Day 94: June 14, 2018
The sun and the noise in the kitchen woke us up around 5:30 am. I had a really good sleep, although I did wake up once slightly cold and the blankets were too far away. I cuddled into Danny and fell back to sleep.
We had breakfast on the support boat of our felukkas: fried eggs, buns with cheese spread and fig jam and yogurt. We packed up our stuff and said goodbye to the felukkas. The support boat took us across the Nile to a bus that was waiting. Sem Sem told us the bad news that his cousin had passed away that evening and he was working on getting back to Cairo. Funerals in their culture happen right away. He was arranging a different guide to meet us to take over.
We drove 45 minutes to Kom Ombo Temple. The people of the area had two gods, Sobek and Horus. Sobek is the god of fertility and water. He had the head of the crocodile. The people of the area decided they didn’t like him as their god so they switched to only Horus. The offerings to Horus were flowers and fruit. The Sobek priests weren’t happy and decided to have a battle. The temple of Horus ended up being destroyed. It was then decided no more agriculture for Horus, only mining for Sobek. The Supreme God then came and asked why the people weren’t using their fertile land. He told them the solution was to split the temple in half and Kom Ombo Temple was created
Kom Ombo temple was a daily life temple. It was built during the Ptolemaic dynasty (180-47 BC). The columns were damaged by age and floods. The engraving at the front of the temple shows King Ptolemy VI being perfumed by Horus at Thoth with drops of life and prosperity.
An inside engraving shows the goddess of war, Sekmet, who has a lioness head (lioness’ are better hunters and more aggressive).
There was an engraving of three lions showing the three season: inundation, plantation and harvest. To the left of that there are the different days of the year listed with the ritual that must be performed on that day.
In the below engraving, the woman with a chair over her head is Isis. There is a birthing chair beneath her. She is showing the ideal position for birth.
Next there was an engraving showing the first documentation of medical tools: glass flasks (for cupping), papyrus, scissors (for Caesareans), needles, spoons, tweezers, scale, hooks, thick needles (used to kill nerves after surgeries to stop the pain) and saws (to cut bones during surgery).
There was a hole with a spiral staircase which was a nilometer to measure the height of the flood. We all walked around for a bit taking pictures. Then walked through the crocodile museum with mummified crocodiles.
Back in the bus for a 3.5 hour drive to Luxor. We arrived and ordered food in the restaurant hotel then went to our rooms. I ordered a steak sandwich, but it was a hot dog bun with minced beef and mustard. Danny ate most of it.
Danny started a game of chess and I FaceTimed my mommy. At 2:30 pm we met to go to Karnak Temple. We met our new guide, Albert. We gave Sem Sem hugs good bye and he caught a taxi back to Cairo.
Albert told us how Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes and the capital of Egypt from 1550-1050 BC. Luxor means palaces as the people who arrived thought the temples were palaces. There is an avenue of sphinx connecting Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple. The avenue was excavated from 2008-2010 as it used to be covered by houses.
We arrived at Karnak Temple and Albert showed us a diorama to give an overview of the whole site. The gates were made of sandstone and the connecting walls were made of mud. Each king added to the temple. The first building was in 3500 BC. The Temple of Ramses is from the 11th century BC. There are many images of Amun who was the god of Luxor. He is depicted as a ram headed man or a man with two feathers on his head. The sphinx that lead into the temple had ram heads. Mut, the wife of Amun, is also shown inside.
In the Great Hypostyle Hall there are 134 columns representing the papyrus flower. It was build by King Seti I (1313-1292 BC) and completed by his son King Ramses II (1292-1225 BC).
A smaller obelisk inside was from 1500 BC and was built by Thutmosis. The larger obelisk was built by Hateshepsut. It is the largest in the world at 30 m. The granite for the obelisk was transported from Aswan along the Nile. They placed it on a barge on land then waited for the flood.
A smaller temple within Karnak is for Ramses III. His statue shows his foot forward depicting an live king. The statue with arms crossed is Ramses II. The double crown is for the north and south. Between the legs is a statue of his daughter.
Merenptah succeeded Ramses II. He was the 14th son. The first 13 sons died during the king’s life. A statue by Ramses II shows Amun and Mut, the god of Luxor and his wife.We were shown the names of the kings indicated by birth and coronation names. The disc and duck means sa rah or son of rah.
There are pictures of the great warrior king, Thutmosis III, smiting his enemies in front of Amun. On another relief there is a list of cities that Thutmosis III conquered.
We saw the altar where wooden doors were opened in the morning and offerings were given. No human sacrifices occurred in Ancient Egypt.
In another location figures of Hatshepsut were erased by Thutmosis III, her stepson. Everything used to be coloured, but only some remains.
The extent of Karnak Temple was incredible. Around thirty pharaohs built on to the temple.
We came back to the hotel for a bit and chilled before heading for supper up the road. Danny had a camel burger for supper and I had a stuffed pigeon. The pigeon did not have much meat on it and was stuffed with basic rice. I would not suggest it to anyone. It was nice sitting and chatting with everyone.
After supper some of us went to an ATM with Albert. Danny and my cards didn’t work so we all walked to a different one. We were getting very sweaty on the walk. Our card finally worked at the third ATM. On the way back to the hotel, we squeezed into one of the public transport vans which was pretty exciting.
We got back to the hotel and Danny finished his chess game. He returned victorious and we went to sleep.
Day 95: June 15, 2018
We woke up at 5:30 am and had breakfast in the hotel. There were actual omelettes and other things, although the omelettes weren’t cooked through. We left for the Valley of the Kings around 6:30 am. It is the location of many tombs of kings mostly from the New Kingdom period (13th-2nd century BC) of Egypt. The king would start building a tomb and a temple at their coronation and construction would end at their death. There are 62 discovered and numbered tombs in the valley. Between 2005-2018, two more tombs were found that have not yet been numbered. There are presumed to be many more tombs yet to be discovered.
In the period before the pyramids, kings were buried in the sand in the position of a fetus. Then mud brick benches on top of a burial bed called a mustaba were used. The 3rd dynasty was the first royal tomb. It started as a mustaba, but stone was used instead of mud brick. Six mustabas were built on top of one another to form a stepped pyramid. In the 4th dynasty, Khufu, built the Great Pyramid.
In the New Kingdom, it was decided that pyramids were too visible so hidden tombs were created in the Valley of the Kings. It had a natural pyramid to point them to heaven. The entrances to the tombs were blocked by stones and covered by sand. The belief that workers were killed after the tomb was finished was not true. There was a worker’s village found 4 km south.
Funeral temples were built near the Nile, however, most were destroyed because they were on the flood plan. The Valley of the Queens is 5 km south.
Reliefs inside the tombs date to the New Kingdom. They show the journey to the afterlife. Lots of images show boats which were the way to the afterlife. It was believed that the sun crosses the sky by a boat as well.
The journey to the afterlife was not easy. There were twelve sections for the twelve hours of night. Many enemies would try to stop your journey. The form of a snake would guard every section and you needed a password to pass.
There were also depictions of the sky goddess, Nut. She bends to rest her hands on earth and swallows the sun.
The tombs were guarded day and night and the work was completed secretly. They depended on silver mirrors to get light into the tombs and burned sesame oil for light. All the tombs we saw were over 80 m in length.
All of the tombs were robbed except for King Tut’s. The first robbery occurred during the New Kingdom. The second robbery occurred at the end of the Ramses period. In the 4th century AD, coptic monks hid inside the tombs to avoid persecution by the Christians. They left some inscriptions on the walls.
We visited the tombs of Merenptah, Tutankamun, Ramses VI, Ramses IX and Ramses IV. They were all different sizes. It was incredible how the walls were filled with pictures and hieroglyphics everywhere. There were so many colours remaining on the images.
King Tutankhamun (Tut) died when he was 18 years old. His was the only intact tomb. It was found in 1992 by accident. It had been hidden underneath Ramses VI’s tomb. Tut’s tomb was the most interesting because the relief behind the tomb was very bright. His mummy was also in the tomb. It was a very small tomb, but well preserved. We paid 80 EGP extra to go in his tomb. The guy inside was actually helpful as well and pointed out different things and described them. Other guys in the tourist spots point things out to take pictures of and then expect a tip.
We all went in the tombs as a group as only one of us bought a photo ticket. She was kind enough to share her pictures. It was interesting that we all stuck together. Usually, we just want to go off and be by ourselves. We aren’t sure if we have really been missing the socialization or we really like the group, probably both.
We left Karnak and went to the other side of the desert mountain where the Temple of Hatshepsut was located. She ascended to the throne as regent when her husband died. When it came time to hand the throne to her husband’s son, Thutmosis III, she created a story with a priest that she was the daughter of the god Amun. She ruled for 20 years. She had depicted herself in the form of a man with a false beard. It is unknown what happened to her. Thutmosis III destroyed many of her figures after he came to power.
The Temple of Hatshepsut was built in 1480 BC. There was a temple beside it that was 500 years older, but it is now in ruins. Hatshepsut completed an expedition to Punt (modern day Somalia) and brought palm trees back to place in front of her temple.
In front of every pillar was a statue of Hatshepsut. There were plans to link the temple to her tomb in the Valley of the Kings by a tunnel through the mountain. She died before it was started.
It was boiling hot there and there wasn’t much shade. The workers there making sure you didn’t touch anything would lift the ropes so you could see a room that was ribboned off. They would expect a tip though. This got pretty annoying because they would keep asking. We just wanted to see the temple.
On the way back, we saw the Colossi of Memnon which were statues for Amunhotep III. They were huge, 18 m in height and weighing approximately 720 tons each.
We drove back to Luxor and went to an Irish pub for lunch. It took an hour and a half to get food, but we were used to that from our last couple of trips. I had fish and chips which was really good. We played a game of pool while the Egypt vs. Ecuador World Cup game was on.
We had cake to celebrate one guy’s birthday. They played Happy Birthday in the restaurant over the speakers and we sang along.
After lunch we went back to the hotel. We said goodbye to one of our new friends who was leaving early. We went up to the pool and got in a game of chicken. Then we tossed the frisbee for a bit and played piggy in the middle. After a week together we were very comfortable jumping on each other to win the disc. We sat and chatted for a bit then went to shower.
At 6:30 pm we walked down the street to Luxor Temple. It was constructed around 1400 BC. The sun was just going down and the lights were shining on the temple. It was incredible. It was also the feast day of Ramadan so tons of locals were visiting the temple.
Danny saw a couple of young guys looking at him with their phones out and so he said, “Do you want me to take a picture of you?”. They kind of understood picture so nodded. Danny then took their phone and took a picture of the group of boys. They shook their heads no. I then said, “Danny, they want a picture with you.” He then pointed at himself and they nodded yes. So Danny took a selfie with them. Another boy came up to another guy on our tour and wanted a selfie. There was then a group of young guys around waiting for a selfie with him. Danny missed his opportunity at fame and the other guy really embraced it.
Danny had a few more selfies and I joined in to a couple. They never asked us girls, maybe because it would be inappropriate in their culture. We think they were amazed at seeing white people. With the revolution only seven years ago and the decline in tourism they may not have seen white people before. They also could have been from the villages and were only in town for the festival.
The temple was quite large and so beautiful at night. The statues lit up were amazing.
We entered the courtyard and a boy, about 16 years old, came up and asked a girl in our group, “What is your name?” She replied and then he asked, “Where are you from?” She replied, “Canada”. He then said “Thank you,” and walked away with his family. His mom smiled back at us. I realized after that those are the basic phrases you learn in a new language and he was likely testing his English which was really cool. There was no one trying to sell you anything in the temple. There was just locals visiting which made it feel very calm and safe. This was perhaps my favourite experience in Egypt.We exited the temple and walked over to some carnival rides. There was a guy standing on a swing and he was almost looping around. Quite a few teenagers were staring at us and some cops came by and shooed them away. We felt a bit bad so we left and walked over to the market. The market was a bit exhausting. I stopped at the pharmacy for some feminine hygiene products. I got some pads for 20 EGP ($1.50). I asked for tampons, but they were 100 EGP ($7.50 CAD).
We went to the same restaurant as the night before. Danny and I shared chicken tajine. We went back to the hotel after and got our bags ready to catch our over night train to Cairo.
At the train station we sat chatting with the others. Danny and another guy played a game of chess. We boarded the train around 11:00 pm. We were given a supper of chicken fingers and fries then they made our seats into beds. We went to bed right away as we had a very long and eventful day.
Day 96: June 16, 2018
I slept very well on the train this time. I had my ear plugs and face mask which probably helped. I woke up at 5:30 am and read while Danny slept some more. We had breakfast around 7:30 am. Lots of bread.
We stood in the hallway chatting with the others. We arrived in Cairo around 9:30 am. Our guide, Albert, made sure everyone got taxis and we hugged everyone goodbye. We stuffed into a taxi with Albert and two of the other girls. The driver had to strap his trunk closed. We sat three to the back and three to the front.
We arrived at our original hotel in Cairo. Danny took out cash and I stored our bags. The girls were asking about the train to Alexandria so Albert offered to help them get there and get their tickets. We all hopped in a taxi again and they dropped us off at the Egyptian Museum on the way to the main train station.
We bought tickets to enter the museum and mummy room and another ticket to take pictures inside. The museum had a lot of stuff we felt like we had already seen, but it was interesting reading what things were as we could piece together who the different people were.
The mummy room had about twelve mummies of kings we had heard about the whole trip. It was very creepy seeing the mummies. I asked Danny how he would feel having his body displayed 3,000 years later. We both agreed we wouldn’t want that. Regardless, it was very interesting to see how well preserved they were after 3,000 years. There were hair and eyebrows on some.
On the second floor of the museum we went very quickly. We saw the room with King Tut’s treasures including his gold mask.
We left the museum and a guy right outside asked if we wanted a cab. He said, “100 EGP”. We said, “40.” He said “80” then we said “40”. He said, “No, ” so we walked out to the Main Street. Another guy came up and we said where we were going and he wasn’t sure where it was so asked a friend. He then said, “50 EGP, ” so we agreed as we had paid that to get there.
As we were driving the driver said, “50 for you and 50 for you.” Danny said, “No, 50 for both.” The driver replied, “No, 50 each.” Danny then said, “Okay, then we are getting out and started to open the door. The driver said, “Okay. Okay, 50 each. 20 for parking.” Danny said, “No,” and opened the door again. The driver then said, “Okay, 50”.
He dropped us on the main street rather than in front of the hotel, but we didn’t complain. We bought some water on the walk back then had lunch in the hotel. I had fattoush salad and samosa. It was really good.
We enjoyed the wifi then got our bags. We called an Uber to take us to our hotel near the airport. The Uber was way easier and way less hassle. We only paid 60 EGP to get 30 minutes. On the drive we saw a family packed into a car: three kids in the trunk with their legs hanging out. Danny asked if we could ride like that and the driver laughed and said, “No, they’re crazy.”
We arrived at the hotel and checked in. It was a fancier place which was nice although there was smoking on our floor. We were too late to have our laundry done and the prices were insane anyways: 30 EGP for one shirt. We got out our laundry soap and filled the sink. Hopefully our clothes will dry by the time we leave. We didn’t have a balcony so we had to lie the clothes near the window to get some sun.
We enjoyed the wifi and I FaceTimed my parents and posted a bunch of things to FaceBook. I had a shower to rinse off the train and sweat. The hotel we stayed in had a couple of restaurants and a casino. We went to an Italian restaurant and had pizza. I also had a strawberry juice which have been really good here, basically puréed strawberry. We went back to the room and Danny called his parents. We went to bed right after knowing we had to wake up super early for our flight.
We have learned so much history in Egypt. There was so much I didn’t know and I had so many false ideas. I loved visiting all the temples and tombs. They were amazing. I was glad that we did a tour because our guides provided so much information and it also made me feel much safer to be with a group. I never felt unsafe in Egypt, but there were lots of times I felt uncomfortable. The markets were definitely not somewhere we wanted to spend a lot of time. Tomorrow morning we fly to Casablanca for our next GAdventures tour in Morocco. We are excited to see what awaits.