There’s Real Money to Be Made In Death

I took my breakfast on the rooftop of the hotel, staring up the Nile. My path doesn’t lead that way, and I often wonder about the other roads.

Yesterday afternoon I was dropped off at the hotel and the host really tried to be welcoming but I was too tired for any of it. They gave me mint tea and I promptly fell asleep, rousing myself only long enough for a dinner (also on the rooftop) and a brief walk through the area.

Behind the hotel is a street market and the touts are the worst I’ve seen – more aggressive than Marrakech or Turkey. I tried to walk toward the temple, but the carriage drivers were worse than the vendors. Eventually I settled for a large bottle of water (which had been my primary goal anyway) and an evening in my room sleeping soundly.

I told Rania this as we sped toward the bridge, and she could only confirm that my experience is to be expected. It has always been this way and is worse given the paucity of visitors since the pandemic began.

We continued our drive, talking as we went. There is only one bridge crossing the Nile here, and it was built well south of town, so a drive to the West Bank is never fast. The next nearest crossing is 45km away in Aswan, unless one counts the local ferries, which are great for individuals, but for not cars.

Whereas the East Bank is the town of Luxor and is very modern, the West Bank remains tied to its past. There are mostly farms and mud brick homes on that side of the river, with the inhabitants largely working the land using techniques that have been passed down for millennia. To do this, ideally, each farm should have one cow and one donkey, I have been informed, although this may not always be the case.

Rania explains that 85% of the production here is sugar cane. They have 2 crops per year, and it grows so fast that in the intervening months they can also grow other crops such as corn and tomatoes. There are also sizeable crops of dates and mangoes on this land.

Passing beyond this we are back in the area we were in yesterday afternoon, zooming once more past the Colossi of Memnon.

We also passed the Ramesseum, another set of spectacular ruins. We could have gone, and perhaps should have, but there is too much here to process in one trip, and definitely too much for this particular trip. Choices must be made, and ground left untrodden.

Higher in the hills, where it stands visible from town, we come to Hatshepsut’s Temple, carved from the bedrock limestone of the mountain herself.

Even in the early morning, the sun is punishingly hot here.

Hatshepsut was one of 5 female pharaohs, but wore a beard and ruled as a man. This is a sphinx bearing the image of her face. Notice the feminine features?

She ruled Egypt for 20 peaceful years, in which they established relations with the kingdom of Punt to the south. This turtle shows one of the many new animals her emissaries found when they went to visit that kingdom, which sat on the Red Sea.

Her eventual fate was unknown, but her successor (and onetime ward) Thutmose III tried to erase her name from history. All images of her were defaced, as was her name everyplace it could be found.

The temple is astounding. It was inhabited only by the priests, who used it for the 70 day process of mummifying the dead and preparing the body for the afterlife.

Honestly, the priests had quite the home. Come to think of it, that was a pretty good gig for those who could get it.

Following this we visited Habu Temple, another funerary temple. This one was built by Rameses III.

This temple is absolutely beautiful. Many of its colors are intact, and the reliefs are clearly visible.

Rania pointed to where a kitchen once stood, so that it is clear this was somebody’s home, albeit not the Pharaoh’s.

Again, this building clearly shows that somebody was making out from the death industry in Ancient Egypt.

Finally we stopped in to visit the Worker’s Tombs. The workers dug and built tombs for the pharaohs 8 days in a row before getting 2 days off. During their time off, they worked on their own tombs, as the Egyptians always felt they must be preparing for their resurrection in their next lives.

They didn’t have the money for objects that would be buried (their families needing them in this world), or the time for engraving, so these tombs are painted, and include images of things they owned.

And the workers had little time with which to work, so the tombs are small and dangerous for taller people. Basically anybody over 4 ft is at risk

But still they are beautiful

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