Day 3 - Valley of the Kings - Day 1

Before I start telling you about the tombs I need to give credit and thanks to Francis Dzikowski, the photographer for the Theban Mapping Project and Dr. Weeks. All of the tomb interior pictures were taken by Mr. Dzikowski.

Photography in the tombs is forbidden and they are very strict about this. Do not think that just because you have given the tomb guardian some baksheesh (a tip for services provided) that you are safe. There are plain clothed employees of the SCA (Supreme Council of Antiquities) all over the place and they don’t care if you bribed a guard or not. If you are caught you will be taken to Mr. Wazery’s office and fined 50LE per picture and they are still removed from your camera. Video cameras are forbidden in the entire valley and if you are caught using one the fine is 1000LE!

I used Dr. Weeks' book The Treasures of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings as my reference for spelling and factual details throughout the entire blog.

Nov. 5 - I woke up several times during the night, mostly due to excitement. I also noticed that Viki was up once but not because she was excited. When we got the wake up call at 5 am I had already been up for a half an hour. Viki was not feeling well enough to go for breakfast. She was feeling really nauseous but still wanted to go with me to the valley today. I sat with Johan at the breakfast buffet and we talked about which tombs we would visit today over a ham and cheese omelet, fresh fruit, pastries and water. I went back to the room and picked up Viki and we got the 6:30 bus. She had a really rough time on the bus ride over and Medhat asked if he could get her something. She explained what she thought it was and he told her that “we (Egyptians) have plenty of experience with this sort of problem”. He said he would get her the proper medications from the pharmacy.

The busses dropped us off at the new visitor center. We were fairly early so we had only a few minutes wait while Medhat bought the tickets. We then all got on two taf – taf’s (train transportation).

and headed up the valley to the ticket check point where we were dropped off and then gathered to hear our itinerary for the day.

Medhat gave each of us two valley entry tickets which allowed us to visit 6 tombs and he told us to be back at the busses by 11:45.

The large “KV” numbers are the tombs we went in today and the numbers in parenthesis after them are the order in which we visited them. Double click on the picture to enlarge it.

The rest of this day consisted of:

KV 34 Thutmes III
KV 43 Thutmes IV
KV 16 Rameses I
KV 47 Siptah
KV 15 Sety II
KV 14 Tausert & Setnakht
WV 23 Aye
Luxor Museum

We all then passed through the ticket check point and gathered at the entrance of KV 5 – sons of Rameses II where Dr. Weeks told us a little about the geology of the valley, the types of tombs and the characteristics indicative of each dynasty during the New Kingdom (1540 – 1075 B.C.).

We then were free to roam the valley and visit any open tombs, 6 today and 6 tomorrow.

I have the lay out of the tombs in the valley memorized from copious hours of studying the TMP (Theban Mapping Project) website and Google Earth. With these websites and many others and pouring over YouTube for many hours - I have visited all of these tombs many times on the internet and found so much visual information that I truly feel like I have been here. What a very strange feeling walking in a place I know so well and now that I’m here it just doesn’t seem completely real. It is kind of like being in a realistic dream where you recognize many things and then something catches your eye that is really amazing.

Viki was still feeling poorly but wanted to go on so I figured we would try to stick to my original agenda and start with the tomb of Thutmes III. This is the farthest tomb from the valley entrance and one of the earliest (dug around 1500 -1450 BC) and has a fair climb up several sets of steps to the entrance and then quite a few more steps down into the tomb. We took several rest stops along the way to the tomb and a final one at the top of the staircase at the tomb entrance.

There is a long fairly steep stair down to the first decorated chamber (E). Thutmes III’s tomb started the addition of a well chamber or chamber E which is usually a vertical shaft. Here in KV 34 the well chamber is decorated with the kheker frieze at the top of the walls and yellow stars on a blue background on the ceiling.

The walls below the frieze are not inscribed or decorated, even so being in this chamber was absolutely exhilarating. The color is vivid and the lay out of the frieze is perfect. This was my first view of real (in situ) tomb decorations. From chamber E we then entered the two pillared hall usually called chamber F. Chamber F in most tombs has two pillars but in some cases it has none and in several tombs it has four pillars. In this tomb chamber F is decorated on all of the walls with 741 divinities from the Imydwat which means "that which is in the netherworld". Neither of the pillars has any decoration.

From chamber F you make a left ninety degree turn and go down another flight of stairs into the burial chamber. KV 34 is one of the earliest tombs dug in the valley and unlike most has a burial chamber with rounded corners making the chamber resemble a cartouche shape. The walls are decorated with the complete Imydwat and the pillars with the Litany of Ra. It also contains Thutmes III’s red quartzite sarcophagus.

It was only 8:30 and already warm in the burial chamber. Viki started feeling ill and had to go back up to the entrance. I noticed Johan was here so we started looking around together and reading the hieroglyphs carefully examining every visible inch of the sarcophagus. It was really fun discussing aspects of the tomb and the ancient Egyptian language with someone who had equal interests.

At first there were only three other people in the burial chamber so I stayed in the tomb about a half hour with more and more people coming in. It was starting to get hot and muggy. After making sure that I had not missed anything I took one more look at Thutmose III being nursed by Isis in the form of a tree. This was the first time I have felt sad since entering the valley. If you look at the TMP website you can find comparisons between this drawing just 30 years ago in pristine condition and now. It is almost indiscernible now due to human abuse.

Time to leave, on the way back up, one more look at the 741 divinities, the beautiful well chamber ceiling and then the long climb out.

This is the best video of KV 34 I have found:

Here is another video starting in chamber F and going down to the burial chamber:

Viki was sitting at the entrance talking to one of the guardians. We next started back to the main rest area and office. We had stopped by Mr. Wazery’s office before we went to KV 34 but he was not in. I dropped Viki off to relax and try to feel better. Mr. Wazery had still not arrived so I decided to go up to KV 43 - Thutmes IV’s tomb since it was also a fairly long uphill walk which I knew Viki would not be up for.

KV43 starts out very similar to KV 34. A fairly steep stair through undecorated walls to the well chamber except here the well chamber decorations are more complete than in Thutmes III’s tomb. Here the ceiling and kheker frieze are nearly complete and two walls are decorated with Thutmes IV and Osiris, Hathor and Anubis. In KV 34 all of the figures were small and in a cursive form while here they are lifelike representations of the pharaoh with the gods.

Leaving chamber E I then went into the two pillared hall chamber F. In this tomb chamber F only has the initial masons lay out lines on the ceiling, no decorations. I made a ninety degree left and took the stairs down to chamber I. Chamber I is the only other chamber decorated in this tomb.

The tomb was very quite. Because of KV 43’s distance from the main valley fewer people come to it. The entire time I was there only two other people came and went.

Instead of going straight into the burial chamber in this tomb you make another ninety degree left turn into a huge undecorated six pillar hall with the sarcophagus area on a lower level at the far end of the room. The sarcophagus is featured in the center of the lower area and it is just beautiful. I spent quite a while examining its hieroglyphs before going back up.

This is the best video I have found of KV 43:

When I got back to the rest area I met Medhat and he took me into Mr. Wazery’s office and introduced us. When I explained that I had been given permission from Dr. Hawass to see KV 35 - Amenhetep II’s and KV 57 - Horemheb’s tomb I could tell that he had not received any notification. Mr. Wazery told me to give Dr. Hawass a call. Well… I have met Dr. Hawass a couple of times and have recently corresponded with him but I did not feel that this was sufficient to just “give him a call”. I decided to print out the e-mails I had received from him and bring them to Mr. Wazery tomorrow.

Wow, what a beautiful day. We sat there in the rest shelter for a few minutes and since the line for KV 16 - Rameses I was not very long we walked over and waited. There was a single file line down the stair around the sarcophagus and back up. It didn’t take very long until we were in the burial chamber. The only decorated walls are in the rather small burial chamber and the rear wall of chamber Jb. This tomb is the smallest royal tomb in the valley.

When Viki and I got down to the burial chamber we stepped out of line next to the corner post at each corner and were able to closely examine the decorations. The colors are beautiful and still very vibrant after 3,300 years. Again, I am just blown away by the whole experience of being here.

The burial chamber is decorated with the king with different gods and excerpts from the Book of Gates.

I felt a special emotional attachment to this tomb. In October of 2003 Viki and I went to the MCCM (Michael C. Carlos Museum) in Atlanta for a reception and lecture by Dr. Hawass. He had come to escort the mummy of Rameses I back to Egypt. During the evening reception I went back up to the room where they had Rameses I and was able to spend a long time alone with him. Having a private audience with the 1st pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty had a very strong emotional impact on me. The walls of the room were silkscreen reproductions of the burial chamber.

Now here I am in the actual burial chamber and once again having feelings too difficult to properly explain with words.

After leaving KV 16 Viki was still feeling squeamish so we only went back up the valley to KV 47 - Siptah.

Corridors B, C and D in Siptah’s tomb have fully intact reliefs with vivid colors.

With simply amazing ceilings.

KV 47 - Siptah’s tomb has been flooded many times and all decoration past the first three corridors is badly damaged or destroyed.

The only thing left in the tomb past corridor D is the sarcophagus in chamber J2 where the four pillars have collapsed.

We weren’t in KV 47 - Siptah’s tomb very long so we decided to go up to KV 15 - Sety II’s tomb but first stop and have some water and relax at the shelter next to Sety II’s tomb entrance. Of course I couldn’t relax at all. All of the images of what I have seen and the excitement over what is to come have my mind racing.

It was almost 10:30 and we still needed to look at KV 15 - Sety II’s tomb and KV 14 the tomb of Tausert and Setnakht before getting back to the buses.

Upon entering Sety II’s tomb the first corridor has beautifully executed raised and sunken reliefs of the Litany of Ra. Just before the end of corridor B the reliefs stop, replaced by red ink. Extracts from the Imydwat in red ink begin in corridor C and continue into corridor D.

Looking from the well chamber back out to the tomb entrance.

After corridor D we enter the well chamber and this one is very different. This chamber is not a vertically descending shaft, which is not unique but the wall decorations are unique. Most royal tomb well shaft decorations are very colorful lifelike representations of the king with various deities but here the decorations are smaller painted panels of images of funerary equipment, divine or royal statues.

After the well chamber we descended through the four pillared hall and into the next corridor which was hastily converted into the burial chamber. In chamber F and J most of the decorations are from the Book of Gates.

The last corridor (not fully cut by the ancient craftsmen), converted into the burial chamber, has only the lid of the sarcophagus in it. The walls have excerpts from the Book of Gates and figures of deities and the ceiling has a large painted figure of the goddess Nut directly above the sarcophagus.

Sety II’s tomb has been open from antiquity as evidenced by more than sixty Greek and Latin graffiti on its walls.

After we finished looking at KV 15 it was just a little before 11:00. We next went down to KV 14 - Tausert and Setnakht’s tomb.

This tomb is the largest and has the most complete decorations we have seen today.

Tausert was the wife of Sety II and they were probably who the tomb was originally dug for but Setnakht, the pharaoh who followed Tausert’s short reign, usurped the tomb. In many places it is very noticeable where Tausert’s titles and in some places her image have been replaced by Setnakht’s and in many other places Tausert’s titles were never touched.

Because this tomb is so large and has so many important and beautiful details it would take me hours to try to explain it like I have the tombs we have already seen. Dr. Weeks, the director of the Theban Mapping Project, has an excellent 3D tour of this tomb on his web site. Please go to this link;

and at the bottom of the Valley of the Kings overview page click on “3D TOMB” to hear Dr. Weeks explain the history and the significance of the various decorations while going through the tomb. It is really an exquisite tomb and you can click on the small plus signs during the tour to see each of the decorations in detail.

Here are pictures of the first of its two burial chambers just to give you an idea of how wonderful the tomb is.

This is the only youtube video I could find of KV 14 and the quality is poor but it does show some decorations as the person walks from corridor H through the first and to the second burial chamber:

I also found this KV 14 video on you tube but I believe the producer just used still shots taken by the Theban Mapping Project and compiled them into a video. It still gives you a good look at the decoration in the tomb:

What an unbelievable day it has been already and we still have the west valley, WV 23 - Ay’s tomb, to go to before we head back to the hotel. It is about 11:25 so we have to hurry back to the busses.

We were almost the last peopled back to the bus. We were originally going to walk the length (1.2 miles) of the west valley up to the tomb of Ay –WV 23 but it was very hot outside so the busses took us almost to the tomb. I couldn’t believe that they would get the busses up the valley and back out but they did. We all got out of the busses at the last turn before the tomb to walk the last 500 feet or so. Since Viki and I were in the front seat behind the driver I jumped out of the buss to look around. I heard a commotion behind me and turned around to see my wife lying on the steps of the buss. She was really in a bad way and doing a good job of not letting me know because she did not want to distract me any. I ran back to help her up.

Medhat handed out the tickets for the tomb.

Dr. Weeks told us some details about the valley and the history of it. The ancient Egyptians believed that al-Qurn (the Theban hills which viewed from the Valley of the Kings look like a pyramid) was the domain of the goddess Meretseger, her name meaning “she who loves silence” and while walking through this valley it is easy to see why. The valley walls are very steep and high unlike the east valley where almost all of the pharaohs are buried. The silence is profound and the scenery absolutely breathe taking.

We walked up and sat down at the small rest shelter next to the tomb entrance.

Ay’s tomb – WV 23 is fairly small. It consists of two sets of alternating stair and corridors leading into the well chamber all of which are undecorated. From the well chamber you enter into chamber J, the burial chamber which again is beautifully decorated (I’m sure your getting tired of me saying that but I really think they all are beautiful) with the reconstructed sarcophagus in the center. In this tomb the king’s image and cartouches have been destroyed in antiquity. The ancient Egyptians believed that the removal of a persons name and image would keep them from existing in the afterlife. This was probably done as an aftermath of the destruction of everything related to the Amarna period when they were forced to worship only one god.

Here are the four sons of Horus above chamber Ja an undecorated chamber where the canopic jars would have probably been stored.

Notice the destruction of the pharaoh’s face and above him his cartouches.

Viki went back up to the rest area while I spent a while examining and reading the decorations which I have been studying for quite some time. I really did not want to leave but finally took one more look from the well chamber trying to permanently etch the view into my memory before making my way back up to the rest area.

At the rest area Viki was talking to a very nice woman about the trip. Jane was from Canada and had been here before. She was really interesting and fun to talk with. Johan came up and we all chatted a while about the things we had seen so far and then returned to the busses. It was only a little before 1:00 pm.

We got back to the hotel before 2:00. We weren’t in the room more than 5 minutes when there was a knock on the door. Medhat had sent someone to the pharmacy to get the proper medications for Viki and they brought them up to the room. Medhat called and gave her directions on how to take them. I can’t say enough nice things about this man. He was an immense help. Viki took the medications and went to bed. She was really wiped out.

I decided to check out the internet café I had seen around the corner the night before. The café was run by Akmed. I checked our email accounts and sent some emails to family to let them know we had arrived and were OK. After I finished I sat a while and talked to Akmed since we were the only two there. I told him that my AC converter had blown the night before and wondered if he knew of an electrical or computer store where I might be able to find one. He told me to bring it in to him and he could find me another one. I went back to the room grabbed the converter and took it back to him. He called a kid in from outside and gave it to him and off he went. He came back about ten minutes later but had no luck in finding one. Akmed asked me if I could leave it with him. He was sure he could find one. I told him that I would come back that evening before 10:00. I was really impressed by his hospitality and sincere concern to help me.

On the way back I stopped at a small store on the other side of our hotel and bought some water, Coke and snacks to take back to the room. When I got up to the room Viki was still asleep so I decided to take a nap before going to the lecture by Dr. Weeks at the auditorium at the Mummification museum at 6:00. When I woke up it was almost 6:00. I literally ran down to the Mummification museum which was pretty close to the hotel and got there only ten minutes late. Dr. Weeks was just finishing handing out the papers which we had received at the reception the night before. Thank heaven I had not missed anything.

After the lecture the busses were waiting on the Corniche just outside the entrance of the museum to take us to the Luxor Museum.

The Luxor Museum is relatively new (built in 1975) and has some of the finest examples of Egyptian statuary in the world. This statue of Thutmes III is literally priceless.

The pieces in this museum are expertly displayed and not to be missed if you visit Luxor.

Here is a statue of Amenhetep II and the god Sobek.

I was also able to visit with an old friend while I was there. This is where Ramses I mummy is on view and it brought back old feelings to see him again.

Another one of the more important objects in the museum is the talatat (small block) wall which was erected during the Amarna period but later broken down and used as filler inside of the 9th pylon at Karnak.

There are several good web sites which have much more information about the Luxor Museum but I particularly like this one by Sue Bayfield:

We all got back on the busses just before 9:00 and went back to the hotel.

I went up to the room and Viki was still asleep so I went back to Akmed’s internet café to see if he was able to find a converter. He said that he had not found one but there were some other places that he had not tried yet. I decided to log on to the Luxor4U web site and see if any of my Luxor friends might know where I could get one. I told Akmed that I would return tomorrow afternoon. I thanked him and went back to the room.

When I got back it was almost 10:00 and Viki was still in bed but had just woken up. I ordered a burger and fries from room service and told Viki all about Dr. Weeks lecture and the museum.

It was close to 11:00 and my feet were sore and I was really tired but I couldn’t turn off my mind. I just lay there in bed thinking about all the wonderful things I had seen and done today and imagining what tomorrow would bring. Once again, this was one of the best days of my life.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for sharing this!!!