Journal: 22 November 2005
Today we split up to do our own thing, and Fiona, Malcolm and I decided on a trip over to the West Bank. It was a lovely morning and soon after breakfast the three of us wandered down to the local ferry for the crossing, neatly missing the busiest time of the morning ‘rush hour’. Once on the West Bank we managed to avoid the taxi drivers and local touts, hailed an arabeya in the village and got out at the ticket office, where we bought tickets for Deir el-Medina and the Ramesseum.
The walk to Deir el-Medina past the tiny hamlet of Qurnet Murai is lovely in the morning before the sun gets too hot and we were in luck as the local children must all have been in school. When we arrived in the workmen’s village there were not even any tourist coaches parked there yet. We had the village all to ourselves and walked through the main street where Dynasty XIX artisans and their families had lived. The houses are fascinating even today, and it’s not difficult to image the daily lives the men, women and children must have led there. I have seen so many museum artefacts from the workmens village it was just nice to remind myself where they all came from. This must be one of the places that tells us most about the lives of ancient Egyptians because of the tremendous amount of textural objects found here spanning most of the 18th and 19th Dynasties.
We didn’t bother with the tombs today but finished our walk through the village at the Ptolemaic Temple of Hathor and went inside to admire the beautiful temple with its lovely colourful reliefs. After spending some time chatting with the temple guard and stopping a while at the massive ‘Great Pit’ where so many ostraca have been found, we set off along the sandy track that meets the main monument road.
From here it wasn’t far to the Ramesseum and we re-traced our steps from last week when we were looking at the destroyed temples, this time stopping longer to have a look at the Temple of Amenhotep II that is currently being excavated and restored. As it was now lunchtime we took a detour into the Ramesseum café for a much-needed drink. Their lemon juice is especially good.
The Temple of Rameses II, otherwise known as the Ramesseum, never seems to look any different, even though it has been undergoing work for decades. The colossal statues of Rameses still stand as sentinels on the remains of the second pylon and the huge fallen colossi still lies on the ground where it fell in antiquity. The giant feet of the statue always fascinate me – they are carved so perfectly. Here I met Taya, a guard I have known for many years and we chatted for a while.
As the sun began to sink behind the hills it cast a golden light onto the walls and we wandered around the hypostyle hall and noted that the great pillars have had a facelift, their colours now bright and clean. We stopped at each relief, as I worked out from my notebooks which festival they referred to and which deities were depicted. Rameses II was never shy and liked to have all his exploits carved on his temple walls. His plan worked, he certainly was not forgotten.
By the time we were back on the ferry crossing over to Luxor it was beginning to get dark and the lights from the town were already shining colourful reflections over the river. Back at the Winter Palace we met up with the others and later all went out to dinner at Farag’s restaurant in the bazaar.