Our first stop after entering the Red Sea from the Suez was the rarely visited port of Safaga. By sea this is the gateway to the Egyptian city of Luxor and the Nile Valley.
With a 14 hour day of travelling ahead of us we set off early in an armed convoy on a 3 ½ hour drive through the desert to the city of Luxor. Although the ‘architecture’ was similar to Cairo the population of this city is only a fraction at half a million people.
Security is also tight here with military police everywhere. Tourism is the biggest source of income in Egypt and after an attack by Al Qaida in the early 80’s which resulted in 80 tourists being killed the government are taking no chances.
We arrived in Luxor on the East bank of the Nile and stopped at the Temple of Luxor.
This temple was once connected to the city of Karnak via the avenue of human headed Sphinxes almost 3km long.
From here we made our way to a wharf on the mighty Nile River where we boarded a traditional Egyptian sailing boat.
The Nile is almost 4700 miles long and covers over 2.5 million square kilometers. While travelling along this famous river we could see farmers tending crops of sugar cane and corn which are the main agricultural products of this region. We were served a huge lunch of BBQ meats, hommus & breads.
Our boat trip ends on the west bank of Luxor where we then headed for the Valley of the Kings. This is the burial ground for many ancient Pharos and kings including King Tutankhamen. The ancient Egyptians had realized that burying kings in pyramids was making it too easy for thieves to locate the treasures they believed they had to bury with the kings for the next life. They began making tombs in these rugged valleys of rock and covering the entrances to leave no sign of where they were. The only problem with this was that the high priests who laid the kings to rest were corrupt and would sell the location of the tombs to the thieves.
Unfortunately no photography is allowed in or around the tombs but after seeing where they found we could imagine they would be impossible to discover without insider knowledge. Archaeologists have now discovered 68 tombs and believe that many more exist. One of the famous tombs, King Tutankhamen, was actually saved by the thieves. While removing the mass of rock from the entrance of one of the tombs they piled it high over the entrance to King Tut’s Tomb. His tomb was then discovered by the archaeologist Howard Carter in the 1920’s.
Inside the tombs are amazing and we began with the tomb of King Rameses IX. They start with a long, wide and high passage way deep inside the rock mountain and end up in a large room containing the sofficas which housed the mummified body of the Pharaoh. To the sides are smaller rooms where the treasures were paced. As silver was more precious than gold, richer kings had an abundance of silver coins and treasures.
The colours and patterns on every square inch of the walls and ceilings are amazing. Until this day they are unsure how the ancient artists were able to produce the vibrant primary colours to decorate the tombs as they didn’t mix any colours to achieve new colours.
The famous stories of the “curse of the pharaohs” are not as mysterious as it sounds. After decorating the tombs with vibrant colours they would coat the walls in natural shellac obtained from tree sap. Since the tombs were then sealed for hundreds of years before the thieves opened them, poisonous gas would accumulate and would kill anyone who entered before the air had a chance to freshen.
After a long informative day we once again formed a convoy to make the treck through the desert back to Safaga. The sunset over the endless sands was a nice way to see out our visit to this amazing land.