldn’t honestly say I’d rather be there. The guilty feeling didn’t last long, but I didn’t know if I still had a job to go back to….
After breakfast Robin and I went to Sheikh ‘Abd el-Qurna to visit the tomb of Ramose (TT55), one of my favourites. Ramose was a ‘Governor of Thebes’ and ‘Vizier’ during the reign of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten and his tomb chapel contains rare Theban reliefs of the ‘heretic king’. On the west wall Ramose is shown prostrated before Amenhotep IV (before he changed his name to Akhenaten) and his Queen Nefertiti, who are seated in their ‘window of appearances’ in the royal palace at Karnak. I could just about make out the cartouches. The rays of the Aten, are showering down the royal couple and Ramose is shown receiving the coveted award, the ‘Gold of Honour’, a heavy golden collar which was presented for service to the king. This relief is carved in the new Amarna style although has been badly damaged, possibly at the end of the reign. The artwork is interesting in that it is the only tomb in Thebes that I know of, showing the exaggerated style of Amarna art and Ramose has the elongated head typical of this period. The style is more typical of artwork in the tombs at Amarna and reflects the great changes which were taking place in Egypt at this time. This particular scene is filled with movement and all the dignitaries present are depicted bowing low before the king. Ramose is depicted being received enthusiastically by his own people as well as the foreign emissaries who are bringing gifts to the king. These foreigners are shown only as a preliminary sketch and have not been carved and I could see four Nubians, three Asiatics and a Libyan paying homage. During this reign, the King was saw himself as an intermediary between the gods (specifically the Aten) and the common people and it was the King alone who had knowledge of the god. This was a vast departure from the previous belief system where the king himself would be subservient to the gods, bowing down before them. Ramose himself was appointed Vizier towards the end of the reign of Amenhotep III and began to prepare his Theban tomb in the style of that king’s reign but it was left unfinished. There is a mystery because, although he doesn’t seem to have been buried here, we don’t know whether Ramose followed Akhenaten to Amarna as a tomb for him has never been found there. Although his Theban tomb was left unfinished the reliefs are exquisite and have been well-preserved because the roof collapsed, burying the tomb-chapel under rubble and so protecting the walls.
When we came out of the tomb into the bright sunlight and were heading towards a little cafeteria for a cold drink, we bumped into Taya, a friend of Robin’s who is a stone-carver and he insisted we went to his house for lunch or at least a cup of tea. Taya’s family home was quite close by so we both readily agreed. Following Taya through a narrow alleyway we had never even noticed before, past dogs and cats, chickens and tiny children running in and out of the houses, we came to his home. After a time, sitting out in the little terrace courtyard in the shade, Taya’s mother, a lovely lady, invited us to come back again for dinner that evening.
When we arrived at 6.00pm everything was already laid out waiting for us. There were more members of the family present now and we were introduced to each of them. We also met Taya’s brother Abdul-Hamid, who does restoration work in the monuments. Seated in the main family room at a vinyl-covered dining table, we were presented with many wonderful savoury dishes and had a great time chatting to the family, especially several children whose relationships I could not work out, but the evening went by quickly and it was soon time to leave. Taya walked back with us to our hotel at Geziret, a short-cut through the dark sugar cane fields. The cane was taller than we were and on the narrow path through the fields the strengthening wind was a deafening rattle through the leaves above us. It felt very cold too after the heat of the day. Back at the hotel there was a party going on up on the roof for the tour group Explore, so we went to join them for a while as we knew many of the people there. There was much music and dancing and we ended up staying there until 4.00am! I belatedly realised that today was Spring Equinox – a good excuse for a party if one was needed.