Journal: Friday 13 October 2000
I had forgotten it was Friday and not only that, but Friday the thirteenth! However, I’ve always considered thirteen to be a lucky number. Nigel and Helen Strudwick are currently in Luxor excavating the Qurna tomb of Senneferi (TT99) and we wanted to go and meet them as I am always on the lookout for lecturers for our Egyptian Society, so after buying tickets for a couple of the nobles tombs, Jenny and I set off to walk to Sheikh ‘Abd el-Qurna.
We realised it was Friday, the Islamic day of rest, when we got to Qurna and found the tomb area to be very quiet so we expected that the Strudwicks would not be working today. We climbed up to the tomb at the top of the hill above the village and all was quiet. But luck was with us as they had just arrived at the tomb to check on something before going off to look at some of the other tombs, just like tourists. Jenny and I introduced ourselves and Nigel and Helen could not have been more friendly. We found them sitting in the shade of a tent in the tomb courtyard, surrounded by very young puppies. Their resident yellow dog had had several babies and the team were caring for them. We chatted for a while. The Strudwicks apologised for not being able to show us around the tomb because of insurance clauses, but it was really good to meet and talk with them. They told us a little about the history of the tomb and some of the objects they had found. We were also talking about the ‘teknu’ we had seen in Ramose’s tomb and Nigel told us that John Taylor, another team member was about to publish a book on the Theban tombs in which he discussed the ‘teknu’ – something to look out for. The tomb of Senneferi has been part of a Cambridge University project since 1992 and the clearance work is now coming to an end, with probably only one more season to go. Before we left, not wanting to take up too much time on their day off, the Strudwicks readily agreed to come to Cornwall to do a day school sometime in the next year or so.
Near the tomb of Sennefri in the upper enclosure of the Qurna tombs, is the early Dynasty XVIII tomb of Sennefer (TT96), one of my favourite tombs for its wonderful paintings. Sennefer was ‘Mayor of the Southern City’ (Thebes), an important official during the reign of Amenhotep II. His tomb, called by nineteenth century travellers the ‘Tomb of the Vineyards’, has the most beautiful painted ceiling depicting a grape arbour which gives the impression of being in a painted tent. The walls are brightly painted with funerary scenes of Sennefer and his wife, but in recent years the paintings have been covered with glass, which makes photography more difficult.
A little down the slope is the tomb of Rekhmire (TT100) who was ‘Governor of the Town’ (Thebes) and ‘Vizier’ during the reigns of Tuthmose III and Amenhotep II of Dynasty XVIII. His tomb chapel is a T-shape shape, though unusual in having a long corridor with a very high ceiling sloping towards the back of the tomb. The spectacular paintings in the long hall are very important as they depict details of daily life in the New Kingdom, making this perhaps the most interesting tomb in the Theban necropolis. Although they were both Viziers in Dynasty XVIII, Rekmire’s earlier tomb is a great contrast with that of Ramose we had seen earlier in the week. Photography here was not easy either as the painted walls of the long hall are very high and not well-lit. However, with a lot of help and hilarious gyrations from the guardians I had met several times before, who used a clever system of manipulating mirrors to reflect patches of sunlight onto the walls, I did manage to get a few pictures.
Coming out of Rekmire’s tomb we bumped into a friend, Azam, who lives in a large blue house high on the hillside above Sheikh ‘Abd el-Qurna, and he insisted we go to his house for tea. There we met his family and looked out through the windows at the West Bank vista down over the village towards the Ramesseum. What a lovely view to wake up to every day. Azam’s little brothers and sisters played on the terrace while we sat in the shade and were served several drinks of karkade and tea by an older sister and interpreted by Azam, his grandfather told us tales of life in the village. Back down the hill I called in to see Ahmed the stone carver to collect a carved limestone plaque he had made for me, a lovely copy of a scene from the tomb of Ramose that I had ordered from him earlier in the week.
After a rest back at the apartment in the heat of the afternoon, we had dinner at the Rameses cafe with the wonderful view of Medinet Habu Temple floodlit in front of us. The cafe was quiet and empty of tourists, though several Egyptian friends called in throughout the evening and we spent long hours chatting to various people. I hadn’t seen much of my friend Nubi on this visit because he’s been very busy working in the King’s Valley, so it was good to catch up on all his news.