Cameras aren’t allowed in the Valley of the Kings.
It’s actually quite small, at least compared to how I envisioned it. The valley is located a good ways out into the desert, but from the entrance to the rear of the valley is no more than a 10 minute walk, with tombs so close together that many of them accidentally broke through to adjoining tombs during construction. Unfortunately, most tombs are closed to visitors. We got recommendations from an employee at the gate, however, and were able to see some interesting things.
The first tomb was nothing like I expected. There were some carving/paintings at the entrance to the tombs, but the rest was rough-cut stone. In pictures and movies, tombs have smooth walls and lots of right angles, but this one was like a cave with unfinished walls and more rounded edges filling it out. Unfortunately, there’s almost no information about any of the tombs in the valley itself so I don’t know if this was by design or due to time/budget constraints, etc.
The other tombs we visited (Karol and I went with a couple we met on the drive from the Felucca to Luxor) were more in keeping with what I expected. The paintings and carvings were incredibly detailed, with all the incised hieroglyphics painted, and many of the animal hieroglyphics given faces, individuals feathers, etc. Like the valley, the tombs themselves were not as big as I had thought they would be, but to think that these were chiseled out by hand thousands of years ago and have survived in such condition until today is remarkable.
While the others waited, I paid an extra 50EGP to visit King Tut Ankh Amen’s tomb. That was actually more expensive than the 3-tomb entrance fee we paid at the front gate, but I had no reservations about the decision because, well, could I really go to the Valley of the Kings and not see King Tut’s tomb?
His tomb was the smallest and least remarkable of the three. It contained his mummy – very short, with small toes – one of the outer sarcophagi, and a tomb attendant who wanted me to give him extra money for pointing things out to me that I could see myself. Overall very underwhelming, but I’d be kicking myself in the rear back in Boston had I skipped it.
After the Valley we took a cab to Hatshepsut Temple. My understanding is that the temple was destroyed just a generation or two after it was built by an angry relative/pharaoh, and that it was reconstructed over a number of decades in modern times. (It was also the site of a massacre of 62 tourists by Islamist extremists in 1997.) The size and visual impact of the temple is remarkable. While it’s something of a shame that it’s not really original, it was very interesting to see a monument looking very similar to the way it would have at the time of construction.
After just a few hours in the sun at the Valley and Hatshepsut we were all exhausted. We caught a cab back to the public ferry and decided to check the train station for tickets back to Cairo (we were really sick of Luxor hassles by this point). The incredibly rude counter agent informed us that the trains were sold out for the next 3 days, but that we could buy tickets “outside”.
Eventually we determined that “outside” meant from a guy smoking shisha (hookah) outside the cafe across the street. As foreigners, the ticket agents at stations won’t sell you anything but sleeper (super expensive) and 1st Class (expensive) tickets on trains. After a good deal of haggling on Karol’s part, we were able to get two 2nd Class black-market tickets for less than the price of one 1st Class. We paid more than 20EGP over face value for each, but were happy to do so to get cheaper tickets on the train out that night.
We headed back to our hotel, packed our bags, and returned to the station to catch our night train to Cairo. Less than two hours after arriving in Cairo we were on an 8 hour bus to Dahab.