*this blog was written on July 30*
We had an amazing but VERY long day today!
We started out at 4:30 am to get a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings. Sucky to get up that early (especially considering we didn’t leave the ground till like 7:00 am) but it was TOTALLY worth it! Along with about 9 other balloons we rose up hundreds of feet into the air to check out the ruins, temples, valley, and Nile river basin. I’m not going to lie…my legs got a little shaky up there and my stomach was walking like an Egyptian wearing combat boots but I managed to neither ralph nor faint. Or fall out for that matter. Needless to say the view was breathtaking and despite the queasiness the experience was well worth it. We got to take some great pictures of sites we were to visit in a few hours and even went through some trees on the way down. I don’t know who got a bigger kick out of that – the other riders or the captain himself. Oh yeah, the captain was even wearing wings and had those stripes on his shoulders. I found that amusing and wondered what my friend Jesse (a commercial airline pilot) would have to say about that.
After the balloon ride we met up with our guide and headed off to the Valley of the Kings. It was great having a guide to show us around, teach us stuff, and advise us as to which tombs to check out. When you visit the valley you get to go into 3 tombs out of like 20 so you have to choose wisely. We went to Ramses IX (the last one built in the valley), Ramses III, and Thutmose III. They all had some amazing stuff on the walls, all chiseled and then painted depicting gods, their deeds, and their eventual ascent into the afterlife. It was incredible to see how detailed their work was and how much of it had lasted for thousands of years! Much of the paint was still there and to this day scientists haven’t figured out how they made such durable paint.
We then headed over to the Temple of Hatshepsut, who was the stepmother of Thutmose III. When, at a young age, he became pharaoh she sent him away to school and ruled Egypt herself. She had a huge temple erected in her honor which depicted her as the daughter of a god thus being entitled to rule Egypt. When she finally died, Thutmose III exacted his revenge on her usurping his crown by having every image of her in Luxor destroyed or hidden. He then said, “You’re not my REAL mommy” and ran away.
From there we checked out the Valley of the Queens which was not nearly as impressive as the Valley of the Kings but had much better and more colorful murals. There was also virtually no one there so we got to check everything out at our own pace and enjoy our time unrushed or surrounded by sweaty tourists.
On our way to lunch we stopped off at the Colossi of Memnon (two huge statues which were in front of a huge temple which is long gone) to take some picture. “I am CRUSHING your head!” “Look, I am holding you up!” “I shall use you to rest my elbow on.” And other such nonsense…
We grabbed some falafel, koushery, and schwarma for lunch at a local place recommended by our guide then headed to the Temple of Karnak. Wow. Like, freaking WOW! It’s the largest religious structure in the world, taking up something like 24 acres. It was built over many years by many pharaohs who each added something of their own. Most added a pylon which is basically a hugs free standing wall full of carvings and such. There are also a ton of obelisks, statues, and several places have rows of sphinx. The most impressive part, however, is the great hall which is made up of 134 remaining columns standing as high as 65 feet and completely covered with carvings. It was the most impressive thing I’ve seen in Egypt and that includes the pyramids. It’s just so freaking cool, and having a guide to explain who built what, how the temple was used, and what the carvings meant made it all the more sweet-awesomer!
We were already ex-HAU-sted, drenched with sweat, and sunburned but we had to stop off at the Temple of Luxor on the way home. It was pretty amazing as well, but I kind of wish we would have seen that before Karnak b/c it just couldn’t compare. That and we were REALLY tired.
It was a 13 hour day so we headed home, relaxed, and packed up. We caught the 10:00 pm sleeping train back to Cairo with plans to catch the first train we could find to Alexandria to close out our trip. After a day like today, we def look forward to some cool, relaxing beach time!