We hired our new friend Mohammed to give us a walking tour of the hills around his home and the Valley of the Nobles. What a privilege to be able to be shown around by a “local.” We walked among tombs, homes, neighbors, baby goats and donkeys. Our first stop was the tomb of Menna. This tomb is one of literally hundreds of tombs in these hills that were used for simpler (than the kings and queens) burials for nobles, officials and people with the means to buy some real estate for the afterlife. We all enjoyed some really interesting scenes from daily life in Menna’s tomb. There are many paintings of people harvesting and threshing their wheat crop. In the midst, two young girls can be found fighting or wrestling with each other, just like Emma and Sarah Jane! We saw beautiful paintings of wildlife, especially birds, and even a butterfly. There are paintings of people making a boat trip pilgrimage to Abydos with one individual reaching over the side of the boat to scoop up a drink of water. We are impressed by the individuality of each tomb and each scene and then each person represented in each scene.
We continued on up and around the hillside from this tomb to a beautiful vista of The Temple of Hatshepsut (Deir al-Bahri). After some photos and water, we scrambled along behind and then up the hill some more, arriving at the high point in these hills and the station of the guardian of this area. This small square building is like a mini mosque/mausoleum, but I’m sure that’s not the best way to describe it. It felt like a peaceful place of meditation, and you do have to remove your shoes before entering. In the center of the room there was a coffin that contained the body of the one time sheik of this area.
After some fun with the guardian of this area and his prayer beads (he enjoyed having all the kids wear them), we went on, with him, to scramble down past some closed tombs and gaping holes in the ground and then back up to the tomb of Senmut. Senmut was Hatshepsut’s architect, close friend and very likely, her lover. There is an interesting statue here of Senmut, Hatshepsut and “their” daughter. This could make for some great soap opera drama if played out.
We said good-bye to the guardian and then hoofed it back up over his mountaintop and down the backside. It felt like we were walking through a moonscape. It’s not only the geology of the area; we were the only people to be seen. And it was so quiet! We came down into the next valley and climbed a short way up the opposite side to a cleft in the next mountain. This is where the famous cache of royal mummies was found in 1881. These mummies had been moved out of their tombs in the 21st dynasty for fear of them being robbed. By this time in Egypt’s history, the priests knew that almost no tomb was robber-proof. This was an effort to protect the mummies of some of Egypt’s most well known pharaohs, including Ramses the Great and Tuthmosis I, II, and III. We were able to stand there and gaze down the 30+meter shaft (when we weren’t panicking over Emma’s attempts to see) and marvel at what it must have been like to have made this find.
As we headed back down to the valley, Mohammed pointed out several fossils to us. He found several clam fossils that were intact. We all had a great time looking for fossils and “color rocks” because now we were in the “Valley of the Colors.” This is believed to be the place where the ancient Egyptians came to get the pigments needed for their beautiful paintings on tomb and temple walls. The rocks here do not look colorful at first glance. But, if you stop and break one open, you may find a dark red or orange, purplish or even green or yellow crumbly center. We all had a great time doing some face and body painting simply by rubbing the powder onto our skin.
We followed this valley along toward Deir al-Medina (ruins of the workmen’s village) and then back around the hillside to Mohammed’s home. When it was all said and done, we had made a great loop around and behind the hills of Old Gurna and Mohammed’s home. His wife was just taking bread out of their earthen oven as we returned and so they invited us in for some fresh bread and shai. It was amazing!
When in Luxor you should hire Mohammed for a walking tour. He knows everything about the area and will take you anywhere. His phone number is 0106825726. We highly recommend his services.