Journal: Monday 29 November 2004
When I woke this morning it was still dark, so I went out onto the balcony to watch the Theban Mountain begin to faintly glow with it’s beautiful pink tinge reflecting the rising sun. I could gaze at this view forever. A couple of early morning balloons were drifting about and one of them almost landed in the Nile, but knowing the pilots this was probably done for effect. It eventually landed on the west bank. When it began to get light I took some photographs but it is impossible to capture the wonderful quality of light at this time of day.
At breakfast Sam & I discussed where we want to go this week – we’ll never fit it all in. We both want a fairly lazy week too after all that travelling. My first priority is to get over to the west bank, so we decided to visit the Temple of Merenptah which was opened a couple of years ago. We have both been before but wanted to get some digital pictures. Our priorities are to get photographs of the temples here which have good remaining colour, before the authorities introduce a photo ban in those too. As Sam has the car this week we drove over the bridge – not the same delicious feeling as crossing on the ferry, but less hassle. When we stopped near the ticket office, who should we see walking along the road but our friend Robin, who now has a house near Tarif. She was with a friend and they were off to the Ramesseum where a statue was in its final stages of re-erection today, so we promised to be in touch later in the week.
Before going to the Merenptah Temple we drove all the way along the monument road to Dra Abu’l-Naga. There is a lot of work going on behind the Tombs of Roy & Shuroy, especially around the Spanish excavations at the Tomb of Djehuty where mummy of a woman (princess?) was found in a coffin last year, generating much press coverage. There seemed to be many more exposed tombs since I was last in the area.
The Temple of Merenptah is an open-air museum with some lovely statues and carved blocks, many usurped from Amenhotep III. This trip we have been looking at the construction phases of Amenhotep especially relating to his solar symbolism – his reign seems to be divided into four phases of artwork, so it was useful to look at the re-used blocks. We also had a good look at the reliefs in the magazines, which I absolutely love as well as the Anubis heads and sphinxes. With a little baksheesh the gafir allowed us to take photographs in the magazines. I really wanted to photograph the reproduction of the Merenptah ‘Israel’ Stela, but as usual it was in heavy shadow and the reverse side is up against a wall. We wandered around the rest of the temple for a couple of hours and had a quick look in the museum too.
Eventually we reached the all-important Habu cafe just after the lunchtime crowds had left. I must have spent hours, days, even weeks sitting here in the past looking at the gate of Medinet Habu. Our friend Salah was there to welcome us as usual. We chatted for a couple of hours over many cold drinks, cups of ahwa and lunch. Salah gave us a couple of lovely scarves each too and then would accept no payment for any of it when we left. It gets embarrassing to have to keep accepting Salah’s generosity but we’ll make it up to him somehow.
On the way back we tried to find the el-Moudira Hotel which is a luxury complex out past Malqata. The sign from the main road led us through villages and eventually to a dead end, or at least a track into the desert. We then drove the other way past Suzanne Mubarak village on the road to Armant but saw a police checkpoint ahead so decided to turn around. We hadn’t realised that the hotel was just before the checkpoint. From pictures on its website it looks an amazing place, though at around $250 per night we know we’ll never be able to stay there – may just be able to afford the price of a coffee!
We drove back over the bridge to Luxor in the late afternoon and decided after briefly calling in at the Novotel that we would go to Luxor Temple, which was by now floodlit in it’s night-time guise. There are a few reliefs we wanted to look at (Amenhotep again) and I wanted to get some decent photographs of the temple at night, which I’ve only done before on slide film and now want to get digital pictures. There are many reliefs which show up much better at night and digital cameras are certainly better in low light than conventional film. After a late dinner at Maxims, Sam and I met up with Abdul and his brothers at the new el-Kalaa coffee shop nearby and sat chatting late into the night.