Journal: Thursday 5 November 1998
Time is running out with only four more days here in Luxor. As usual, time in Egypt has an elastic quality that makes me feel like I’ve never lived anywhere else, yet I am aware of the days flying by, packed as they are with things to do and places to go. Even though I try to fill every minute, I can still find time to sit and relax, usually in a cafe where I love to watch Egyptian life unfold before me. This combination of activity and inactivity suits me very well. But today we had quite a busy schedule, so, missing the morning rush hour, by 9.00am Kit and I were on the ferry crossing the river to Luxor.
Kit hadn’t yet seen the Museum, which was to be our first call and was a visit I always enjoy. Although the exhibits in the museum are very well lit, the surroundings are very dark, and I had never managed to get successful photographs, so this time I brought with me a fast film especially for the task. While Kit had a walk around both levels of the museum, I wanted to concentrate on photographing the cachette statues. This new extension on the ground floor houses a collection of statues found in the ‘Luxor Cachette’. These beautiful sculptures were unearthed when a colonnade at Luxor Temple was dismantled for reconstruction in 1989. They had been buried (for reasons unknown) in the floor of the courtyard where they lay forgotten for over 2000 years. Many of these statues today look as though they have just come out of a sculptor’s workshop and the workmanship is superb.
Another of my favourite exhibits is a reconstructed wall from a temple of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). The small decorated sandstone blocks, called talatat, were discovered during reconstruction work on the ninth pylon at Karnak, where they had been used as infill in the original building of the pylon. Individual blocks on which the famous reliefs were carved can be seen in many museums, but here the ‘Talatat Wall’ represents the only successful attempt at reconstructing a whole wall of the blocks. Over 40,000 decorated blocks from Amenhotep IV’s early Karnak building works have been found, but only those from the ninth pylon are preserved enough to allow their accurate reconstruction. This wall is fabulous and is a rare example of the unique style of relief carving of the Amarna Period.
After a couple of hours in the museum we walked along the Corniche to the New Winter Palace Hotel, where we had a cup of coffee in the lounge. This was just me being nosy as I had never been inside this hotel before. Then it was back over the river to meet up with Robin for our next adventure of the day.
We had all been invited to visit the Valley of the Kings with Antiquities Inspector Mr Abdel Fetou, who met us at Medinet Habu and had a service taxi waiting to take us all to the Valley. I must say, being in his company meant that we were given the VIP treatment. This visit was another first for Kit as he hadn’t been to the Valley yet and we saw three tombs, as well as a special visit to the tomb of Tutankhamun. I was very impressed by Abdel Fetou’s knowledge of the tombs and especially the hieroglyphs.
Another lovely day ended after Robin, Kit and I were joined by Sam for dinner at the Africa Restaurant in Gezira and a leisurely discussion on the roof terrace of our hotel.