Luxor’s West Bank is best known for its temples and tombs but you can also observe rural village life and agriculture and enjoy nature and life at a quieter pace.
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a valley on the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor (ancient Thebes) where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the pharaohs, their wives and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the 18th to the 20th Dynasties of ancient Egypt). The wadi consists of two valleys, East Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are situated) and West Valley.
With the 2006 discovery of a new chamber (KV63), the 2008 discovery of 2 further tomb entrances, and the 2011 discovery of yet another tomb, the valley is known to contain 65 tombs and chambers (ranging in size from KV54, a simple pit, to KV5, a complex tomb with over 120 chambers). It was the principal burial place of the major royal figures of the New Kingdom, together with those of a number of privileged nobles. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. Almost all of the tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of the opulence and power of the rulers of this time.
This area has been a focus of archaeological and Egyptological exploration since the end of the eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate research and interest. In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. In 1979 it became a World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis. Exploration, excavation and conservation continue in the valley, and a new tourist centre has recently been opened.
When you visit the Valley of the Kings your ticket will allow you to visit 3 tombs free of charge. Most of the tombs are not open to the public (18 of the tombs can be opened, but they are rarely open at the same time), and officials occasionally close those that are open for restoration work. This also assists in protecting them from environmental damage. The tomb of Tutankhamun requires an additional ticket purchase. The West Valley has only one open tomb – that of Ay – and a separate ticket is needed to visit this tomb. The tour guides are not allowed to lecture inside the tombs and visitors are expected to proceed quietly and in single file through the tombs. This is to minimize time in the tombs and prevent the crowds from damaging the surfaces of the decoration. Tombs in this valley are prefixed with the letter KV. For example, the tomb of Tutankhamun is KV62. Photography is not allowed in the tombs.
Admission: LE 80 (allows entrance to 3 tombs)
Valley of the Queens
The Valley of the Queens is where wives of pharaohs were buried in ancient times when it was known as Ta-Set-Neferu, meaning ‘the place of the Children of the Pharaoh’, because along with the queens of the 18th, 19th and 20th Dynasties (1550–1070 BCE) many princes and princesses were also buried with various members of the nobility. The tombs of these individuals were maintained by mortuary priests who performed daily rituals and provided offerings and prayers for the deceased nobility.
The valley is located near the better known Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile. This barren area in the western hills was chosen due to its relative isolation and proximity to the capital. The kings of the 18th dynasty, instead of building traditional pyramids as burial chambers (perhaps because of their vulnerability to tomb robbers), now chose to be buried in rock-cut tombs.
This necropolis is said to hold more than seventy tombs, many of which are stylish and lavishly decorated. An example of this is the resting place carved out of the rock for Queen Nefertari (1290–1224 BCE) of the 19th Dynasty. The beautiful polychrome reliefs in her tomb are still intact. However, Egyptian authorities have decided to severely restrict public access to the tomb in order to preserve the delicate paintings found within. Tombs in this valley are prefixed with the letter QV. For example the tomb of Queen Nefertari is QV66.
Valley of the Nobles
The Theban Tombs of the Nobles extend over a large populated area to the south of the Valley of Kings. More than 400 tombs of nobles and officials can be found here among the houses of the village of Gurna (Qurna).
The Tombs of the Nobles actually comprises a number of distinct areas on the West Bank. These areas mostly lie in five different regions. Fartherest north is an area known as el-Tarif, where large, row tombs were dug during the late Second Intermediate Period and early Middle Kingdom.
Just south of el-Tarif is Dra Abu el-Naga, which is a hillside with about 80 numbered tombs, most belonging to priests and officials of the 17th through 20th Dynasties, including some rulers of the 17th Dynasty.
Just southwest of Dra Abu el-Naga is an area called El-Assasif, where there are 40 tombs, mostly from the New Kingdom and later. Just south of El-Assasif is El-Khokha, a hill with five Old Kingdom tombs and 53 numbered tombs from the 18th and 19th Dynasties.
Directly west of El-Khokha is Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. This hill was named for a mythical Muslim sheikh, and has 146 numbered tombs, most of which are from the 18th Dynasty. Here one finds some of the most beautiful private tombs on the West Bank. Just north of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna is Deir el-Bahari, well known for the northernmost temples in the Valley, including that of Hatshepsut and Mentuhotep.
Finally, south of Sheikh Abd el-Qurna and near the Temple of Merenptah is Qurnet Murai, a hill with 17 numbered tombs mostly dating to the Ramesside period. While there are probably thousands of tombs in these areas, Egyptologists have only explored and numbered a total of about 800 of them.
One of the most important is TT55, the tomb of Ramose who was governor of Thebes during Amenhotep IV’s reign. Work was begun on this impressive tomb in the classical Egyptian style, but further on into the tomb, changed to the Amarnan style. This was because Amenhotep IV had become Akhenaton. When Akhenaton went to Amarna, Ramose followed, leaving the tomb unfinished. Also here you can find the tomb of Yuya. There are some scholars that have long believed that Yuya was Joseph of the Bible. Like Joseph, Yuya was a non-royal descendant that became the highest ranked official during the reign of Tuthmosis IV and Amenhotep III. The contents of the tomb can be seen at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Tickets for two to three tomb visits can be purchased in the kiosk near the Colossi of Memnon. The Theban tombs are prefaced with the letters TT. For example the tomb of Sennedjem is TT1. Many of the people buried here have similar names and if you want to see a particular tomb it’s a good idea to know the number. You can find a list of the Theban tombs here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Theban_Tombs
Admission to the Ramose tomb is LE30.
Valley of the Artisans (Deir el-Medina)
Deir el-Medina was inhabited by the labourers, craftsmen, painters, and carvers who worked on the royal tombs nearby. Just south of the Valley of the Queens, this place is often called the Workmen’s Village. During the Christian era the temple of Hathor was converted into a Church from which the Arabic name Deir el-Medina (“the monastery of the town”) is derived.
At the time when the world’s press was concentrating on Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, a team led by Bernard Bruyère began to excavate the site. This work has resulted in one of the most thoroughly documented accounts of community life in the ancient world over a span of almost four hundred years. There is no comparable site in which the organisation, social interactions, working and living conditions of a community can be studied in such detail.
The village is laid out in a small natural amphitheatre within easy walking distance of the Valley of the Kings to the north, funerary temples to the east and south-east, with the Valley of the Queens to the west. The village may have been built apart from the wider population in order to preserve secrecy in view of sensitive nature of the work carried out in the tombs.
The settlement was home to a mixed population of Egyptians, Nubians and Asiatics who were employed as labourers, (stone-cutters, plasterers, water-carriers), as well as those involved in the administration and decoration of the royal tombs and temples. The artisans and the village were organised into two groups, left and right gangs who worked on opposite sides of the tomb walls, with a foreman for each who supervised the village and its work. As the main well was thirty minutes walk from the village, carriers worked to keep the village regularly supplied with water. When working on the tombs, the artisans stayed overnight in a camp overlooking the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut (c. 1479–1458 BCE) that remains visible today. Surviving records indicate that the workers had cooked meals delivered to them from the village.
The village was abandoned c. 1110–1080 BCE during the reign of Ramesses XI (whose tomb was the last of the royal tombs built in the Valley of the Kings) due to increasing threats of Libyan raids and the instability of civil war.
Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari
The mortuary temple dedicated to the longest ruling female of ancient Egypt, Queen Hatshepsut, is a spectacular sight as it rises from the desert plain in a series of terraces and is backed by the Theban hills. Its form is very different from the usual temple plan. It is the focal point of the complex at Deir el-Bahri, literally meaning, “The Northern Monastery”), which is a complex of mortuary temples and tombs located on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. The first monument built at the site was the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II of the 11th Dynasty. During the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep I and Hatshepsut also built extensively at the site.
The focal point of the Deir el-Bahari complex is the Djeser-Djeseru meaning “the Holy of Holies”, the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. It is a colonnaded structure, which was designed and implemented by Senenmut, royal steward and architect of Hatshepsut (and believed by some to be her lover) to serve for her posthumous worship and to honour the glory of Amun.
Djeser-Djeseru sits atop a series of colonnaded terraces, reached by long ramps that once were graced with gardens. It is built into a cliff face that rises sharply above it, and is largely considered to be one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt”. The unusual form of Hatshepsut’s temple is explained by the choice of location, in the valley basin of Deir el-Bahari, surrounded by steep cliffs. It was here, in about 2050 BC, that Mentuhotep II, the founder of the Middle Kingdom, laid out his sloping, terrace-shaped mortuary temple. The pillared galleries at either side of the central ramp of the Djeser-Djeseru correspond to the pillar positions on two successive levels of the Temple of Mentuhotep.
Today the terraces of Deir el-Bahari only convey a faint impression of the original intentions of Senenmut. Most of the statue ornaments are missing – the statues of Osiris in front of the pillars of the upper colonnade, the sphinx avenues in front of the court, and the standing, sitting, and kneeling figures of Hatshepsut; these were destroyed in a posthumous condemnation of this pharaoh. However, the remnants of the strongly coloured reliefs are still spectacular.
Ramesseum (Mortuary Temple of Ramesses II)
This magnificent mortuary temple was built on the site of Seti I’s ruined temple and was described as the “tomb of Ozymandia,” which later inspired poetic verse by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The Ramesseum is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of Pharaoh Ramesses II (“Ramesses the Great”, also spelled “Rameses” and “Ramesses”). The name – or at least its French form, Rhamesséion – was coined by Jean-François Champollion, who visited the ruins of the site in 1829 and first identified the hieroglyphs making up Ramesses’ names and titles on the walls. Ramesses II modified, usurped, or constructed many buildings from the ground up, and the most splendid of these, in accordance with New Kingdom royal burial practices, would have been his memorial temple: a place of worship dedicated to pharaoh, god on earth, where his memory would have been kept alive after his death. Surviving records indicate that work on the project began shortly after the start of his reign and continued for 20 years.
Only fragments of the base and torso remain of the syenite statue of the enthroned pharaoh, 62 feet (19 metres) high and weighing more than 1000 tons. This was alleged to have been transported 170 miles over land. This is the largest remaining colossal statue (except statues done in situ) in the world.
In the court the few Osiride pillars and columns still left can furnish an idea of the original grandeur. Scattered remains of the two statues of the seated king can also be seen, one in pink granite and the other in black granite, which once flanked the entrance to the temple. The head of one of these has been removed to the British Museum. Thirty-nine out of the forty-eight columns in the great hypostyle hall (41m x 31m) still stand in the central rows. They are decorated with the usual scenes of the king before various gods. Part of the ceiling decorated with gold stars on a blue ground has also been preserved.
A cache of papyri and ostraca dating back to the third intermediate period (11th to 8th centuries BC) indicates that the temple was also the site of an important scribal school. The site was in use before Ramesses had the first stone put in place: beneath the hypostyle hall, modern archaeologists have found a shaft tomb from the Middle Kingdom, yielding a rich hoard of religious and funerary artefacts.
Admission: LE 30
Temple of Medinet Habu
The great mortuary temple of Ramesses III which dominates the site at Medinet Habu is an important New Kingdom period structure in the location of the same name on the West Bank. Aside from its intrinsic size and architectural and artistic importance, the temple is probably best known as the source of inscribed reliefs depicting the advent and defeat of the sea peoples during the reign of Ramesses III.
The temple, second in size only to Karnak, is some 150 m long, is of orthodox design, and resembles closely the nearby mortuary temple of Ramesses II (the Ramesseum). The temple precinct measures approximately 700 ft (210 m) by 1,000 ft (300 m) and contains more than 75,350 sq ft (7,000 m2) of decorated wall reliefs. Its walls are relatively well preserved and it is surrounded by a massive mud brick enclosure, which may have been fortified. The original entrance is through a fortified gate-house, known as a migdol (a common architectural feature of Asiatic fortresses of the time). Just inside the enclosure, to the south, are chapels of Amenirdis I, Shepenupet II and Nitiqret, all of whom had the title of Divine Adoratrice of Amun. In Coptic times, there was a church inside the temple structure, which has since been removed. Some of the carvings in the main wall of the temple have been altered by Coptic carvings.
The excavation, recording and conservation of the temple have been facilitated in chief part by the Architectural and Epigraphic Surveys of University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, almost continuously since 1924.
Temple of Seti I
The Mortuary Temple of Seti I is the pharaoh’s memorial temple located in the Theban necropolis, near to the modern town of Qurna. The temple seems to have been constructed towards the end of the reign of Seti, and may have been completed by his son Ramesses the Great after his death. One of the chambers contained a shrine or sanctuary dedicated to Seti’s father Ramesses I, who ruled for less than 2 years and did not construct a mortuary temple for himself. The entire court and any pylons associated with it have been destroyed and are now buried under the modern town to the east.
Temple of Amenhotep III
The Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III (known in modern times as Kom el-Hettan, is located in the Theban necropolis. When constructed it was the largest of the mortuary temples in the Theban area, larger than the complex at Karnak, and covered an area of 350,000 square metres.
Today very little remains of the complex, with only the Colossi of Memnon – two massive 18-metre stone statues of Amenhotep that stood at the gateway, still visible. It was constructed closer to the river than any of the other mortuary temples, and hence decayed quicker, and it was used in ancient times as a source of construction material. A granite stelae of Amenhotep can be found in the temple of Merenptah, which is located about 100 metres to the north.
The site has been included in the World Monuments Watch list of endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) in 1998 and 2004. As of 2004 archaeological excavations are under way in the temple and discoveries are usually announced each year.
Colossi of Memnon
At the east end of the temple complex of Amenhotep III are two enthroned statues, each soaring more than 60 feet into the sky and they are first monuments visitors see upon arrival at the West Bank.
The twin statues depict Amenhotep III (14th century BC) in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards (actually SSE in modern bearings) towards the river. Two shorter figures are carved into the front of the throne alongside his legs: these are his wife Tiy and mother Mutemwiya. The side panels depict the Nile god Hapy.
The statues are made from blocks of quartzite sandstone which was quarried at el-Gabal el-Ahmar (near modern-day Cairo) and transported 420 miles (675 km) overland to Thebes. The blocks used by later Roman engineers to reconstruct the eastern colossus may have come from Edfu (north of Aswan). Including the stone platforms on which they stand – themselves about 13 feet (4 m) – the colossi reach a towering 60 ft (18 m) in height and weigh an estimated 720 tons each. The two figures are about 50 feet (15 m) apart.
Both statues are quite damaged, with the features above the waist virtually unrecognizable. The western (or southern) statue is a single piece of stone, but the eastern (or northern) figure has a large extensive crack in the lower half and above the waist consists of 5 tiers of stone. These upper levels consist of a different type of sandstone, and are the result of a later Roman Empire reconstruction attempt. It is believed that originally the two statues were identical to each other, although inscriptions and minor art may have varied.
In 27 BC, a large earthquake reportedly shattered the eastern colossus, collapsing it from the waist up and cracking the lower half. Following its rupture, the remaining lower half of this statue was then reputed to “sing” on various occasions- always within an hour or two of sunrise, usually right at dawn. The sound was most often reported in February or March, but this is probably more a reflection of the tourist season rather than any actual pattern. The description varied; Strabo said it sounded “like a blow”, Pausanias compared it to “the string of a lyre” breaking, but it also was described as the striking of brass or whistling. The earliest report in literature is that of the Greek historian and geographer Strabo, who claimed to have personally heard the sound during a visit in 20 BC, by which time it apparently was already well-known. Other ancient sources include Pliny (not from personal experience, but he collected other reports), Pausanias, and Juvenal. In addition, the base of the statue is inscribed with about 90 surviving inscriptions of contemporary tourists reporting whether they had heard the sound or not.
There is a plan in place to restore these colossal statues after which, I am sure, they will no longer sing.
Tomb of King Tutankhamun
Discovered in 1922, the tomb of King Tutankhamen is one of the smallest of the royal tombs in the Valley of Kings. However, the nearly intact tomb discovered by Howard Carter is justifiably one of the most sought after by tourists.
Although small the paint work remains bright and fascinating, and of course the mummy of the boy king is still in the tomb. There is a tomb guard near the mummy who will use his torch to show you detail and tell you something of King Tutankhamun in return for a little baksheesh. Tickets are an extra cost of LE100.
Tomb of Ramesses III
Located in the Valley of the Kings, this well-preserved tomb is known as the “Tomb of the Harpists” due to the bas-relief of two blind musicians located in one of the side chambers. The tomb is 125 meters long and follows typical plans of the 19th Dynasty’s tombs, though it has an unusual number of annexes. From the entrance, a stairway leads to the first corridor, which has an annex on either side. This corridor leads directly to a second corridor that has four small annexes on either side. The second corridor leads to a dead end room, but with a third corridor leading off from the right side. This change in axis was due to the fact that workmen came across Amenemesses’ tomb and so were required to make adjustments to avoid it. Up to the point of this change in axis, the tomb was actually built for Setnakht, who apparently abandoned the work at this point. Ramesses III offset the tomb, and continued the work as his own. The tomb is beautifully decorated with strong colours that remain vivid.
In the antechambers, you will find decorations depicting various deities. Within the burial chamber itself are to be found decorations from the Book of Gates and the Book of the Earth. Interestingly, there are no ceiling decorations, but the side rooms are decorated with texts and an example of the Book of the Divine Cow.
There was little in the way of funerary equipment found in the tomb other than the sarcophagus mentioned, with the exception of five shabtis figures cast in solid bronze, now in the British Museum, in Turin, in the Louvre, and in the Oriental Museum in Durham.
Tomb of Sennedjem
This beautiful tomb was built for Sennedjem, a servant from the 19th Dynasty reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II. He was one of the necropolis workers and his title was ‘Servant in the Place of Truth’. Like many of the private tombs the paintings are simply executed, but remarkable for their colours and interesting scenes. The decoration in the burial chamber is on a yellow ochre background and is extremely well-preserved.
Sennedjem was buried along with his wife, Iy-neferti, and family in the village necropolis. His tomb was discovered January 31, 1886. When Sennedjem’s tomb was found, in it there was regular furniture from his home, including a stool and a bed, which he actually used when he was alive. The tomb of Sennedjem is in Deir el-Medina, above the Village of the Workmen and is open from 6.00am to 4.00pm in the winter season. Tickets should be bought at the main West Bank ticket office before going to the workmen’s village.
Tickets cost EGP 30 for the tombs of Sennedjem, Inherkau and the Temple of Hathor.
Tomb of Merenptah
This tomb of the 19th Dynasty pharaoh Merenptah, son of Ramesses II, features beautiful reliefs of Isis and Nephthys and a steeply-inclined corridor leading to the burial chamber where the sarcophagus still rests. Merneptah was a son (the thirteenth) of Ramesses II and Queen Isis-Nofret and he succeeded his father upon his death. His tomb (KV 8), located in a small, lateral valley on the right side of the main wadi, was discovered by Howard Carter in 1903.
The tomb is very near his father’s huge tomb (KV 7). When discovered, the tomb was full of flood debris and had stood open since antiquity. From the Greek and Latin graffiti (135 pieces), it is believed that the tomb was accessible to at least the first pillared hall for many centuries. Although no artefacts of great import were discovered inside the tomb, it is important as it marks a turning point in tomb design. It departs from the design of the typical 19th Dynasty tombs in that it is built along a straight corridor, with taller ceilings and fewer side chambers, a design found in 20th Dynasty tombs.
Tomb of Amonherkhopeshef
Amonherkhopeshef (Amun-her-khepeshef) was the eldest son and appointed heir of pharaoh Ramesses III. Like many of his brothers, he was named after a son of Ramesses II. His tomb, QV55, is in the Valley of the Queens and is well-preserved, being excavated in 1903-4 by Italian archaeologists. The quality of the artwork in this tomb is of a high standard, although some areas have been blacked by smoke due to it once being the residence of a local family. In the areas where the reliefs have been cleaned, the colours are amazing. Amonherkhopesef is depicted beside his father offering to various deities. At the rear of the tomb are high quality representations of canopic jars and Osiris. One of the quieter tombs.
Tomb of Amenhotep (Amenophis) II
The tomb has a dog-leg shape, typical of the layout of early 18th Dynasty tombs, but several features make this tomb stand out. The burial chamber is a rectangular shape and divided into upper and lower pillared sections, with the lower part holding the sarcophagus of the king. This style of burial chamber became ‘standard’ for royal burials in the later New Kingdom. The walls of the burial chamber are embellished with texts and paintings from the sacred Book of Amduat. As with most other tombs, the ceiling of Tomb of Amenophis II is painted in dark blue spangled with golden stars.
Later the tomb was used as a mummy cache. Mummies belonging to other individuals were relocated here during the Third Intermediate Period and were identified by inscriptions on their burial wrappings:
– Amenhotep II (the original tomb owner found in his original sarcophagus)
– Thutmose IV
– Amenhotep III
– Seti II
– Ramesses IV
– Ramesses V
– Ramesses VI
– Queen Tiye, who was identified as the so called Elder Lady in February 2010 through DNA testing
– Webensenu, son of Amenhotep II, whose canopic jars were found in the tomb of Thutmose, elder son of Amenhotep III and Tiye
– The Younger Lady who, in June 2003, was controversially claimed to be Nefertiti by British Egyptologist Joann Fletcher, whereas Egyptologist Zahi Hawass believed it to be Kiya, another wife of Akhenaton who is believed by some to be the birth mother of Tutankhamun. However, with DNA testing, this mummy was shown in February 2010 to be a woman, the mother of Tutankhamun, and the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye (making her both the sister and wife of Akhenaten). Her name, however, remains unknown, leaving open the possibility that she is likely either Nebetiah or Beketaten.
– An unknown woman D in an upturned lid of a coffin inscribed for Setnakhte (maybe Queen Tawosret).
Tomb of Ramesses VI
The tomb of Ramesses VI (KV 9) was originally built for Ramesses V and expanded by Ramesses VI during the 20th Dynasty. This tomb is certainly, for at least one reason, one of the most interesting tombs in the Valley of the Kings. In general, the decorations provide the story of the origins of the heavens, earth, and the creation of the sun, light and life itself. The tomb has a Nut ceiling over the sarcophagus, where the Goddess is shown receiving the sun in her mouth each day and it exiting her body each night. The decorative plan for this tomb is one of the most sophisticated and complete in the Valley of the Kings. It has three entrance halls, two chambers, a further two corridors, an ante-chamber and the tomb chamber. The wall representations are carried out in low painted relief. The standard of craftsmanship is not high but the tomb chamber itself has one of the most important ceilings in the Valley of the Kings. In fact names and mottoes in Coptic and Greek show that this Golden Hall was an attraction from the first century AD.
The tomb has been known since antiquity, as attested by numerous graffiti and was known to the Romans as the tomb of Memnon, and to the scholars of the Napoleonic Expedition as La Tombe de la Metempsychose. It was cleared of debris by George Daressy in 1888.
The creation of Ramesses VI’s tomb, however, protected Tutankhamun’s own intact tomb from grave robbers since debris from its formation was dumped over the tomb entrance to the boy king’s tomb.
Tomb of Ay
Ay ruled immediately after Tutankhamun (for whom he was vizier) and for a brief period of four years, being succeeded by Horemheb. It appears that one of Horemheb’s undertakings as pharaoh was to eliminate all references to his immediate predecessors, especially Ay, from the historical record. Horemheb desecrated Ay’s burial and had most of Ay’s royal cartouches in his WV23 tomb wall paintings erased while his sarcophagus was smashed into numerous fragments. However, the sarcophagus lid was discovered in 1972 by Otto Schaden, the US Egyptologist who opened tomb KV63 in the Valley of the Kings in 2006. It still preserved Ay’s cartouche. The sarcophagus had been buried under debris in this king’s tomb. Horemheb also usurped Ay’s mortuary temple at Medinet Habu for his own use.
The absence of foundation deposits does not make it possible to know, with certainty, for whom it was originally dug: Amenophis IV, Smenkhare or Tutankhamun? The hypothesis most commonly accepted is that it was destined for Tutankhamun but that, being far from being finished at the time of the sudden death of the young king, he was placed in a non-royal tomb in the main branch of the Valley of the Kings. One possibility is that one of the incomplete tombs, such as KV24 or WV 25 close by, was initially planned for him. However, be that as it may, the final situation is that Tutankhamun was buried in tomb KV62 and Ay in the WV23. This one was the last tomb used in the Western Valley.
You may have to work a bit harder to get someone to take you to, or to find, this tomb, which is some ways from others in the Valley of the Kings.
Tomb of Queen Nefertari
Considered one of the most magnificent tombs in Egypt, this tomb of the favourite and Great Royal Wife of Ramesses II is exquisitely decorated with scenes depicting the ritual journey of the soul to the underworld. The tomb of Nefertari, QV66, is one of the largest in the Valley of the Queens. The tomb was robbed in antiquity. In 1904 it was rediscovered and excavated by Ernesto Schiaparelli. Several items from the tomb, including parts of gold bracelets, shabti figures and a small piece of an earring or pendant are now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Additional shabti figures are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The polychrome walls have been restored and show brilliant colour. However, Egyptian authorities have decided to severely restrict public access to the tomb in order to preserve the delicate paintings found within. Consider yourself lucky if you ever get to visit this site.
Tombs of Roy and Shuroy
The ancient Egyptian Shuroy (Shu Roy) lived during the 20th Dynasty. He was buried in a tomb (TT13) in the necropolis of Dra’ Abu el-Naga’ on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes. His titles included Head of Brazier-bearers of Amun.
The tombs of Roy and Shuroy are valuable to archaeologists as they depict life in the nobility and artisan classes of ancient Egypt. The Tomb of Roy is the resting place for an 18th Dynasty royal scribe who also acted as steward for the estates of Horemheb. This small tomb reveals startlingly detailed and colourful murals depicting all aspects of life at the time. Some of the notable scenes show harvest time and funeral processions. A theory espouses that the Tomb of Roy may have been prepared in advance by entrepreneurial souls and sold as a generic tomb that was later embellished with details of the person’s life.
The Tomb of Shuroy follows a standard T-shaped plan and in certain sections there are startlingly well-preserved reliefs. Some of the wall paintings feature colourful geometric designs and others show scenes from daily life and Shuroy and his wife praying. It is known that Shuroy was “Brazier Carrier of Amun” and his wife was “Chantress of Amun” during Ramesside times, but beyond that nothing concrete is known of them.
In the tomb of Roy, the decoration, conventional but extremely well achieved, is the work of a master with two small walls reserved for agricultural scenes. One notices that the decoration, in particular on one of these walls, was not completed as well on the level of the texts as of the figures.
The ceiling is treated in the fashion of the time – like an immense stretched canvas of polychromic rectangles combined with small flowers – which likely imitates the hangings with which they dressed the arched cabins of the boats.
The hieroglyphs are essentially drawn in black on white base, or on a yellow gold base, this last especially is at the level of the frieze which runs at top of the south and north walls. This sustained yellow base, identical to the conventional colour of gold, will become later the rule of Ramesside times. The columns of hieroglyphs are separated by thick vertical red lines.
The tomb of Shuroy at is open from 6.00am to 4.00pm in winter. A ticket for the Dra ‘Abu el-Naga tombs of Roy and Shuroy costing EGP 15 can be bought at the ticket office.
The Tomb of Inherkhau
The tomb of Inherkhau is in Deir el-Medina – Valley of the Artisans (also called Valley of the Workers). Inherkhau was a foreman during the reign of both Ramesses III and Ramesses IV in the 20th Dynasty. Inherkhau had the title “Foreman of the Lord of the Two Lands in the Place of Truth”. He had an important position in life, and so in death his tomb, TT 359, has extremely rich and refined decorations. It represents some of the best artistic work of the 20th Dynasty. There are decorations in an upper chamber and the burial chamber, all painted on a yellow background.
The Tomb of Menna
The Theban Tomb TT69 is located in Sheikh Abd el-Qurna, part of the Theban Necropolis. It is the burial place of the ancient Egyptian Menna, who was Scribe of the Fields of the Lord of the Two Lands, probably during the reign of Thutmose IV (Tuthmosis IV), in the 18th Dynasty.
The tomb is a typical t-shaped noble’s tomb, with a long transverse hall. In the right-hand hall there are typical scenes showing Menna and his wife receiving (or giving) offerings. At the end of this hall there is a stelae, showing two men and two women praying. The back wall of this hall shows the funerary feast. The end of the left-hand hall shows Menna and his wife offering to Osiris. The walls of this hall depict offerings to Menna and then the fields of his heavenly estate, together with the tomb owner on a chariot, being drawing by a piebald horse. The left-side of the inner corridor shows funerary scenes, with the deceased voyaging to Abydos and the weighing of his heart.
The right wall of the chapel is probably the most interesting within this tomb. The opening scenes of this wall depict a young daughter of Menna picking lotus flowers while another carries lotus flowers and the birds that they have caught. The next scene is well known, showing the natural bounty to be found in the marshes among the papyrus and lotus plants. Swarming with life, we find flocks of birds intermingled with butterflies, as well as nests with eggs. There is also a cat and rodent who appear to be after the bird’s eggs.
Menna’s wife, Henuttawy (Henut-taui), may also have been literate, as we find a scribal palette depicted under her chair in several tomb scenes. We know that Menna and Henuttawy probably had several sons, one of which followed in his profession, as well as three daughters, including one, Amenemwaskhet, who was a lady-in-waiting in the court of the pharaoh.
Menna’s tomb is often a favorite of tourists, because of the sophisticated paintings and the decorative program that is one of the most complete in the Theban necropolis. Menna’s family is prominent in these decorations, and many of the scenes are very touching.
Admission to the tomb of Menna and Nakht: LE25
Carter Dig House
On the West Bank on the roundabout that leads to the Valley of Kings there is a mud brick house which was used by Howard Carter when he was excavating there. It was built around 1910 (there are commemorative bricks with that date). It is not the house on the hill but at ground level. For many, many years there have been rumours that it was going to be made into a museum about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen but nothing seemed to happen. Finally in 2010 the house, fully restored and filled with the belongings of Howard Carter, was opened to the public. The little cinema has a 3D visual of “Carter” telling you his story and showing you a few lantern slides of the photographs taken by Harry Burton. As part of the plan for the west bank of Luxor, a tourist centre next to Howard Carter’s house is planned. This centre will not only serve as the hub for tourist activity with a nice cafeteria, ticket office, restroom facilities and gift shops, but will also serve as the offices for site management of the West Bank.
With their GPS-directed telescope “Meade” you will be able to explore the wonders of the deep space, the stars and the amazing sky of Egypt after sunset. Experience it all in the tranquil atmosphere of the desert.
This photo of Space Observers is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Three tours are on offer. Join the ‘group tour’ on Tuesday or Thursday which includes transportation from East Bank Luxor to the desert and back, tea and soft drinks, with guiding in English. Otherwise you can go in a private group (minimum 6 guests), which includes transportation from East Bank Luxor to the desert and back, tea and soft drinks, guiding in English and shisha. The final tour offers an evening of Stars and Dinner (minimum 4 guests) and includes transportation from East Bank Luxor to the desert and back, tea and soft drinks, an Oriental meal, Egyptian sweets, shisha and guiding in English.
A very special Luxor experience. The cost of a tour without dinner is around 180 Egyptian pounds.
Take a hot air balloon ride
Imagine travelling across the Nile, before sunrise, with the excitement of knowing that within an hour you will be watching the sunrise over the Valley of the Kings, from a hot air balloon. This is the only place in Egypt you can ride in a balloon and what a place to do it! Float over the monuments and so get a very clear idea of how the necropolis all fits together. You will also see farmers about their early start to the day, using both modern and traditional methods. Finally land in a field somewhere, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to land near a village where the children will greet you with shrieks and questions. Well worth the very early start.
Go for a horse ride
On the West Bank you can find stables that will enable you to take a horse, donkey or camel ride. One we know of is Nobi’s Arabian Horse Stables, who will also provide you with all your gear (and insurance). Take a ride through villages and into the desert if you choose (they can arrange longer riding and camping trips as well). You can make arrangements to get there by phoning 010 504 8558 or 095 231 0024. Check out the video at http://www.luxorstables.com/
Go for a camel ride
Some stables have horses, camels and donkeys (Nobi’s do) but there are plenty of choices for camel hire. I can only quote this wonderful review I read:
“Just about any tourist destination worth its salt in Egypt has the elderly gentleman with one tooth asking for you to take a ride on their camel named “Ferrari.”
Luxor is no exception!
This delightful shop, the only one of its kind on the West Bank, is kept by the friendly Hamdi and his family in a beautifully painted mud brick house near Medinat Habu. He began travelling around Egypt and realised that making things was one of the few things poor people could do to earn money, so he decided to set up shop to encourage and help them, the women in particular. Hamdi buys almost everything people make, telling them what sells well, suggesting ways of improving their goods; above all he loves the people’s creativity. The shop has the beautiful pottery from the Western Oases, Siwan embroideries, amazing appliqué bags and lots of other crafts that can be found almost nowhere else in Egypt. http://www.caravanserailuxor.com/
Gurna Village and Qurna Discovery
These buildings will be devoted to explaining the history of life on the hillside in the last millennia. The zawiya (a family meeting, ceremonial and religious building) houses the permanent collection of the early-19th-century British artist Robert Hay’s drawings of Gurna. These finely detailed works depict the ancient mud brick structures and a way of life that are now lost, plus the famous tomb houses. The adjoining Daramalli house will be used to exhibit household objects and agricultural implements to show how Gurnawi families lived and worked. Historic photos will show the village and its residents as recorded from the 1850s to the 1950s. Entry to Qurna Discovery is free, but donations are much needed to complete the exhibits and to provide for the guards.
As we’ve not been there this review is taken from: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/egypt/nile-valley/luxor/sights/other/qurna-discovery#ixzz1op5bbX6a
Buy some alabaster
There are quite a few alabaster “factories” on the West Bank and it’s a very touristy thing to do but some of the pieces are lovely and it might be a souvenir you’d like to take home. They will usually show you briefly how the alabaster is worked but mostly you’re in for a shopping experience.
Go bird watching
Hire a felucca, tell the captain what you want and get them go to over to the west bank and sail quietly near the reeds – you’ll be amazed at what you might see. A walk along the West Bank will most likely also yield lots of bird watching and photography opportunities.
Luxor is a wonderful place for birdwatching. The variety of habitats includes wetland, arid desert, dense vegetation, gardens and built up areas. Birds of prey seem equally at home on the tall aerials of Television Street and in the desert!
The ‘U’ shaped bird hovering above the Nile River will be a kingfisher – Egypt is home to the only hovering kingfisher! Exotic species range from sunbirds – tiny nectar-feeders – to large, ungainly hoopoes and ibis. House sparrows and hooded crows are everywhere.
Anywhere you go around the Luxor area you’re likely to see interesting birds – but glossy ibis are most likely to be seen as a fly-past overhead, so look up and keep your eyes peeled! The archaeological sites are good places for spotting bee eaters, hoopoe, brown necked ravens, rock martins, various swifts, birds of prey and many other interesting birds. Just head for the perimeter, away from the crowds.
Go for a donkey ride
From the West Bank you can hire a donkey to take you the approximately 7km to the Valley of the Kings. I have had one set of friends tell me this was the best thing they did in Egypt but I have also read an hilarious review by some UK tourists about a donkey who simply didn’t want to play the game. I understand it takes up to an hour for the ride and if you’re not used to riding you might be a bit sore when it’s all over. I’m sure there’s also a weight limit.