Journal entry for Thursday 29 October 1998
While we had been off in the countryside yesterday my friend Nubi had been busy. He had arranged with Dr Mohammed Sayed for our party (myself, Kit, Sam and Robin) to visit the famous tomb of Queen Nefertari as his guests. Kit and I had already had the honour of having tea with Dr Mohammed at his house a couple of days ago – which proves it’s not what you know but who you know in Egypt.
Nefertari’s tomb was cleaned and restored by the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation and the Getty Conservation Institute and had only recently been opened in 1995. Visitor numbers and the time spent inside the tomb was limited and tickets were expensive at LE100 each. They could only be obtained by queuing at the ticket office at 6.00am and needless to say I had not been there yet. So it was with great excitement that we took a taxi to the Valley of the Queens this morning to meet the Queens’ Antiquities Inspector Mr Abdel Fetuh and Dr Mohammed. We waited until the last of the visitors left and the tomb closed at 12.00pm before entering.
Nefertari Mery-en-Mut, whose name means ‘most beautiful, beloved of the goddess Mut’, was the Great Royal Wife of Rameses II. Her tomb reflects the queen’s position in the eyes of her husband in the beauty of its construction. The colours are very vivid and the scenes are unusual, with many favourable epitaphs which describe her beauty and her sweet and charming nature. As we all descended down the entrance stairway and into an offering hall, I had not really known what to expect, but the photographs I had seen in books do not do the tomb justice. I was dazzled by its colour and freshness. Visitors are allowed only ten minutes in the tomb but we were left for over half an hour to work our way around in our own time looking at each scene, with Mr Fetuh occasionally interrupting to point out some the most interesting aspects. All too soon the visit was over, but I will always feel very privileged to have been given this wonderful opportunity and give my thanks to the antiquities staff for allowing it.
After an afternoon in Luxor, Kit, Robin and I had dinner at Nubi’s home with his family and his mother Haga. A feast of dozens of different dishes were laid out on the floor and we all sat around on cushions, dipping our bread into each dish to sample it – no spoons or forks here! We sat talking late into the evening with Nubi, who told us fascinating stories of his excavation work, especially at Abydos where he worked periodically as an assistant surveyor. It had been a wonderful day.