Journal entry for Friday 30 October 1998
After our problem with the police two days ago at Medamud, we wanted to avoid any mishaps this time by seeking permission to visit the temple at Tod, which is around 20km to the south of Luxor and then to go on to el-Moalla, a little further south. We went to the tourist police, who this time were very helpful and were given permission to leave Luxor with the morning convoy on its way to Aswan, then branch off with a small police escort to the village of Tod. Why this should be any different to Medamud, which is much closer to Luxor, I will never know. Kit, Robin and I went over to Luxor on the ferry where we met up with Sam and our taxi driver Abdul to wait in line for the 11.00am convoy to leave. It was very straight forward. Our police escort were very nice and we turned off after the bridge at the traffic station south of Luxor, then crossing the railway tracks, followed the road east though the countryside until we came to the village of Tod.
The rear (modern) entrance to the temple lies at the end of the paved road through the village. Our first problem of the day came when the temple guards told us that tickets could only be bought at Luxor Temple – nobody had mentioned this when we went to ask the police about the visit. After much deliberating and arguing with the guards, who were adamant, Abdul insisted on driving back to Luxor to buy our tickets, which he could do alone without waiting for the convoy. It didn’t take him long and he was back in forty-five minutes with our tickets. By this time it was just after mid-day and the sun was scorching.
We spent a couple of hours in the temple which, like Medamud, was also dedicated to the god Montu. The remains date back to Dynasty V in the Old Kingdom when there was a local cult of Montu here and we saw some blocks from the early shrine in the magazine store near the entrance to the temple. During the reigns of Mentuhotep and Senwosret I of the Middle Kingdom there was a great deal of construction here, but little from this period remains today. A cache of gold and silver artefacts known as the ‘Tod Treasure’ was discovered during excavations beneath the floor of the Middle Kingdom buildings in 1936. Most of the extant remains date from the New Kingdom up to the Roman Period with a small barque shrine built by Tuthmose III and restored by later Ramesside kings on the northern side, where there was once a small sacred lake too. On the west are remains of a quay and avenue of sphinxes. The larger part of the buildings today consist of a Ptolemaic columned hall which includes a hidden room side which was a treasury. The later temple was built against a wall of the Middle Kingdom remains, and we saw a long line of text by Senwosret I, over-carved with Ptolemaic reliefs, but many of the later cartouches were left blank (often the case in Ptolemaic building works).
Did I mention the dogs? Just after the guard had gone off and left us to wander around on our own, we were suddenly surrounded by a pack of snarling yapping yellow dogs who seemed to resent visitors in their temple. Perhaps we were disturbing their afternoon sleep, but it was an uncomfortable few minutes until the guard came back and scared them off and shooed them away into the village. I’ve often seen these semi-wild dogs living in the temples. Usually they are no trouble, but I get uneasy when they start baring their teeth.
Time to leave. We were going on to el-Moalla to visit the tomb of Ankhtify, but first we had to go back to the main road with our escort and wait to join the next Aswan convoy. It was now almost 3.00pm, extremely hot and there were no drinks available at the checkpoint, so we refilled our water bottles from a dubious-looking tap at the roadside and thought we would probably regret it, but we had an hour to wait for the next convoy and there was no shade either. Eventually we were on our way again to drive another 12km south, turning off over the railway tracks towards the village of el-Moalla. The provincial cemetery appeared desolate and windswept, but two important tombs among many belonging to provincial governors and officials of the Old Kingdom to First Intermediate Period can be found here.
Abdul went off to find the tomb guard and this was when our next problem began. Very few visitors came to el-Moalla, so being Friday and the Islamic day of rest, the guard who had the key to the tombs had gone off to Esna to visit his sister. Well, we had come this far and were not about to be defeated. Abdul, bless him, was duly dispatched to Esna to find the guard, or at least the key, returning an hour later with both. Meanwhile, we three women and my son Kit were left alone on this desolate hillside in front of the tomb, Sam refusing to move until we had been inside. We were not bothered by dogs, but this time it was young boys who turned up to keep us company, full of curiosity about what we were doing here. We must have seemed a bit odd standing there waiting. Before long, more boys turned up and a few of the older ones became quite threatening, demanding money, cigarettes and anything else they thought we were good for. By the time the guards came back and the tomb of Ankhtify was unlocked, it was almost dark but we eventually got to see the tomb, albeit with the aid of fluorescent torches shone onto the walls. The decorated tomb shows many interesting and important painted scenes which give glimpses into the complicated political events in the obscure First Intermediate Period. I decided I really must revisit el-Moalla in the daytime.