Journal: Saturday 30 September 2000
Jenny and I had intended to get up early this morning, but we must have still been ‘train-lagged’ as it was 9.00am before we left the apartment and the temperature by then was rising rapidly. Even so, we decided to walk along the road to Deir el-Bahri and turn off up the little track before the temple, that goes straight up the mountain. A little way up we were spotted by two security guards who waved their guns and shouted at us that we were not allowed to walk on the mountain (news to me!) and we must come down immediately. For some reason both Jenny and I seemed to be a little hard of hearing today and eventually the guards gave up on us. They obviously couldn’t be bothered to come after us as we scrambled extremely quickly up the path of loose rubble and shale, slipping and sliding on the uneven surface all the way to the top where they could no longer see us.
There are the most wonderful views from the top of the Theban Mountain that always take my breath away, though it was a little hazy already this morning. We took the path around the hill looking down over Deir el-Bahri. It’s a bit scary at places standing on the very edge of the precipice but that is the only way to see right down onto terraces of the Temple of Hatshepsut. It’s also a great view of the Temple platform of Mentuhotep to the right, which can’t be clearly seen from any other angle. Following the track towards the Valley of the Kings, we stopped to have a look at the remains of the workmen’s huts. The artisans who carved and painted the royal tombs would have taken this track from their village at Deir el-Medina and about half-way to the Valley there are a few small stone structures believed to be stop-over huts, temporary accommodation where the workmen would sleep during their ten-day shift.
For a while it was peaceful up on the mountain and we spent an hour or so looking for fossils. I was amazed by the number of fossilised sea shells we found. How would sea shells get on top of a mountain in the desert? I’m sure there is a credible explanation, but I am no geologist and I don’t have an answer. After a while we were joined by a young man who tried to sell us ‘antiquas‘ from a rusty tin he furtively pulled out of a pocket in his galabeya. He tried very hard to interest us in his little collection of ‘genuine’ shabtis and bits of pottery. Even up there we couldn’t escape the souvenir sellers. But he was OK and when we didn’t show any interest in his antiquities he gave up and joined our fossil hunt. Eventually the young man got bored and wandered off to look for other more lucrative tourists and Jenny and I carried on walking the path to Deir el-Medina.
As we passed the large hut for the tourist police which is now installed above the workmen’s village, the guards waved at us and offered us a glass of tea. We stopped to chat for a moment but didn’t stay long because it was really getting to hot in the noonday sun. I felt very sorry for the police who must stay up in that shelter, often for days at a time, as a result of the Deir el-Bahri ‘incident’ of 1997. It must be incredibly hot during the day, cold at night and very very boring. But they were really friendly – quite different from the guards who shouted at us only a couple of kilometres down the road. Soon we were descending the hill past the little sanctuary of Ptah and Meretseger and down into the Valley of the Queens, where we turned off on the tarmac road back towards Medinet Habu. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so hot in Egypt. The temperature surely must have been about 40 degrees C.
We stopped for a cold drink in the Rameses Cafe, intending to say hello to our friends who work there, but the restaurant was very crowded with a large party of Japanese tourists and the staff were all rushing around madly. By mid-afternoon we were back in the apartment and I was ready for a siesta. Jenny however, declared that she would go to visit Medinet Habu Temple for a couple of hours. I was tempted, but just too tired.