Luxor's West Bank and the Valley of the Kings

| Don't miss part 2 of our visit to Luxor here. | 

As we continued to sail down (or rather, up) the Nile toward Luxor, we were supposed to stop at the Temple of Edfu but couldn't because they were doing restoration work on the lock and we had only a small window to get through it. So, instead we stopped to take a look at the Temple of Esna and did the full temple tour at Habu once we arrived in Luxor.

The Temple of Esna is interesting because it has only been partially recovered. It is right in the middle of the city, but they can't kick the people out who  have been living there so they have to wait until their houses fall into disrepair. This could take a loooooong time in Egypt, where most people seem to live in houses that I would already consider in bad need of some TLC. 

Typical Egyptian street, this one leading to the Temple of Esna. 

Typical Egyptian street, this one leading to the Temple of Esna. 

Throwing this picture in because Layne thought this kid with the dead bird was hilarious. He followed us up and down the street, simply as interested in the unfamiliar (us) as we were in him and his city.

Throwing this picture in because Layne thought this kid with the dead bird was hilarious. He followed us up and down the street, simply as interested in the unfamiliar (us) as we were in him and his city.

After Esna, the Nile treated us to another gorgeous sunset as we docked in Luxor. 

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The next morning, we got up for a full day ready to explore the West Bank! First up was the Valley of the Kings. The absolute worst thing about the Valley of the Kings is that they do not allow pictures! In fact, they make you check your camera and you're not even allowed to bring it  into the valley for use outside of the tombs! If I were to describe it to you... it's basically all blinding white limestone, carved into this tiny valley with these random offshoots, which turn out to be the tombs that were built over the course of nearly 500 years.  There are over 60 known tombs, and they're still discovering more. Your ticket gets you access to 3 tombs, and which tombs are open to you is rotated so that wear and tear remains equal. The basic set up is you walk down into the tomb, down, and down, and down, alternating from stairs into a room then stairs and maybe another room of two before you reach the final room with the sarcophagus. The first rooms you pass through are called "false tombs." Meant to deter tomb raiders, they were originally sealed and left empty to trick robbers into believing that someone had beat them to the punch. 

I'll spare you the details of which exact tombs we visited since I don't have pictures but I will say - WOW. The Valley of the Kings may have been my favorite stop of the entire trip. You would not even believe the colors!!! They made the paints by mixing the raw pigments with egg whites, which gave the paintings a shiny finish. 

The one illegal photo Layne was able to sneak on his iPhone by holding it just out of his pocket. Can you believe how vibrant these colors are thousands of years later?!

The one illegal photo Layne was able to sneak on his iPhone by holding it just out of his pocket. Can you believe how vibrant these colors are thousands of years later?!

After the Valley of the Kings, we headed over to Hatshepsut Temple.

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This is truly a stunning piece of architecture made for the world's first truly powerful woman. The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut stands apart from all other remaining temples and buildings left over from ancient times. 

Obligatory tourist photo 

Obligatory tourist photo 

Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for at least 22 years and is widely renowned as one of the most successful pharaohs. Despite her gender, she was able to seriously take care of business, expanding trade routes and constructing buildings the likes of which had never been seen before. She was the genius behind the Unfinished Obelisk, what would have been the largest obelisk in Ancient Egypt. Her endeavors were so prolific that almost every major museum in the world has a sculpture originally commissioned by Hatshepsut - The Met in New York even has the "Hatshepsut Room!" 

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Stunning hieroglyphs here. 

Stunning hieroglyphs here. 

The Queen herself! She often had herself depicted as a man, better for demonstrating her power. The false beard is part of the canon of Egyptian Art. In this case, the rounded end means that Hatshepsut was dead at the time this sculpture was created. 

The Queen herself! She often had herself depicted as a man, better for demonstrating her power. The false beard is part of the canon of Egyptian Art. In this case, the rounded end means that Hatshepsut was dead at the time this sculpture was created. 

We finished out the day by visiting the Colossi of Memnon. Two statues reaching 60 feet in the air stand side-by-side as they have for thousands of years, too heavy to be transported up the Nile. Say what you want about Ancient Egyptians, but you can never accuse them of thinking too small!

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