Super Tourist Egypt Day

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Flag of Egypt  , Nile River Valley,
Thursday, March 31, 2011

We slept well until our alarm clock that we bought in Japan (we lost the one we took within the first few days) went off at 6:30am.  This morning we had a tour set up by the hotel to the east bank of Luxor, and in order to avoid some of the heat we had to get an early start.  The forcast was for high 90's today. A nice air conditioned bus picked us up right from the guesthouse.  Already we like Luxor quite a bit more than Cairo.  There isn't anybody else at our hotel, so it was only the two of us on the tour.  Our guide was very knowledgeable about everything, and took us to many different places so we were glad that we set this up.  Normally we like to do things on our own, but without a guide we wouldn't have seen a quarter of what we saw, and then we probably wouldn't have know what we were looking at anyway. Our first stop was the Valley of the Kings which is a big valley (obviously) right in the middle of the desert.  There are 63 tombs of pharoah's in the valley, including King Tut's tomb.  Most of the tombs were closed, but we were able to go into 3 of them.  Up till now we had only seen the pyramids and a couple of small tombs, which were awesome, but not very ornate.  The first tomb we went deep into the mountain and was lined from the opening to the coffin with brightly painted heiroglyphics carved into the walls.  I think we expected more ruins, but these tombs were very well intact and restored. I guess with all of our traveling we're still surprised when we see stuff in person like that.  The wall carving were all of the ones that you are used to seeing in books and the ceiling was painted blue with hundreds of white stars.  It was completely uncomparable to anything we have seen yet. The next 2 tombs were similar to the first, but with pictures displaying different ancient egyptian gods and kings.  The last tomb was the largest and went almost a quarter mile into the mountian with huge vaulted ceilings and a bridge going over a big pit to catch grave robbers.  There are many more tourist here in Luxor and at all of these sites than anywhere we have been to so far.  It still isn't busy and we haven't had to wait for anything, but it is kind of nice to have some other people that are there for the same reason as us.  I guess a few months ago there would have been huge lines to go into the tombs and then inside they would be packed with people.  It was a good happy medium. After the Valley of the Kings, we drove to the Temple of Hatshepsut who was a women pharaoh but would dress up like a guy since girls aren't supposed to be pharaohs.  Her temple is very different than the other ones.  It is a large 3 tiered buiding with huge columns that has been completely restored to what they think it looked like.  It seemed to sit right in the side of the mountain.  There were a bunch of local kids there on field trips that would race the trolley car as we went by. They would yell "Hello! What is your name?" at us, practicing their English. Next we went to the Valley of Nobles and went in a few of those tombs. Since they weren't kings, the tombs were for the whole family, which they often had sculptures of.  Local people used to live in these tombs until the government kicked them out a while ago, but there was still a guy living there that would gather rocks from the mountain and carve them out with chisels the same way the ancients did. Like I said, we went to a lot of places today, so after that we went to the Valley of the Workers, which is where the artists that worked in the tombs lived.  Their families would live in the same houses for generations cut off from the outside world, and would pass down the tricks of carving from father to son.  You could still see the ruins of the city pretty well and there were a couple of tombs to go into too, of course.  Our last big stop on the tour was at the temple of Deir al-Medina.  This is a temple and not a tomb (which I am slowley starting to get the hang of what the difference is between temples, tombs, shrines, etc.) and was much larger than anything we'd seen so far.  It had huge columns and statues.  Pretty cool. One the way back we stopped quickly at the Colosis of Memnon, which are two huge statues of 2 seated pharoahs pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  I guess there used to be a crack in one and every morning it used to whistle.  Somewhere along the like somebody 'fixed' the cracks and now it's just a statue again.  Big though. Finally we got back to the guesthouse around 3:00.  It had been a pretty long day, but we had a lot of stuff to do so we relaxed for an hour or so and walked towards the center part of the city, which took about 15 minutes.  Along the way a kid pulling a cart with a donkey offered us a ride on the back.  I don't know why, but we said no and hiked it.  We found the local bazaar and a coffee shop and stopped for a Turkish coffee.  I'm not sure how they make the stuff, but it ends up being sort of like a really thick espresso, with lots of caffiene.  Good stuff, but it comes in really tiny little cups. We spent to rest of the afternoon at the Temple of Luxor, which was awesome.  It is a huge place (not as big as Karnak where we are going Friday I guess though) with huge statues.  There is a street of sphinxes that has a couple hundred sphinxes lining the road.  There is also a big obelisk there at the gate.  There used to be 2 obelisks, but the other is in park Paris near the Louvre which we saw a few years back, so now we've seen both of them.  The guy at the ticket booth gave us the student price and split the difference with me.  Egypt. After seeing everything in the temple we hung out in the main hall, which is a huge square of big columns, for an hour or so until it go dark.  While waiting we got to watch all of the other tourists walk around.  There seemed to be people for everywhere there, and we would try to guess where they were from.  One funny thing we noticed was a group of Egyptian teenagers.  They were walking around holding hands, then in the big square they would all get together and pose for pictures with all of their hands together or in a line with their hand on the shoulder of the guy in front of them.  It is weird to see the cultural differnces here.  For some reason the whole thing reminded me of an arab Sandlot. After dark they turn the light on all of the statues, which make big shadows everywhere.  We did one more lap before heading off to find dinner. We found a restaurant right on the Nile and after eating (which seems to take a long time here) we got a horse drawn carriage to take us back to the hotel. It was a great day in that we really felt like we were in Egypt and seeing the stuff that we came here for.
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