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Jasmine Dispatch

Valley of the Dead

With Halloween having passed, I'm sure you had your share of thrills! I had a spook-tacular time! There's no better way to spend a creepy holiday than in a place that's huge, desolate, and full of dead people; somewhere like the Valley of the Kings, here in Luxor, which is also know as THE VALLEY OF THE DEAD!!! OoooohhhAHH AHHH AHHHH AHHHHH!!! (Diabolical laugh)

Kavitha and I spent ten hours on a train from Cairo to Luxor. After we visited the two largest Temples there, Karnak and Luxor , we split up. She went to visit a Temple in a small city outside of Luxor called Qena, and I went to THE VALLEY OF THE DEAD!!! OoooohhhAHH AHHH AHHHH AHHHHH!!!

How's about an old Egyptian tale to 'liven' up your day
Perfect when your load gets heavy as a ton of "dead" weight
When your friends are total "zombies" and no one seems real thrilled,
They're the walkin' dead around you with lots of time to "kill"
Maybe you never feel this way but just in case you do
Keep this safe for that someday when the skeletons start chasing you
The day might come when tables turn and you find you need an escape
to the valleys of Egypt don't dare run...
you will surely find a worse fate... The Valley of the Dead

I bid farewell to Kavitha and set out on my way.
She smiled and we hugged, both wondering if we'd meet again someday.
The night was still warm, and nearing the time when the winds
    begin to grow strong.
The desert sands whipped up in the air dancing to a magical song.
They seemed entranced by the pale moonlight - and I couldn't help
    but stop and stare.
But only from afar. When caught in the middle, to open your eyes,
    I would never dare.

Click image for larger view
This pyramid-shaped rock marks the Valley of the Kings.
The sand parts beneath my feet and I sink with every step. But flying through the air it's not so soft, they're like tiny shards of glass moving full speed ahead. It's been said the sand has left men blinded, but that's something you never see for yourself. Like an old wives tale or legend that no one pays much mind to. Until the situation confronts you, for real. "It's better to be safe then sorry," that's what most reply. And it's well accepted, you're not a coward you're just seen as wise. So eyes clenched tight I pushed on until the dust and sand died down. These winds are small twisters at best and they never last for long. They are commonplace now, so I don't mumble a single groan. I hardly even noticed, instead I just hoped I'd make it home?

Click image for larger view
No creepy mummy in here -- which way did he go?
Ok, ok, maybe it wasn't that scary but I had no idea what to expect. The Valley of the Kings is a place of death - for nothing grows on its steep, scorching cliffs, and hundreds were once buried deep beneath the hard stone surface. At every turn there are tombs hidden in the cracks of the Valley. The mountain peak is naturally shaped like a pyramid, the peak of Al-Qurn (The Horn). Sounds like all of the best ingredients used to cook up a scary Halloween, right? WRONG!!! Instead, it makes for a majestic place befitting the mighty kings who once lay there in great stone sarcophagi, awaiting immortality. In Egypt, death is not scary, gory, or frightening, as a matter of fact they don't even celebrate Halloween. So the concept of ghosts and goblins, witches and warlocks are strictly for us "Yankees," commented my guide at the tombs.

Click image for larger view
The main attractions in the Valley are hieroglyphics (like these) and well-preserved tombs.
For ancient Egyptians, death was the passageway to the afterlife, and the gateway to immortality and life with the gods if you were a pharaoh. Preparation for this transition was a significant part of a pharaoh's life - thus the Valley of the Kings. Since 1495 BC this Valley on the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor was once the resting place for the mummies of the great pharaohs, their families, and those who dedicated their lives to the construction and upkeep of the awesome tombs I visited. The Gates of the King at the entrance of the valley is now guarded by two great statues,
Vocabulary Box

sarcophagi - Plural form of sarcophagus, which is the huge stone or marble coffin, used to hold other wooden coffins and the mummy of the Pharaoh or Queen.
pharaoh - a ruler of ancient Egypt
immortality - unending existence

The Colossi of Memnon, the only surviving remains from the great Temple of Amenophis III. These colossal statues rise to 18 meters and feature Amenophis III upon his throne. They have survived the vast changes of the landscape, the floodwaters of the Nile, earthquakes, and desert storms.

Click image for larger view
Don't mess with these two huge, rock-hard gatekeepers known as The Colossi of Memnon.
The Pharaohs chose The Valley of the Kings as a final resting place for their earthly bodies, and worldly wealth for very specific reasons. Their secret tombs needed to be well-hidden and this isolated canyon provided, what they thought was the ideal location. Unfortunately, even though there was only one way into the valley and the tombs were well hidden, very few escaped the vandalism of the grave robbers. All that the grave robbers didn't take has been removed by archaeologists and placed on display in The Egyptian Museum. Today all that remains are the empty tombs of great pharaohs and their queens. Some tombs have been preserved well, some have glass casing along the walls to protect the beautiful murals from the thousands of tourists that visit daily. Strict rules are enforced - fees for cameras and no flash photography.
Click image for
larger view
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it...
The flash can damage the delicate artwork. Some tombs are decorated with animals, serpents, and demons, while others depict scenes from the Book of the Gates (one of the holy books that provided the pharaohs with guidance and instruction in the afterlife).

So, although there were no ghosts and goblins hiding in the ragged cliffs of Al-Qurn (waiting to swallow me up into the afterworld) there were a few mummies with a long history and plenty of stories to tell. Stay tuned as we uncover the saga behind the hieroglyphs, the epic tales of the lives of Pharaohs and Queens, when As The Pyramid Turns continues! And be on the look out for the new episodes of Dynasty, by Kavitha - watch out Melrose Place, move over Heather Locklear...Cleopatra's back!

King Tut's Tomb

The tomb of King Tutankhamun's is the most famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The longer the reign of the pharaoh the larger and more magnificent his tomb. And Tutankhamun's tomb is neither large nor impressive. In fact, it bears all the signs of a rather hasty completion and modest burial. During his brief reign King Tut was seen to re-embrace the cult of Amun, restoring its popularity with the people. He died, young, without great battles or buildings to his credit. King Tut is a fairly recent modern-day hero, and that's because he built his tomb in a place that escaped the keen grave robbers for years.

Archaeologists believed that if, in fact, King Tut was buried in the valley, his tomb would contain little of interest. The nephew of Akhenaten, he was merely a puppet Pharaoh of the priests of Amun. What they found instead was extraordinary. The amazing contents of this rather modest tomb, built for a pretty insignificant boy-king, can only make you guess at the immense wealth that must have filled the tombs of the powerful Seti I or Ramses II.

All along, the English Egyptologist, Howard Carter, however, believed he would find the young Pharaoh buried among his ancestors with his treasures intact. He slaved for six seasons in the valley, excavating thousands and thousands of tons of sand and rubble from possible sites, until even his wealthy counter-part, Lord Carnarvon, grew tired of the obsession. With his funding about to be cut off, Carter made one last attempt at the only unexplored area that was left--a site covered by workers' huts just under the already excavated Tomb of Ramses VI.

On 4 November 1922 he uncovered steps and then a door, its seals untouched, and wired Lord Carnarvon to join him in Egypt immediately for the opening of what he believed was the completely intact Tomb of Tutankhamun. He was right!!! The discovery proved skeptics wrong, and the tomb's priceless hideaway of Pharaonic treasures, which had remained undisturbed by robbers, fulfilled Carter's dream beyond even his wildest imaginations.

Sadly, in perhaps the last great tale in the history of tomb robbing in the Valley of the Kings, evidence came to light some years later that clouded the discovery of the tomb. This suggested that prior to the tomb being officially opened in the presence of experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carter, and Carnarvon themselves broke in, stole several articles and resealed the door. Nonetheless, still inside the tomb for the opening, were three small chambers crammed with furniture, statues, chariots, musical instruments, weapons, boxes, jars and food, all of which are now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at


Monica - Sharing Food, Sharing Voices: Girls of the World Unite!
Abeja - Egyptian Life, THEN and Now
Abeja - Egyptian Life, NOW and Then
Kavitha - Stay Tuned for More Egyptian Dynasty
Monica - I'm M.A.D. about the Acropolis
Making a Difference - Just Do It...or forever hold your peace!

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