My trip to Deir el-Medina,
Egypt in December 2018
By Andrea K.
Temples
Chapels
Rock shrine
Huts
Settlement
Tombs
Collections
It was not my first time visiting Egypt and Luxor. In December 2007 a group of Scandinavians and myself
took a Nile cruise and our first stop was Luxor. Visiting the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of
Hatshepsut, Karnak and Luxor Temples were some of the places I and the group visited with our
Scandinavian guide.
I knew in my heart I would visit Egypt
again and indeed I did at the beginning
of May 2016. I took the opportunity
to go inside the Great Pyramid and to
extensively photograph the collections
of the Cairo Museum. After this short
visit to Cairo I longed to visit Luxor
again because I knew I had not seen
half of what Luxor had to offer.
Planning for two years, searching for
the best time and opportunity, I made
decision to go in late December 2018.
I booked the flights to Luxor already
in spring 2018 and made a reservation
at a nice hotel on the West bank so
that I would be close to the places
I wanted to visit.
Luxor on the West bank is lush and green, filled with palm trees and many fields planted with crops and
vegetables. Coming to the edge of the Valley was like entering another world. The border between the
lush green West bank and the desert area, where the tombs are situated, was divided only by a line of
an asphalt road. In front of me the bare hot and dry desert, not a blade of grass or even a plant,
nothing grew there. Behind me the lush green fields with cool moist air. The contrast was so sharp, one
could taste it and feel it. Buying my tickets on the desert border was also an unusual experience. In a
small insignificant building just beside the road, there was a ticket kiosk. If my driver did not tell me I
would have missed it altogether, since there were scarcely any signs. Although a few tourists were
standing in line to buy their tickets, there were very few people there. Only a police checkpoint with
policemen armed to their teeth, which was a bit intimidating, but that is Egypt - there are police
checkpoints everywhere on the roads.
This page was created on March 27th 2019
Text by Andrea K. and Lenka Peacock
Photography ©
Amberinsea 2018
After I bought my tickets to Deir el-Medina I went to my driver and we set of to the village. It was
not far but walking there would have been exhausting. The sun was hot already in the morning and the
blinding sunlight reflected on the light desert ground was hurting the eyes, one needs sunglasses. We
arrived at another police checkpoint and there it was - Deir el-Medina situated between the hills of the
Valley. On the other side of the mountain were the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
I don’t know for sure if there ever were any plants or any vegetation growing here in ancient times, but
the guide told me that it was extremely hot in summer and I found it hot even in late December, so
perhaps that must have been impossible for anything to grow here even in ancient times. Nothing grows
here now but there is life. I saw a desert fox, some beautiful birds, birds of prey, perhaps hawks or
eagles. Somehow there is life where the dead rest.
places if you buy a photography permit.
Planning with the hotel staff who would help
me to reach all the tombs and
archaeological sites, I knew this trip would
be an adventure of a lifetime. Arriving late
at Gezira Garden Hotel on the West bank
of Luxor I would meet the hotel manager to
plan my trips the next morning. And so we
did, and we agreed on a price where I
would have my own driver who would take
me to all the places I had planned to visit.
On my to-do list amongst many others was
Deir el-Medina, where Pharaoh’s own
working force lived close to the Valleys of
the Kings and Queens, a whole village of
artisans who took care of preparing the
last resting place of the Pharaohs and their
families.
Climbing inside the first tombs I was stunned by the beautiful colours. The ceiling was very low, and in
some places, I had to bend my head almost to my knees to get through the small passages. I knew some
of the images I saw on the walls from photographs but being there and seeing these fantastic painted
walls with my own eyes took my breath away. I felt touched to the core of my being.
I knew that the ancient
Egyptians loved life, they loved
to live, and they loved to have
parties even. Many of the wall
paintings celebrate life and how
they wished life to continue in
the afterlife. Plowing, sowing
and harvesting beside the
life-giving Nile and eating the
plentiful crops which the land
gave, scenes from offering to
the Gods and scenes where they
were preparing themselves to
meet their gods.
Many or most Egyptians thousands of years ago did not even live to their thirties. Life was short and
hard for most, and many were preoccupied with how they were to be buried and making it to the Duat,
the Underworld, where Osiris, the king of the dead resided.
I got tickets only to three tombs in Deir el-Medina and after the visits we walked to the lovely temple
of Hathor. The temple has been repaired recently and the walls cleaned from dirt and soot. Many of the
statues of Hathor are damaged, perhaps already since Roman times and by early Christians, some
hieroglyphs are erased. That is a common sight in Egypt, many statues and images of gods and goddesses
on temple walls are defaced and all too many hieroglyphs within cartouches are erased beyond repair.
On my way back to the car I photographed the village of Deir el-Medina. Only the skeleton of the
village is still there, but one can clearly see that many families lived here in small spaces. The artisans
living here were fully occupied with preparing the royal tombs, so therefore provisions were delivered to
the villagers every day from outside. There was limited contact with outsiders since the locations of
the tombs were to be kept from thieves even though it did not prevent looting.
I returned to the car with the knowledge that these ancient people living here many thousands of years
ago were extraordinary and very talented. Not all their names are preserved to the present day, only a
few names survived to this day, those who could afford lavishly painted tombs and taking gifts with
them to the Afterlife. The others are forgotten but we can still see how they lived by the few
remaining traces of their living quarters in Deir el-Medina and the many ostraca they left behind with
scribbles, trial texts and images before working on the real tomb walls gives a hint of how life was like
in those days. Some ostraca are painted with funny images, with humorous scenes of animals, sexually
explicit images and even satire of priests and kings. One could say they were like you and me but living
oh so very long time ago.
Since my last visit to Egypt the authorities have started to allow photography in most
Below: Similar scenes from TT218-219-220 depicting Anubis and the deceased.
The 3D model of the tombs is now available on Facebook at
https://www.facebook.com/ifaocaire/videos/2199129870114222/?
hc_ref=ARQvm414sXi9Venx8vAGLxJEiv3Zi5hPlNU7e6WWtz9HnZePOQGd4MPYCilJcyov9bQ
Left: South wall of the chamber C of the tomb of
Nakht-Amun (TT335). The mummy of the deceased
lies in an anthropoid coffin on the bed. The god
Anubis with his jackal mask is leaning over the
dead person holding an adze in his left hand to
perform the opening of the mouth. The goddess
Nepthys stands on the right, Isis stands on the
left of the coffin.
The hieroglyphic inscription above the scene reads:
"Words spoken by Anubis, who is in the place of
embalming: Victorious is Osiris, servant of the
Good God" (= pharaoh) ", wab-priest of the Lord of
the Two Lands, Amenhotep I, justified
Nakht-Amun embraces you for all eternity".
Right: The Great Cat of
Heliopolis as depicted within
the TT335
The rear wall of the innermost
burial chamber of
TT3 (the tomb of
Pashedu) shows the god
Osiris-Onnophris, the ruler of the
kingdom of the dead, on his throne
with the mountain of the West
behind him. Osiris wears a
nemes-crown and holds a flail and
scepter. A seated god before
him presents a bowl with burning
tapers. The inscription written in
columns of black hieroglyphs contains
spell for "lighting a lamp for Osiris"
(Málek,2003,222). Behind the
throne of Osiris a small figure of
Pashedu is depicted kneeling.
Sources:
1. Málek, Jaromír: Egypt : 4000 years of art
London : Phaidon Press, 2003.
2.
https://www.osirisnet.net/tombes/artisans/nakhtamon335/e_nakhtamon335_05.htm
The current on-going restoration work within the vestibule of the temple
Below: Restored reliefs on the Southern (left) wall of the temple's Northern chapel depicting Iat,
Hathor and Amun-Ra (from the left) sitting in front of Ptolemy VI Philometor making offerings to them
(out of the picture)
Below: View of the group of four chapels on the southern side of the main temple. The chapels situated
within the enclosure walls of the Ptolemaic temple that have been restored during the last years. During
the Coptic period, when the temple area was used as a monastery, these chapels underwent numerous
alterations, some of which affected the basic plan of the structure.
The area in front of the temple
has been cleared and tidied up and
all the loose stones are kept within
this storage.
Below: A new model of the house as it looked during the time when the village flourished is on display at
the entrance to the site.
Many thanks for sharing her travel adventures at Deir el-Medina to Andrea K., my friend, who lives in
Sweden and whom I met several times either in London or in Taunton when she comes to
join me at various
Egyptological events.
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