Egypt Day 5 by Maia Coen

Getting up at 6:30 in the morning every day makes me wonder why I’m even here and not at home getting up for school.  Then I look outside and remember oh yeah I’m in Egypt that’s why.  We checked out of our Luxor hotel and loaded the bus with our suitcases.  On we went to see the tombs on the western bank of the Nile. IMG_9738To avoid tourist crowds we opted to go to the Valley of the Queens today instead of the more popular Valley of the Kings.  It was a success; we were the only ones there.  The mountain containing the tombs was a yellowish brown color; the color of Egypt.  As we walked up the dusty gravel path the hot desert sun beat down on us.  The walls of the tomb were carved and painted just like in the textbooks.  The walls told stories of a boy being introduced into the afterlife by the gods.  There were guardians holding knifes to keep the boy safe when the gods were not there.  The colors were still so vivid it was hard to believe that these works dated back to ancient times.

IMG_9731We went on to see three more tombs before lunch.  The next two were harder to access.  Stairs descended into the rock and the ceilings connected with many a unfortunate head.  Towards the bottom the stairs sloped and I found myself going unwillingly faster.  At the end the entrance to the room was small and square and I had to bend my body even more to fit through. It was hot inside due to so many people in such a small place but it was worth it.  The walls were just as beautiful as the first tomb. Our last stop of the afternoon was yes, another tomb.  This one was different, it was unfinished and it was not too far underground.  It was easy to enter and had a different feel than the others.  The pigment from the walls was gone from this tomb and all that was left were the outlines of the carvings.

IMG_9885Now it was time to check in to our Nile river cruise.  We hopped off the bus and walked across a creaky metal walkway on to a cruise ship.  But this was not our ship.  Before reaching ours we had to walk across not one, not two, but four ships moored side by side (at least two of which seemed to have been decommissioned or abandoned).  Being here and seeing the way the lack of tourism has damaged the country is heartbreaking.  Everything here is so wonderful and yet so many westerners are too afraid to come.

Entrance pylonOnce settled in our cabins and sufficiently fed we headed out again to see Karnak temple.  So far on our trip many of the places we have visited have been very empty with hardly any other tourists and absolutely no Americans.  Karnak temple was by far the busiest sight we’ve seen, and I understand why.  Even before you enter the temple the outside is magnificent.  Avenue of the sphinxesIt is the largest temple complex in Egypt and second largest in the world.  The walls towered over us rising at least 120 feet high.  The layered bricks sat unevenly and beautifully creating the strong wall.  Small rams head sphinxes lined the pathway to the temple.  Inside the outer wall there are more walls of similar grandeur.  Statues of pharaohs stood erected alongside the broken pillars.

IMG_9751Inside the second wall one enters the famous hypostyle hall, like a forest of monstrous pillars.  They surrounded me like a grove off sequoias - tall, wide, and impressive.  The pillars are covered in hieroglyphs and each tells a different story.  They take up 50,000 square feet and I was in awe looking up at these magnificent structures.  Imagine what it must have felt like to walk between these pillars.  I felt small but I also felt enthused, and engaged, and absolutely blown away.

After the temple we were loaded onto horse carriages and rolled through the city back to the bus.  The bus took us back to the boat and I was more than happy to return to a nice hot meal and a comfortable bed.