Sunday, May 07, 2006

Luxor, Luxor, and More Luxor

I everyone. I hope all is well with you.

Kristin wasn't kidding on Thursday night when she said I was going to have to get up early on Friday. We had to be downstairs and ready for the bus at 6:00AM (that's REALLY early!).

I wasn't so sure I wanted to get up so early but Kristin did tell me that if I was good I might get to see King Tut's tomb. So, I decided to get up early. Now I am REALLY glad I did.

First, I had to make sure to wear my hat and put on lots of sunscreen. I thought this was strange because it was still dark outside. But, Kristin told me that I would need the sunscreen once the sun came up so I put it on. She also told me to bring plenty of water because it was going to be VERY hot outside later in the day.

We left the hotel just after 6:00AM and walked to a boat dock for a ride on something called a "ferry boat." Kristin says a "ferry boat" is one that moves people from one side of the river to the other side. I had no idea! On Friday we crossed the Nile River. Here you can see me on the ferry boat with Kristin.

Kristin told me that the two sides of the river are very important in Egyptian history. Luxor was once called "Thebes" and the people who lived here thought the sun was VERY important. Did you know that the sun rises each day in the eastern sky and sets each day in the western sky? I had no idea! But this was important when the area around Luxor was first built thousands of years ago. Most the the homes, buildings, and temples were built on the east side of the river because that's the side the sun rises on. Here you can see the sun rising on the east side of the river (or East Bank).

The tombs for ancient Kings and Queens (like King Tut) were built on the west side of the river. Kristin says the rising sun was viewed by the ancient Egyptians as a celebration of life and the setting sun was viewed as a sign of death.

It sure doesn't look gloomy over there does it? There were hot air balloons in the sky over the hills across the river. So, I'm not sure I really understand this "East - West" thing but Kristin did point out that our hotel (as is most of Luxor) was on the east side of the river. Very strange!

Once we reached the "west" side (or West Bank) of the river, we walked to a bus that was going to take us on a tour. Along the way I walked right past some camels. I have decided I really like camels. Here you can see me sitting in the bus watching the camels.

Our first stop of the day was a place called the Colossi of Memnon. These are two TALL statues. Our guide for the day, Mr. Wazery, works for Mr. Hawass and knows all about the temples and tombs in Luxor. He told us that these giant statues and the surrounding area were damaged in a big earthquake over 2000 years ago. WOW! You can see the large cracks in the statue Kristin and I are standing in front of.

It's hard to see me in this photo, isn't it? Kristin is holding me but we look very small next to the statue.

Our next stop of the day was a place called "The Valley of the Kings." This is where tombs of many ancient Egyptian Kings have been found hidden under ground. Guess what? Kristin says this is where King Tut's tomb is located!

I thought the tombs here would look like the pyramids I saw in Cairo. But I didn't see any pyramids. Instead I was surrounded by hills. I wasn't so sure this was where King Tut's tomb was located because it just looked like a bunch of rocks to me. But as we got closer to the main gate, I could see several arrows pointing toward large openings in the side of the hill.

Mr. Wazery says a total of 63 separate tombs have been found in this area. The most recent discovery was only a few months ago and Mr. Wazery told us that workers are still digging out the area of the new discovery. Here you can see the place where workers are digging at the new discovery site.

I wasn't as excited as Mr. Wazery was about the new discovery. All I cared about was tomb number 62. Can you guess which one that is? If you haven't already figured it out, here's a hint!

I was SO excited to finally be standing at the door of the tomb. Then Mr. Wazery surprised me by taking the entire group INSIDE the tomb! Can you believe it? It was SO cool. We had to walk down a very narrow and steep passage way. Soon we were underground in a small room (or chamber as Mr. Wazery called it). This is where King Tut is located. The room is dark and the ceiling is low but there are just enough lights that you can see colorful paintings on the walls surrounding King Tut. Here you can see some of the paintings on the wall (note...Kristin could not use her flash inside the tomb so the pictures may look a bit dark).

King Tut himself was in one of those mummy shaped coffins I saw in the Cairo Museum. And that box was located in a large rectangular box Mr Wazery called a "sarcophagus." Inside that was King Tut's coffin (and inside that is his mummy!). Here you can see me with King Tut's sarcophagus and coffin behind me!

How AWESOME is that photo?!

While we were inside I noticed that Kristin's group was the only group in the tomb. Kristin later told me that Mr. Hawass gave Kristin's group very special permission. The tomb was closed to other people while our group was inside. It turns out Mr. Hawass allowed this so our group could take photos. Kristin says cameras are usually NOT allowed inside King Tut's tomb.

WOW! That means my photo in the tomb is really special! Kristin says I should thank Mr. Hawass for giving her group special permission. THANKS MR HAWASS!!!

Well I had seen everything I wanted to see but Kristin said we were going to visit even more interesting sites. I'm not sure anything could be better than seeing King Tut's tomb but I was still interested to see what Mr. Wazery was going to show us next.

So we got on the bus and and drove a few minutes to a place called "The Temple of Hatshepsut." It is a really large temple that was carved out of the side of a hill.

I was too busy looking at the temple when Mr. Wazery explained why the temple was built. All I know is that it is really, really neat. I guess Kristin was right, there are other cool things in Luxor besides King Tut's tomb (but don't tell her I said that!). Here you can see part of the temple behind me and Kristin.

I'm not sure if you noticed but the temple has three different levels. Kristin and her group wanted to go all the way to the top. So we had to walk up ALL of the stairs you can see in the photo. Whew! It was hard to walk up all of those stairs. Now I know why Kristin said I needed a hat and a bottle of water. I was hot, tired and thirsty after walking up the stairs! But it was worth it. Very large statues are located at the top of the stairs. Man...the ancient Egyptians sure liked big statues, didn't they?

Kristin took a few more photos and then walked all the way DOWN the stairs and back to the bus. I think Kristin knew I was tired because she put me in her purse so I didn't have to walk down the stairs.

I am SO glad our bus had air conditioning. The cold air felt very good. Kristin later told me it was more than 100-degrees outside the day we visited Luxor. WOW...that is SUPER HOT!

After we left the Temple of Hatshepsut, our bus drove us back to the place where we got off the ferry boat early in the morning. Our next stop was on the OTHER side of the Nile we had to take another ferry boat ride so we could get on a bus waiting for Kristin's group on the other side.

The next stop was a place known today as "Karnak Temple." It is another HUGE temple complex near our hotel.

Wow...I didn't think I could see so many cool things in one day! Karnak is even LARGER than the Temple of Hatsheput. There are more than 154 columns in one section of the temple. And, can you believe part of the temple had a roof in ancient times?! It must have taken a very long time to build all of these great monuments.

While walking around with Kristin and her group, I noticed two of the many columns. They have a pointed top. I think they look very similar to the Washington Monument I saw in Washington, DC. Kristin agreed they look similar to the Washington Monument but Mr. Wazery told us these columns are known as "obelisks."

Throughout the day I noticed a number of drawings and symbols have been painted and/or carved on the walls of the tombs and temples. Kristin says these symbols are called "hieroglyphics." Mr. Wazery told us hieroglyphic images are like our modern day alphabet. Each symbol represents a letter or word. When put together, the symbols told a story. I think this is similar to the way pictures and drawings in my books at home tell me about a story even when there are no words on the paper.

Here is an example of some of the hieroglyphics at Karnak (although I don't know what it says).

Mr. Wazery also said some of the symbols are actually ancient Egyptian numbers. Here is an example from Karnak.

I think math is pretty tough already....I can't imagine having to try and figure out these numbers since I don't know what they really are!

By the time we saw the "numbers" on the wall, I was getting very tired. It was VERY hot in the sun. Kristin and I kept applying sunscreen so we wouldn't get sunburn and Kristin made sure we had plenty of water. I don't know how workers could have built these giant temples in this heat!

Here I am with Kristin standing outside the entrance to Karnak.

As we walked out of Karnak, I thought the little shops nearby looked familiar. Kristin agreed and then told me she is pretty sure that a photo of the little shops near Karnak was part of the collection of photos I saw with her and Amy in New York and Detroit. Kristin wanted me to post the photo so Amy could see it. Here it is.

We returned to the hotel after visiting Karnak to get a cold drink and rest for a bit. Later in the afternoon (when it was slightly cooler), Kristin and many of her journalist friends went on another boat ride. But this wasn't like the ferry rides I took earlier in the day. Instead, the boat we were riding in was called a "felucca." It looks like a sail boat. Here is one sitting along the river bank (without it's sail up).

A very nice man used a pole to help push us up one side of the river and when we turned around the wind pushed the boat back down the river.

This boat ride was much longer and slower than the ferry ride. But I REALLY liked it because I could almost TOUCH the Nile River from my seat. I could also see young men fishing in the river with nets very close to our boat.

Here you can see me and Kristin on the felucca boat. See how close I am to the water?!! Don't worry...Kristin held me on tight so I wouldn't blow away.

After the felucca ride, Kristin had dinner with some of her friends and then we boarded the bus (with ALL of our luggage) and headed to the Luxor Museum. This museum is much smaller and newer than the Cairo Museum. It reminds me of the Stanley Gallery at the Muscatine Art Center.

There are many neat things from the area temples and tombs in the Luxor Museum including a few mummies. But, I must admit that I feel asleep half way through the tour.

Whew! I was REALLY tired from our adventures in Luxor during the day!

I didn't wake up until our plane landed back in Cairo (which was VERY late Friday night).

I don't care if I don't get to see anything else while I am in Egypt. I have already learned SO much. Until next time......