Journal: Wednesday 5 November 2003
Sam and the gang were going to the West Bank to the tombs in the King’s Valley this morning. Although most of the others had been to Egypt before at some time, they were not as familiar with the sites as Kev and I were. Like me, Kevin has been to Egypt several times in the last few years so neither of us was keen to do the ‘tourist thing’ today. Abdul was taking the rest of the group over the bridge in the minibus and Kev and I were not averse to begging a lift with them as far as the Temple of Seti I.
As we didn’t have tickets we wandered around the outside of the Seti temple before setting off along the monuments road back towards the taftish, eventually catching a passing Arabeya because the day was already hot. Kevin wanted to walk over the mountain, but I wasn’t too sure about that idea, so we decided first to go to Deir el-Medina, spending time wandering in the workmen’s village looking at the amazing reconstructed houses, pointing out sleeping platforms and niches in the walls, pillar bases in a couple of the larger houses and the occasional quern.
As Kevin had never been to the Sanctuary of Ptah and Mertetsger, on the path to the Queen’s Valley, we climbed part way up the steep steps leading up the mountain and branched off to the south towards the shrines. I love this place and it’s always so peaceful. We examined all of the stelae, which are mostly from the Ramesside period and tried to make out the worn hieroglyphs. One or two of these stelae still have colourful painted decoration. Here the artisans from the workmen’s village constructed a rock-shrine to the cobra-goddess Merteseger, who they believed lived in the Theban Mountain. By this act they hoped for her blessing and that of the god Ptah who was the artisans patron. Seven shrines were actually found here, each with a large stele built into the back wall and although the roofs and walls of the shrines are mostly destroyed, the stelae can still be seen. If the light is right you can also see a shallow relief of the goddess Meretseger herself, but today it was barely visible.
By early afternoon the temperature was very hot, but Kevin was still determined to walk over the mountain. He usually comes to Egypt in the summer months and is more used to the heat than I am. He’s obviously much fitter than me too. While he backtracked to the mountain path I went down the more gentle route and into the Valley of the Queens to walk back along the tarmac road. Stupidly I had only taken a small bottle of water with me, already gone and I was surprised by the fierce heat at this time of year. The road from the Queen’s Valley to the ticket office seems a very long way when you’re hot and thirsty and there is not a scrap of shade anywhere. I decided to make for the Rameses Cafe at Medinet Habu, have a drink and take the opportunity to say hello to any Egyptian friends who happened to be around.
As I staggered into the cafe who should I see but Sam, sitting with a cold drink and her feet up reading a book! I might have known. She’d left the others in the King’s Valley for a while and escaped to do the sensible thing. She said she was quite shocked when she saw me – bright red face and looking like I was about to expire. I have to admit I’ve never been so hot in Egypt before – not even in the summer months. By the time Abdul arrived back with the rest of the group an hour later I’d had a couple of large glasses of lemon juice, doused my face and neck with cold water in the bathroom and was once more quite composed.
We all spent the next couple of hours in Habu Temple – always a favourite place for me. The temple was very quiet, no other visitors today in the late afternoon and even the guards couldn’t be bothered to follow anyone around. Back in Luxor after a quick shower in the hotel (I still have no hot water) we all went out to a nearby restaurant that I’ve been to a few times before. Aysh wa Mal – ‘Salt and Bread’ is a small local place right opposite the railway station and conveniently just around the corner from our hotel. It’s not classy or touristy like Maxim’s from last night, but the Egyptian food is always very good and very inexpensive. Early to bed tonight ready for a dawn start tomorrow when our desert adventure will begin.