Thursday 15 January 2009 – Luxor, Egypt
After a sleepless night at the Emilio due to a belly dancing joint up the street which kept on keeping on until 3.30am, we headed back to the West Bank for some of its more charismatic ruins. The tomb of the priest Pabasa at Deir el-Bari, was a delight – a noble person’s mausoleum rather than a royal tomb, it depicted scenes of everyday life in Egypt, such as fishing and bee keeping. While small, it was probably still twice the floor area of my home in Hobart.
It was situated adjacent to the visitor centre at Deir el-Bari, home of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, one of Ancient Egypt’s few female pharaohs. On a clear day, the imposing colonnades of this temple had been clear from my balcony at the Mina Palace. Scenes of a famous (in her day) expedition to the Red Sea are depicted in the lower colonnade. Mike’s word for the day: Intercolumnination – the space between columns.
This temple was the site where, in 1998 (check date), a busload of Japanese tourists was gunned down by fundamentalist terrorists. Apparently by the time the massacre happened, word had gotten around the valley and also the Valley of the Kings nearby, that no good was afoot. Having killed their captives, the terrorists headed off over the cliff top path to escape; they were met by angry local villagers who were well aware that the act had just deprived them of their livelihood, and the terrorists were found having been hacked into very small pieces.
Interestingly, there is absolutely no commemoration of this awful recent history at the site; in true Egyptian government style, the authorities would prefer that no record of the event is maintained and that it simply fades from memory.
After another substantial luncheon, this time at the Ramesseum Rest House, where the proprietor gave us a parting gift of strings of very jolly red and blue beads, we headed to the Ramesseum itself, the mortuary temple of Ramses II. Its major pylon is showing signs of dreadful bowing and buckling, caused at least in part by the changing water table levels and rising salts brought about by the changed irrigation patterns since the building of the Aswan dams. Just how much longer this part of the temple will survive is unclear.
The temple contains some of the most famous depictions of Ramses II’s great military victory (or is it just good propaganda?), the battle of Kadesh, in modern day Syria. There he is on his chariot, single-handedly smiting the enemy and rendering them slaves. The great fallen colossus inspired Shelley to pen Ozymandius. Chris said on previous trips he had been required to perform a reading of it, but we had another temple to get to before closing time so we passed on this occasion.
The final temple was that of Seti I, of which little remains but bears a relationship with his temple at Abydos, which we will visit on Saturday.
Back at the hotel I changed rooms for one facing the square and miles from the belly dancing joint; it had an enclosed balcony, reducing street noise dramatically. After some further fussing and insistence, the staff even managed to make the air con work, by running downstairs and ‘switching on great wind machine!’
Dinner was at the Oasis Cafe, a charming place that actually managed to use some of the famous and omnipresent spices in its cooking; the chicken curry, while mild, was unusually tasty for Egypt. Our waiter was a jolly little chap who, in his jaunty red fez and galabaya, looked just like Morocco Mole, Danger Mouse’s sleepy sidekick.
Back to the Emilio for a good night’s sleep.