The ancient Egyptians buried their dead on the west bank of the Nile where the sun "dies". Nowhere is this more evident than at the Valley of the Kings across the Nile from the ancient city of Thebes, now known as Luxor. Once a pharaoh began his reign, the construction of his tomb began. The size of the tomb is usually directly related to the length of the pharaoh's reign.
These tombs represent a period of about 500 years from the 16th to the 11th century BC, built for both pharaohs and other powerful nobles of the New Kingdom. Over 60 tombs have been discovered, with discoveries as recently as a few years ago, and 30 sealed coffins were accidentally found as recently as October, 2019. Tombs contained furniture, jewelry, food and other worldly goods that the deceased would need in the afterlife. All but one were looted by the time they were discovered, but the wall carvings and beautifully vibrant colors survived in many of them as a result of being completely sealed for so long.
Of the more than 60 tombs, only eight at a time are open to visitors as the government rotates opening and access to them every few years. One ticket gets you into three of them; you can see more by purchasing more tickets.
The hieroglyphs and paintings in the tombs give information about the deceased and the cartouche, or oval-shaped carving, is the name of the deceased and/or other persons associated with him.
Tomb of Merenptah
We descended 525 ft. into the tomb of the pharaoh Merenptah, the 13th son of Ramses II. Merenptah reigned from 1213 - 1203 BC and his tomb seemed larger than I would have thought given his relatively short ten-year reign.
We finally came upon his sarcophagus.
Tomb of Ramses III
No relation to Ramses II, Ramses III ruled from 1186 - 1155 BC.
Tomb of Ramses IV
And finally we descended into the tomb of Ramses IV, also no relation to Ramses II, who ruled from about 1151 to 1145 BC. His tomb was small, but it was nevertheless spectacular.
A closeup of the ceiling.
His sarcophagus rests amid the spectacular art.
My first (and probably last) tomb selfie!
Paul chose not to go into Merenptah's tomb because of all the steps, so he visited the tomb of Ramses VI. Here are a couple of photos that show how beautiful it is.
The young King Tutankhamun ruled only about 10 years, from approximately 1332 - 1323 BC. His tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, a British citizen and Egyptologist who had been searching for it for many years. It is the only tomb that had not been looted and the discovery made international headlines.
Most of its contents are displayed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and as the tomb is small and we knew we'd be seeing the treasures in the museum a few days later, we didn't choose to visit it. The exhibition at the Egyptian Museum contains many of the treasures of his tomb. Unfortunately his sarcophagus and some of the other treasures weren't able to be photographed, but some photos from the exhibition are below.
According to Egyptologists, the oval boxes below contained mummified ducks, Tutankhamun's favorite food as well as other food for the afterlife.
Jackals were associated with the dead in ancient Egypt and we saw many carvings of them. This one was found in King Tutankhamun's tomb.
Here it is in the Egyptian Museum...
His sarcophagus was found deep within a series of nested gilded coffins.
Tutankhamun's throne, found in his tomb.
Closeup of the magnificent artistry.
His sandals represented the "trampling" of his enemies as the label describes.
Some of the jewelry found in his tomb.
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
Just down the road from the Valley of the Kings is the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (a name whose pronunciation is just as written, but one we were never quite able to conquer while we were in Egypt). Mortuary temples were built near the tombs of the pharaohs. They commemorated the reign of the pharaoh and were a place where people could pray for him (or her as in the case of Hatshepsut) after death. Born in 1508 BC, Hatshepsut married her half brother and after his death, she assumed more and more power, becoming a pharaoh around 1473 BC. She assumed the identity of a male, no doubt because female rulers didn't exist for all intents and purposes - Cleopatra was another female ruler, but 14 centuries after Hatshepsut. After she died, her stepson had evidence of her rule destroyed, and her tomb wasn't discovered until the early part of the 19th century. With the magnificent backdrop of the mountains, this temple was truly a sight to behold.
A statue of Hatshepsut as a male, complete with a beard!
A sphinx statue of Hatshepsut.
The Colossi of Memnon
Also located on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, these 60 ft. Colossi of Memnon statues guarded the mortuary temple of the pharaoh Amenhotep III who ruled for 37 years in the 14th century BC. The temple of Amenhotep III is long gone, but the statues are imposing. Their name Memnon comes from the Greeks.
You can get an idea of their massive size compared to Katie, below.
Many Greeks visited over the centuries and left evidence; a number of "Kilroy Was Here"-type messages carved on their legs. If you look closely, you can just make them out.
Valley of the Kings is a must-see destination in Egypt. The thought of building tombs so far underground, burying all the items for the afterlife, and the spectacular carvings and paintings in them boggles the mind.
➜ Top Tips
It's possible to visit more than three tombs at Valley of the Kings, but I understand that some are very expensive, so choose based on your budget, time and interest. Do some research before you leave home.
Wear comfortable shoes; there isn't a lot of walking, but some of the tombs are a little tricky to navigate.
If I had it to do over again, I'd probably pay the extra fee to visit another tomb or two.