Journal: Tuesday 19 October 1999
Jenny and I crossed the river again this morning, taking an arabeya and stopping at the taftsh to buy tickets to Deir el-Bahri temple. Whoopee! I discovered that the tombs of Roy and Shuroy at Dra Abu’l Naga were now open at last and so this was where we headed first. Another arabeya ride took us past Deir el-Bahri right to the northern end of the road to the King’s Valley turn-off and where the two small tombs are situated up in the hill slope.
These are the most recent tombs to be opened to visitors on the West Bank and have both been superbly restored. We first went into the tomb of Roy (TT255). He was a ‘Royal Scribe in the Estates of Horemheb and of Amun’, probably during Horemheb’s reign. His wife, who appears with him in the tomb paintings is named as Nebtawy, or ‘Tawy’ for short. This tiny tomb has only one small chamber with a niche and burial shaft. The quality, detail and colour of the paintings, however, makes up for it’s diminutive size and I was very lucky today because a professional photographer had been working here and the barriers protecting the walls had been removed for him, leaving the walls free of obstructions. I eyed his huge photographic lamps jealously, then got on with taking the best pictures I could with so little light. The beautiful paintings depict the usual funerary scenes, the journey to the tomb, banqueting feast etc. as well as scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’. Right around the top of the wall is a lovely frieze of Hathor heads, Anubis jackals and the titles of the deceased. It is not only the walls which had my attention here, but also the fabulous ceiling decorated in a colourful geometric ‘textile’ design.
Shuroy’s Tomb (TT13), by comparison was larger, with two chambers, but a little disappointing. He held the title ‘Head of Brazier-bearers of Amun’ during the Ramesside Period. While the funerary scenes are similar to those of Roy and have also been restored, they are not nearly so well-preserved. The modern entrance is actually cut into the rear chamber of the tomb, so to view the paintings in the correct sequence, we first went into the smaller vestibule and began at the original entrance where there are traditional scenes from the ‘Book of Gates’ and where Shuroy and his wife, Wernefer, are shown in sketches, adoring the gods. A king and queen are depicted here but unfortunately the cartouches were left blank, so the date of the tomb is not known precisely. At the back of the vestibule is a niche decorated with women on the left and a man squatting, with Shuroy offering on the right.
Leaving Dra Abu’l Naga Jenny and I walked along the road towards Deir el-Bahri, stopping on the way to look in a shop selling statues. We didn’t actually buy anything, but gratefully accepted a cold drink from the owners and sat chatting with them for a while. When we left we were badly hassled all along the road by several young boys either selling things, asking for things and even making indecent propositions (this from a little boy of about 10 years old!). Eventually we arrived hot and bothered at the Temple of Hatshepsut to find that the entrance to the temple has been changed, routing all visitors through a tourist bazaar which is now impossible to avoid. So it was head down, making no eye contact with the vendors and head straight through security to the temple steps.
While Jenny did a tour of the temple, I concentrated on the second terrace where the wonderful reliefs of Hatshepsut are carved on the back walls of the south and north colonnades. The reliefs in the southern colonnade are the famous scenes of Hatshepsut’s expedition to Punt. The precise location of Punt is not known, but it is thought to have been probably on the east coast of Africa, to the south of Egypt. The end wall shows a village in the land of Punt, its dome-shaped houses on stilts with ladders to access them. There are wonderful birds and animals all around. Men are cutting trees, including incense and ebony and carrying off heaps of tribute and treasure to be taken back to Egypt. The famous relief of Ity the ‘Queen of Punt’ – a grotesquely fat lady, the wife of Parahu, Punt’s chief – is now in Cairo Museum but has been replaced by a reproduction. On the western wall elaborately-rigged sailing boats get ready to bring the tribute back to Egypt, including incense trees in baskets, cattle, baboons and a panther. There are many types of fish in the water in the register below. Further along I saw reliefs of the transplanted incense trees in the gardens at Karnak and the produce from the expedition being weighed and documented by officials before being presented to the queen to be offered to Amun. At the very end of the southern portico is a Chapel of Hathor with many reliefs of Hatshepsut being licked or suckled by the goddess in the form of a cow. Beautiful Hathor-headed pillars line the central part of the hall and lead the way to the sanctuary area of the chapel cut into the hillside at the back. On the northern wall in the hypostyle of the Hathor Chapel are colourful scenes of boats and a parade of soldiers, a panther and Libyans dancing in a festival of Hathor.
The northern colonnade begins with a Chapel of Anubis which echoes the Hathor Chapel on the southern side and shows colourful scenes of Hatshepsut in the presence of the jackal-headed god. In some places Hatshepsut’s figure has been removed but the figure of her successor Tuthmose III remains in offering scenes to Amun as well as Anubis, Wepwawet, Sokar, Osiris and other mortuary gods. In the northern portico we see scenes of the queen establishing her right to rule by illustrating her divine birth. The reliefs are very shallow and not easy to see, but show the divine union of Hatshepsut’s mother Ahmose with Amun. Khnum the creator god then fashions the queen and her ka on the potter’s wheel and Ahmose is led to the birth-room by the goddess Hekat who presides over the birth. Hatshepsut is then presented to Amun and a number of other deities and the goddess Seshat, with Hapi, records her name and reign length. The register above portrays the coronation ceremonies of the queen where she is crowned first by her father Tuthmose I, then by Horus and Set.
Deir el-Bahri seems to be busy at all times of the day and today was no exception. Next to the Kings’ Valley it is the most popular tourist site on the West Bank and by the time we left in the middle of the afternoon there were still a lot of people in the temple. We wandered southwards across the sandy mounds of el-Khoka and were called over to a little hut where some guards had recognised me. We stopped to sit with them, while they brewed tea for us on a little gas stove and Jenny had a lesson in turban-making with her long white cotton scarf. Then one of the guards offered to show us the Dynasty XXV tomb of Mentuemhet (TT34), an important Mayor of Thebes. The tomb itself was not open to visitors, but we could look down into the massive sun court into Montuemhet’s impressive monument. What a bonus!
Back on the main road we caught an arabeya to the ferry and crossed the river once more. Back to the Sonesta for a shower and change before walking to the Amoun Restaurant for dinner. As always, we were warmly greeted by Hag Sayed, the restaurant’s owner, who was sitting at his usual table at the back, dealing with the money. He’s a lovely man and always sends over a ‘welcome drink’ of lemon juice whenever I arrive. When we had finished dinner it was still quite early, so Jenny and I took a motor boat back over to the West Bank to the el-Gezira Hotel to visit my friends among the staff there. As luck would have it, it was party night!