Journal: Sunday 27 November 2005
On our last day in Egypt, Sam, Jim and Jane wanted to stay around the hotel and relax, so I went over to the West Bank with Fiona and Malcolm. Since they had first experienced the local passenger ferry for the first time earlier on this trip, we had been to the West Bank taking the minibus over the bridge so they were keen to go on the ferry again, loving it as I do.
We sat up on the top deck that gives a lovely view downriver and chatted to a few of the locals on the way. When we reached the other side we had to fight our way through the hoards of touts and taxi drivers before making our way to the arabeya station. I bumped into an old friend that I’d known for years and he guided us through the bus station to get us onto the right arabeya for the ticket office. We paid our 50 piasters, went to buy tickets for the Seti Temple and Deir el-Bahri and hopped on another arabeya to the end of the monument road.
We entered Seti’s Qurna Temple, which he named ‘Glorious Seti in the West of Thebes’, through a side gate in the northern wall. From the now-ruined First Pylon there was once an avenue of sphinxes which lined the processional way, but only a couple of these are still in place by the main gateway. It must have indeed looked glorious in it’s heyday. The façade is quite different to Seti’s Abydos temple and the reliefs inside are beautiful, but unlike Abydos have lost much of their colour. Seti dedicated this temple to the god Amun-Re and his father Rameses I, but it was Seti’s son who completed the decoration. The temple has had a great deal of restoration work since the 1970s by the German Archaeological Institute and now looks very smart. We wandered through each of the side rooms and marvelled at the six elegant papyrus columns in the Hypostyle Hall. My favourite part of the temple is to the south of the Hypostyle Hall where a series of chapels were associated with the royal mortuary cult. The central chapel was dedicated to Seti’s father Rameses I and has a beautifully-preserved false door at the rear showing Rameses I in a kiosk with a falcon above it. This is an unusual feature in a West Bank temple. We investigated the rear of the temple which is less well-preserved and finally looked at the ‘Solar Court’ built on the northern side and unmistakably decorated by Rameses II.
By lunchtime the temperature had risen so we decided to walk along to the Ramesseum and have lunch in the cafeteria there. It was very pleasant in the shade watching the little sparrows hopping around our feet in search of crumbs. After our break we set off towards Deir el-Bahri, cutting across the sandy area of Asasif and looking at the remaining wall of Hatshepsut’s causeway along the way. When we got to the famous queen’s temple I was surprised a how quiet it was. We must have arrived at just the right time in between coach parties.
The next couple of hours we spent exploring the terraces of Hatshepsut’s picturesque temple. We worked our way along each of the terraces looking at reliefs of Hatshepsut bringing her obelisks by river from Aswan to be erected in Karnak Temple, the expedition to the land of Punt and the variety of incense and trees that were brought back. Birth scenes on the second terrace showing the queen’s divine birth, gave legitimacy to her claim to the throne. My favourite area here has always been the Hathor chapel on the southern side of the second terrace, with it’s beautiful Hathor-headed columns and reliefs depicting the queen suckling from the Hathor cow. The third terrace, now open after many years of reconstruction by Polish archaeologists, has some beautiful and colourful scenes from Hatshepsut’s ‘Beautiful Feast of the Valley’, where the statues of the Theban triad were carried on barques from Karnak each year, along with statues of her ancestors to take part in the festival.
We left Deir el-Bahri as the late afternoon crowds once more began to filter into the temple and the sun began to slide down behind the mountain. This is a temple which is ideally best viewed in the morning when the reliefs have the full sun on them, but of course that is also the time when it is most crowded. We walked back to the main road, taking in all the sights and sounds of the West Bank for the last time and saying a fond farewell to the mountains. After a short arabeya ride to the ferry dock and jumping onto the ferry that was just leaving, we were back in Luxor as the sun was setting over the river, turning it a fiery golden-red and dozens of little feluccas were out sailing in the evening breeze.
In the evening we were a large party dining at Maxim’s, as we were joined by the two Abduls who had accompanied us on many of our trips, faultlessly driving us wherever we wanted to go and smoothing the way considerably. The owner of the minibus, Badawi, also joined us for the meal and we all went for coffee afterwards at the Novotel, which is now under new management and called the Iberotel. It will always be the Novotel to Sam and I who have stayed there several times. As we sat on the terrace looking out over the river Nile, we all were sad to say goodbye to Egypt for another year.