Sunday, March 07, 2010

Hatshepsut Temple

We drive towards Hatshepsut Temple, through baron and crumbling sandstone mountains, arriving at our destination at 11:00 A.M. The sun is blinding and the air hazy with dust and heat. Hatshepsut sits 3/4 mile away, an impressive three level temple, built into the mountains adjacent to the Valley of the Kings. The immense parking lot is situated 3/4 mile below the temple and dozens of tour busses are spitting out tourists. Achmed, our guide, gathers his charges together and herds us towards a line of waiting trolleys. We are trolled up the hill, deposited into another waiting area and eventually worm our way through a ticket kiosk and a security check point and into the temple grounds. I am having doubts about my decision to travel to Egypt with this group. Hatshepsut itself is impressive and I try to pay attention to our guide as he explains the history of this particular site. Interestingly enough, Hatshepsut reigned as King for 21 years, but was female. At the time she took the throne, there was not a suitable male heir, and she dressed as a man, wore a beard and reigned strong for 21 years until turning power over to a nephew, who had come of age. The hieroglyphics and architecture is fascinating and I enjoy taking photos, but there are far too many tourists interfering with my compositions.

It is 1:00 P.M. before we are back on the bus, and begin our drive to the Valley of the Kings. Tutankhamum has just been returned to his tomb, after vacationing at the Cairo museum, where he was examined and it was determined that the young king had died of malaria. This site is not as crowded as the Hatshepsut Temple and I am anxious to see Tutankhamum tomb. It is a short hike up a dusty canyon to his tomb and our guide points to the ridge crest above. There is a formation that resembles a reclining pharaoh, hands crossed upon his chest. He tells us that the tomb site was chosen because of this formation, and I question him? I suggest that in 3500 years, erosion may have changed the topography. The adjoining gullies and washes are filled with crumbling sandstone boulders and although the image of a pharaoh can be imagined now, I doubt if this was the reason that the sight was chosen. So, Daddy...true or false? (My father has since answered my question. Apparently, 3500 years is nothing in geological time, making it quite possible that the reclining pharaoh was indeed discernible in the rocks some 3500 years ago.)

We descend into the tomb, and the chambers seem surprisingly small. The painting above the sarcophagus is a grid of 12 brightly painted baboons. The hieroglyphics and paintings are rich with gold paint and the famous sarcophagus, encrusted with lapis, enamel and gold, is entombed in a glass box. At the opposite side of the chamber, Tutankhamun, sleeps, under a cream cloth, his blackened mummified head and shrunken feet, protruding from the cloth. Remarkable.

Sixty two tombs have been discovered in the Valley of the Kings and we have just 30 minutes left at this location. Stephanie, Sandy and I hurry to visit the Tomb of Ramses VI. The corridor leading to the burial chamber and the vaulted ceiling of this large tomb are decorated with ornate hieroglyphics, symbolic accounts of the journey into the underworld. With a few minutes remaining we trudge up the dirt road to one more tomb, equally ornate and impressive with it's splendid hieroglyphics and paintings.

1 comment:

Parag said...

Egypt Hatshepsut's Temple is the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Located on the West Bank in Luxor, this spectacular temple was built by Queen Hatshepsut's architect, Senenmut, in honour of the only woman ever to reign over Egypt as Pharaoh.