Journal: Tuesday 30 April 2002
On last week’s cruise there was a new tour rep called Chris, who spent the week assisting the regular rep and learning the ropes. This week he did hid first cruise alone and I know he had been very nervous about it. We met Chris this morning after breakfast, here to check the following week’s hotel accommodation for his current group. He is a nice friendly young man and it was great to see him again. I asked how his first cruise had gone. He told us that all had gone very well except for 37 disappointed tourists who couldn’t get flights from Aswan to Abu Simbel, which had meant cancelling the trip.
Mary declared that she wanted to spend the day by the pool and couldn’t be persuaded to do anything more adventurous, so at 10.30am I set off to walk along the Corniche to Luxor Temple. Already very hot, I thought maybe Mary had the best idea, but this is our last full day here and I couldn’t bear to be closeted away in the hotel. I bought my ticket and went into the temple, but I had forgotten how crowded it is in the morning. Don’t know how I’d forgotten this because we were here only a week ago it was just the same at this time of the day. There were a few things I wanted to see and photograph, but after an hour of pushing and elbowing my way through the crowds and their guides, I gave up. There were groups in front of every scene I wanted to look at and more groups waiting to take their place.
It was almost lunchtime so I walked round the corner to the Amoun restaurant and had a lovely cold refreshing lemon juice, before setting off through the suq to take photographs there. I made slow progress as several shopkeepers I knew insisted I stop for a chat, read letters from friends and drink tea with them. They all wanted their pictures taken too, but eventually I found myself right at the end of the suq and halfway to Karnak. By this time it was gone 2.00pm and the best time to visit the temple, so I carried on and made my way around to the front entrance, buying a temple ticket and the extra ticket to the open-air museum.
I hadn’t visited the museum for two years and I was surprised at how much had changed in this area. Senwosret’s wonderful White Chapel was as it had always been, superb for it’s gorgeous hieroglyphs, but Hatshepsut’s ‘Chapelle Rouge’ was almost unrecognisable. Last time I saw this monument the walls were high with many blocks already in place, but now it looked quite complete. The Centre Franco-Egyptien Karnak team have been working to restore Hatshepsut’s barque chapel since 1997 and at that time most of the 300 or so blocks that had been recovered from the third pylon and elsewhere were stored on risers in the museum. The French have slowly and painstakingly reconstructed the chapel as if it were a jig-saw puzzle. Hatsheput’s shrine originally stood in the centre of the Temple of Amun but was dismantled by Tuthmose III who constructed his own shrine in its place. It is now looking very good. Another monument which is being reconstructed here is the portico of Tuthmose IV which also stood in the Temple of Amun in front of the fourth pylon. Amenhotep III re-used these blocks too as infill for his third pylon. Because the blocks were protected for so long they have retained their superb colours. There have been many more columns rebuilt since I last saw it and I could now see the shape the portico is taking. Unfortunately I couldn’t get very close to the construction area as it is cordoned off and surrounded by scaffolding. I wandered around the museum looking at several other interesting blocks that are displayed here, including some lovely Middle Kingdom reliefs from the Temple of Montu at Medamud.
I was right and Karnak had been quiet in the hot mid-afternoon but as the day wore on the crowds started to filter back in. I worked my way around the northern edge of the temple, past the Temple of Ptah and several other monuments in this area I wanted to look at, before stopping for a drink in the cafeteria beside the sacred lake. I think everyone else had the same idea as the cafe was packed. By then I’d had enough and went to find a taxi back to the hotel, where I joined Mary on the terrace for a cup of tea. What a civilized life!