“Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what the people will say—those who shall see my monuments in years to come, and who shall speak of what I have done.”
My mind raced as I stood below ground, surrounded by intricate artwork that was painted thousands of years ago. Somewhere above me the sun shone blindingly on jagged desert peaks, but inside the tomb of Ramses IV, fluorescent lights illuminated the walls as I tried to absorb as much of the scene as I could manage.
We had already visited the tombs of Ramses III and Ramses IX at the Valley of the Kings, but Ramses IV’s was by far the most beautiful in my eyes. It had retained much of it’s original color and still held the massive, stone sarcophagus of the long-dead pharaoh.
Time slipped away as I studied the paintings that told the story of a king whose reign was tumultuous and short-lived. Ramses IV took the throne after the assassination of Ramses III. Egypt was in the midst of an economic decline, and the new king’s reign only lasted just over six years before his death in 1149 BC. He was interred at the Valley of the Kings along with other royals from the New Kingdom.
I stayed in the burial chamber until the Percussive Tours group had to move on. We made our way back to the bus and drove around a barren mountain to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut.
Hatshepsut was the second confirmed woman to rule Egypt under the title of Pharaoh, and the job was not easy for her to procure. Her family tree was complicated to put it mildly. She was the only child of her father, Thutmose I, and his primary wife. She was married to her half-brother Thutmose II and they began to rule upon their father’s death. She and her half-brother had one child, a daughter, and afterwards Hatshepsut was unable to bear more children. Before his death Thutmose II fathered a son, Thutmose III, with a secondary wife. The child Thutmose III was then named pharaoh instead of his stepmother/aunt, Hatshepsut.
Hatshepsut used her knowledge of religion to assert that the god Amun intended for her to rule Egypt, and ascended to the throne while her nephew was sent to lead the Egyptian army. She ruled for about 21 years, constructing monuments in Karnak, and building her temple, and was buried as a pharaoh in the Valley of the kings upon her death.
Visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut was yet another unreal experience. The king commissioned the temple both as a place of worship and a means of aggrandizing her own image. We had to walk down a long path and then up a couple of steep staircases to get up close and personal with the many statues of King Hatshepsut that have stared blankly across the valley for thousands of years.
Although there were a few examples of preserved paint colors throughout the temple, we were surrounded mostly by a monochromatic scene of the architecture blending into the mountain behind it.
We had free time to wander around at our own pace, and I poked around looking at various paintings and statues until we regrouped for a picture, then started our journey back to the East Bank of the Nile. On our way, we stopped for photos at the Colossi of Memnon, two massive sculptures of King Amenhotep III.
Then it was time to return to the Mercure Luxor Karnak for another afternoon of free time. We swam in the refreshing water of the pool for a few hours, and then walked down to the Nile to watch some of the other Percussive travelers leave for their sunset felucca ride with the hotel’s boat driver, Hagag.
When they returned, we asked Hagag if he would take us across the river to the same beach we had been to the night before. He called for a motor boat, and soon we were watching the sunset as we swam in the Nile one last time.
After sunset we ate a quick dinner before bed. We were going on a sunrise hot air balloon ride the next morning and we had to meet our guide at 3:30 am, so wanted to be well-rested for the early wake-up call.