Colossi of Memnon
Temple of Amun
Hatshepsut's Temple
Sound & Light Show


New kingdom

18th Dynasty

Amenemhet III
Thutmose III


old winter palace


tourist police




tons of photos


west bank

February 13, 2003:

Breakfast in La Corniche with fresh waffles. A french couple asked for tea and the waiter -- dressed formally, even for breakfast service) pointed to the pot sitting between them. I've never seen a man blush so thoroughly. The level of formality at the Old Winter Palace is very high -- very...well, British. To be expected, I guess, but you feel as if you should be overly formal, too, which is not something I do well on vacation. Excellent service from everyone, very elegant.

Met our guide, Jimmy (Gammel, actually, but he prefers Jimmy) and the local tour manager, for our time today. Jimmy is very interesting, and is obliviously enthusiastic about his work. Very, very polite, to the point of being a little prudish -- "There are statues of the god Amun who is if-you-don't-mind-erect" and actually thanked us for listening. He was used to large groups who needed short descriptions and more "management" than just the two of us. I'm glad that he felt it was a nice change of pace.

We stopped briefly at the Colossi of Memnon (pronounced, apparently COL-oh-sigh). These things are huge. If they fronted a temple, as it is believed they did, the temple must have been acres and acres inside the walls. A german group is excavating the possible temple there (Amenemhet III). There is a lot of greek graffiti carved into the statues. I had seen pictures of them before, but I never had a sense of just how large they really are. They are very, very damaged, however. I'm surprised they still remain standing.

Woman Pharaoh
Our next stop was Hatshepsut's temple, Deir el-Bahari It was the site of the 1997 massacre and the obvious security is a bit daunting. Lots of guards, lots of pillboxes, all the busses are stopped a kilometer from the site. There are actually a number of temples here, but only Hatshepsut's is open and still being investigated by Polish archeologists. We walked down the long road to the tiered courtyards. The gatehouse is now far from the temple itself, to avoid clumps of people that might be attractive to terrorists.

Our guide told us that Hatshepsut is the only woman pharaoh -- I've since learned that is not quite true, but she is the only one who took the trapping of a man and ruled entirely alone. The word Pharaoh means "white house" and describes the location and organization of the temple, as well as the role of king. Hatshepsut made up a story (profusely illustrated here at the temple) that she is the divine daughter of Amun in order to legitimize her rule. Most of her representations in the temple are completely defaced by Thutmose III when he took the throne.

With a little finagling by Jimmy, we were able to see the newly restored wing that contains the story of Hatshepsut bringing her huge obelisks to Karnak in Luxor from the quarries in Aswan. The colors are glorious.

Statues of Hatshepsut, which have been somewhat restored and line the terraces of the temple, are wide-eyed, almost asian looking, and quite beautiful. Jimmy says that Nefertari and Cleopatra are not quite so beautiful as the statues of Hatshepsut.

We were continually accosted in the souk and finally figured out the way to get the best price on things -- simply keep saying NO politely and never take anything that is handed to you. We went from 100 LE to 4 LE for some statues. We refused, although we later wishes that we had taken them. It's getting easier, but we're still uncomfortable haggling. Everyone is very upbeat and cheerful about it, though. No one is that pushy or aggressive, although we noticed it here more than in some of the other sites we've been. Probably because there were more people here.

An Afternoon Off
We cleaned up and headed to a late lunch at the Marhaba (Hello!) Restaurant. Very good kebab. It's close to the hotel, but our escort was going to wait to walk us back to the hotel after lunch (but not join us!). We said there was no need -- we could walk 1 block on our own. They (the office manager, Mustafa, was there, too) were still there and checked on us when we were done. Very nervous to leave us alone, which was kind of funny. They shadowed us back to the hotel, we think. I can only wonder if the "overly protective-buffer" treatment is common for tours, or if they did it because we were alone.

Napped a bit. Mark bought a shirt and I a wool scarf /throw for a total of $50. Amazing. At 6 we headed off to the Sound an Light show at Karnak.

Pretty cheesy, but Karnak is truly stunning all it up and the tourist police guy got us to the front of every line and told us when to take the best pictures. We tipped him well and thanked him profusely. It really was nice of him and kept us out of the crowd.

No dinner. We ate too much at lunch, so we watched a Bond movie and crashed I'm not surprised, usually bout half-way through a vacation, we have a few days where we fall asleep during dinner.

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