Ancient Thebes (Luxor) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On Luxor's West Bank is "The City Of The Dead" (the Necroplolis). Concealed in the desert wilderness of The Valley of the Kings and The Valley of the Queens are the tombs the dead Pharaohs. There are temples to dead Pharaohs - who, in the act of dying, became 'gods'. Yet, just a kilometer or two away the banks of the River Nile are verdant - and full of life. Five minutes more, by ferry and you are on the East Bank, plunged into the noisy vitality - common to any modern Arabic city - of modern Luxor. Contemporary Arabic life simply fits itself in and around the antiquity of Luxor Temple.
The landscape and the monuments are truly photogenic - where allowed! In most tombs photography is now forbidden to protect the fragile painted wall surfaces. The hills of Thebes on the west bank conceal the royal tombs of Ancient Egypt were hidden - King Tutankhamen's Tomb and others in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
Here, on November 4, 1922, Howard Carter discovered the gold treasure-filled tomb of King Tutenkhamun (KV 62), setting off an epidemic of 'Egyptology Fever'. The body of "the boy pharaoh" has been moved, together with most of the 5,000 artefacts which fillled the tomb. But the glorious gold-encrusted sarcophagus (mummy case) is absolutely beautiful. It's well worth the modest extra ticket price - make sure you buy the special ticket when you arrive at the main entrance to the valley. The tomb is small but stunning - crossing over the pit designed to trap intruders you reach the breathtakingly golden, richly painted room - with the gorgeous sarcophagus as it's focal point. Absolutely fantastic!
There are so many other fascinating tombs in this valley (don't miss the tomb of Seti I or Tutmoses l)
For kids it's a real adventure - especially as, out of the 63 tombs found in the valley - not one tomb was officially discovered by an Egyptian archaeologist. Many were found by adventurers or tomb robbers! It will help if you arrive in style - which in a child's eyes might mean on a donkey or in a packed public taxi! Try to arrive as early as you can - to complete as much as you can in the cool of morning - and take sunhats and plenty of water. Come midday you'll just want to hide from the glaring sun in the deepest, coolest tomb you can find!
No tombs at all had been discovered since Tutenkhamen's tomb - until February 2007.
Then a NEW tomb - tomb KV63 - was accidentally discovered just 5 metres away from Tutenkhamen's tomb, when excavators at King Amenmesse's Tomb 'stumbled upon' (to quote Dr. Zahi Hawass) a hidden corridor. It led them to a treasure filled chamber. Amongst the sealed clay jars were many well preserved wooden sarcophagi - coffins - including one belonging to a child. No mummy was found, inside one there was a small sarcophagus decorated with gold. It may have been a child's coffin - or it may have been used used to bury Ushabti figures.
The tunnel of tomb of Seti I is also being excavated this year. Hopefully by the end of 2008 the final mysteries of the tomb will be revealed. The Tomb of Seti I has the longest tunnel in the valley (as far as anyone knows!) - and is one of the most beautiful - the colours of the many of the wall and ceiling paintings are radiant with deep azure blue!
Choose a good variety of tombs to keep your children surprised - climb up a tall, steep flight of stone steps hidden in a narrow cleft in the hillside - descend long, long tunnels - be dazzled by golden wall paintings - hear the stories told by the paintings - peer under the cracked open lid of a mysterious sarcophagus …
Take along a very lightweight, easy to read guide-book such as The Valley of the Kings and the Theban Tombs to get the most out of your visit.
From the Valley of the Kings the road winds westward, past a necropolis, to the Valley of Asasif and Deir el-Bahri - a spectacular complex of temples set against a magnificently towering backdrop of cliffs. The Temple of Hatshepsut and the Rasasseum are stunning! There's also the huge complex of Medinet Habu, the ancient mudbrick Egyptian village of Deir el-Medina (which housed the artisans who built the temples and tombs), and the Colossi of Memnon.
Four years later it was moved to Cairo's Egyptian Museum, and there it has remained ever since - apart from a brief excursion to Paris to investigate why it had suddenly and unexpectedly started to deteriorate. Before he could travel, the mummy of Ramesses II had to be issued an Egyptian passport! It listed his occupation as "King (deceased)." In Paris a fungal infection was diagnosed and treated, and further scientific investigation also revealed many injuries throughout Ramesses life, including the possible cause of death - infection from a severe tooth abcess. There are other death theories - evidence of a subdural haematoma (caused by a blow to the back of the head) suggests to some authorities that the young pharaoh was murdered. Most likely of all is that fatal gangrene set in after the pharaoh broke his leg.
South-west of The Valley of the Kings lies The Valley of the Queens - a necropolis has some of the most compelling sitesStunning royal mortuary temples and four hundred private tombs are conveniently peppered over an area of about seven and a half kilometers, at Dra Abu-el-Naga, Deir el-Bahri, el-Khokha, Asasif, Sheikh Abdel Qurna, Deir el-Medina and Qurnet Mural.
Many of the tombs are lavishly decorated, and well worth visiting. The gorgeous Tomb of Nefertari has recently been restored to show off it's exquisite and colourful glory to best effect - but, frustratingly, is closed to ordinary tourists. Some tourist websites fail to mention this point! (Special - rather expensive - viewings can be arranged for those with a special interest.)
The ancient ruins of the workmen's mud-brick village lies in a hidden desert valley in front of the gorgeous background of the Theban mountains. It was built during the New Kingdom (1570 - 1070 B.C.) For several centuries a hundred families of skilled craftsmen lived - cut off from the world around - in complete isolation at Deir El Medina. They were all sculptors, stone workers, draughtsmen, painters and plasterers who knew the secrets of the tombs: the location, the traps, and the interiors. For the security of the tombs they simply could not be allowed to communicate with the outside world. The families' needs were supplied - food and drink, tools and all materials for their trades - but no-one making a delivery was allowed to enter the village. Outsiders began to fear the people of Deir El Medina, and the pharaoh was responsible for their protection.
The tombs here are beautifully decorated private little burial places. There's also a little temple, and a huge ancient cistern.
Monastery in the stony desert
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