Journal: Tuesday 30 March 1999
It was nice to wake up in ‘my own’ bed this morning. I have the only room at the el-Gezira Hotel that has a bath and I made long use of it last night. Abydos had been a wonderful experience, one that I will never forget, but to be back in luxor with a shower and a bath, both with hot running water (nearly all the time), is bliss.
This morning I was up early to meet Robin. On Tuesday there is a market in Luxor, which I had visited a few years ago, but we recently discovered that there was also a big Tuesday market here on the West Bank. This morning at 7.00 am we set out along the road in Geziret to catch an arabeya to Qurna, getting out just past the Seti Temple. We hadn’t been sure where exactly the market was, but once in el-Tarif all we had to do was to follow the donkey-carts piled high with cabbages or tomatoes. There was a stream of men leading animals by ropes, chickens held by a wing flapping at their sides and women with large baskets balanced on their heads were leading small children by the hand. The narrow dirt track behind the Muslim cemetery eventually opened out into a large open space covered with a sea of vendors and customers. Overhead a brightly striped hot-air balloon was hovering low over the scene, which must have looked spectacular from that perspective.
The el-Tarif suq is by no means a tourist place, it is purely for the local people who come to buy and sell their produce and probably, as on market days the world over, meet friends to exchange their weekly gossip. It certainly sounded like everyone was talking at once. Many of the stalls were set out on the ground, where a man or woman sat behind scales, surrounded by their goods. I saw a great variety of vegetables. Potatoes with a light dusting of earth still on them, huge juicy red tomatoes, succulent green salad leaves, dark glossy aubergines and giant cabbages and cauliflowers, each one big enough to feed me for six months, were all piled up into pyramids. Bananas, oranges and pears were laid appetizingly in large wide woven baskets on carts. Aluminium bowls were heaped with dried herbs in every imaginable shade of green, contrasting vividly against the brightly coloured spices alongside, while lentils, beans and other grains and pulses were similarly displayed. It was not only food sold here, but household goods of all descriptions; pots and pans and crockery in aluminium, terracotta and plastic were everywhere. Handcarts manned by ladies selling fabrics and haberdashery were a delight and Robin bought several lengths of fabric that caught her eye, while I bought a couple of very nice scarves. We found freshly baked bread and some of the local hard salty cheese to take back for our lunch and walked along the rows of stalls selling eggs, milk and round white goat cheeses, which made us feel hungry. When we came to a man with a little gas cooking stove we could no longer resist, so we bought some ta’amiya, flat cakes made from a sort of mashed green beans and deep fried, similar to falafel. These were freshly fried in a deep pan of sizzling oil and served up in paper cones – they were delicious.
The far corner of the market ground was the place where animals were bought and sold. Beside stacks of palm crates containing live chickens, ducks and geese, there were many sheep and goats as well as donkeys for sale. This was the domain of the men and when I pointed my camera in their direction I got shouted at. I couldn’t blame them, they were not here as tourist attractions, so I confined myself to taking pictures of one or two children, paying them 50 piastres for each shot, which satisfied them and me. Unfortunately when their friends caught on to this new money-making scheme I was followed like the pied piper with ever-increasing groups of kids asking for money, sweets and pens and planting themselves in front of my camera demanding ‘photo me, photo me’. After a couple of hours Robin and I were quite exhausted, so we left to go back to her apartment in Geziret for coffee and spent the rest of the morning lazing around.
After lunch our friend David from Luxor came over to the West Bank and together we went up to Asasif to visit the tomb of Kheruef, one of my favourites and the tomb of Ankh-hor (TT414), both of them just to the south of Deir el-Bahri. Ankh-hor’s titles were ‘Steward of the Divine Votress Nitocris’, ‘Great Mayor of Memphis’, ‘Overseer of Upper Egypt in Thebes’ and ‘Overseer of the Priests of Amun’ during the reigns of Psamtek II and Apries (Wahibre) of Dynasty XXVI. His tomb is one of a series of large tombs in the Asasif area built at the end of the Third Intermediate Period for high officials in the estates of the Gods Wives of Amun.
Like Kheruef, Ankh-hor was a wealthy man of great importance and this was reflected in the size of his tomb. Little of the above-ground structure now remains, but a steep staircase leads deep down to a solar court with square pillars and an offering table still in situ. The tomb was obviously not completed by the time Ankh-hor died and the inner chambers were left rough and undecorated. The Sun Court, however, contains some of the finest reliefs found in the Theban tombs, beautifully and delicately carved on the walls, in the same style as Pabasa’s slightly earlier tomb (TT279) not far away. Ankh-hor’s tomb also has rare scenes of beekeeping, although the complete hives are not shown as they are in Pabasa’s tomb, but only the honeycombs. Part of the decoration in the Sun Court was unfinished and although there is still some good colour in places we could see a striped carvetto cornice around the top of the walls with areas which are sketched in red but left incomplete. A cartouche of Psamtek II can be seen on the entrance wall. All of the inner chambers of the tomb, which is quite extensive, were left unfinished. On the western side of the Sun Court is a short passage with a corbelled roof which leads to a large unplastered hall with eight roughly carved pillars. This chamber in turn leads to a vestibule with a small cult chamber and statue niche at the western end. Other chambers off the northern side lead to small rooms on an upper level. The tomb was re-used in later periods and contained intrusive burials including the remains of a mummy, which we saw in one of the side-chambers.
By the time we left Asasif to walk to the Rameses Cafe at Medinet Habu, a strong wind had blown up and we were sand-blasted all the way along the road. Later it became gale force, a typical Khamsin wind that forces dust and sand into every crack and crevice. It’s that time of year again!