|Malcolm Dennes' trip to Egypt,
|Deir el Medina was one area where we encountered other tourists, albeit not many. A feature of the
visit was the lack of visitors. Admittedly, many of our destinations were remote and not on the main
“tourist trail” but even some of the most popular sites were all but deserted, witness the almost empty
car park at the Valley of the Kings in the middle of the day. The signs are that the tourists
are starting to return, which can only be good news for those of us who are fascinated by Ancient Egypt.
|Prehistory to the Romans
by Malcolm Dennes
|I have been interested in Ancient Egypt for many years. Since moving to Somerset ten years ago, I
have been fortunate enough to be able to attend regular Egyptology lectures at Dillington House,
Ilminster, and with the Egyptian Society in Taunton as well as joining study tours to Egypt led by
eminent Egyptologists such as John Romer, Robert Morkot and Stephen Harvey, concentrating on specific
areas, for example Aswan and Abydos.
|The following are some
reflections on my visit to Luxor in
November 2014 with the
Plymouth and District Egyptology
Society (PADES). The tour was
organised by Egypt Archaeological
Tours Ltd and led by Lucia
Gahlin, a leading Egyptologist and
Chair of the Friends of the
Petrie Museum. Enass Salah was
our expert local guide.
|The sites we visited spanned much of Ancient
Egyptian history, from predynastic rock art to
what some consider the last temple in the
traditional Egyptian style ever built. We also
saw areas where there was almost nothing
left to see to some of the best preserved and
restored monuments of Dendera, Medinet
Habu and Malqata.
|It seems reasonable to “bookend” my article by starting with the earliest and concluding with the latest
sites. Heading northwest from Luxor, we entered Wadi Hammamat to view the quarries and the rock
inscriptions. The rock extracted from the wadi is bekha, a grey meta-greywacke for those geologists
among you! It is unsuitable for building but ideal for the carving of statues and the like. As well as some
interesting rock art, there were a number of hieroglyphic inscriptions.
|Wadi Hammamat was an important route
between the Nile and the Red Sea and, as
such, was well protected by the Romans,
who built a number of small guard posts
along the route. There is also an ancient
well, now restored, with the original
staircase showing the wear of centuries on
|Heading south from Luxor, we visited Wadi
Baramiya, another important route to the
Red Sea and the gold mines of southeast
Egypt. Some more rock art and ancient
inscriptions, close to the only monument
built in the wadi, a small rock-cut temple
built by Seti I at Kanais.
|Further down the timeline, we called at the tomb of Ankhtify at Mo’alla, on the east bank of the Nile
south of Luxor, which dates from the First Intermediate Period. Ankhtify was a local ruler but no trace
of his town of Hefat has been identified. It lies close to the area of Hierakonpolis/Nekhen. He is
recorded as having fought against the Theban rulers but without success. His tomb is somewhat ”rough
and ready” but contains some interesting depictions.
|It was something of a relief, after some long journeys over speed-humped roads, to take a gentle boat
ride across the Nile to view some of the sites on the West Bank. Our visits there included the Valley of
the Queens, Deir el Medina and several tombs of the Nobles. The Valley of the Queens contains few
tombs which can be visited. Sadly, that of Nefertari was not available to us but there were some
superbly preserved wall paintings in those we saw. In fact, two were of princes (Khaemwaset and
Amunherkhopshef) and only one of a queen (Tity). Whose queen she was is still a mystery!
|Several of us set off to make the walk over the hills from Deir
el Medina to the Valley of the Kings but we were prevented from
doing this by the local police because of the security risk. This,
however, had the advantage of giving us more time to spend on
the West Bank. We visited two of the tombs of workmen at
Deir el Medina, where the expression “small but perfectly
formed” is entirely appropriate. The tombs of Sennedjem, in
particular is spectacular in its colour and preservation and that
of Inkherhaw contains unusual images.
|Whilst little had changed in the workmen’s village since my last visit in 2010, the enclosure of the
Ptolemaic temple of Hathor had been well restored. The mud-brick walls were largely intact. Work in the
temple itself was ongoing, with cleaning of the reliefs underway. I was struck by how much a little delicate
cleaning lifted the original colours.
|Work has continued to complete the Avenue of Sphinxes between Luxor Temple and Karnak. Our visit
took us to the outside of the 10th Pylon on our way to the Temple of Mut. Some 360 statues of the
goddess Sekhmet were found, many of which are still on the site.
|Concluding the time-travelling nature of
our visit, we went to the Temple of Isis
at Deir el Shelwit on the East Bank, a
little to the south of Luxor. This is a
Graeco-Roman temple, completed in 2
AD. There are a number of cartouches
containing the names of Roman emperors
including Hadrian, Antonius Pius,
Vespasian and Julius Caesar.
|It was notable that, despite the dire state of tourism in Egypt during the last few years, a considerable
amount of work on archaeological sites has continued. There is a major restoration of a site of Thutmosis
III nearing completion on the West Bank and there is evidence of work in many other areas.
|The vast complex of Amenhotep III at Kom el Hatan, behind the Colossi of Memnon, is a good example.
Statues and stelae have been re-erected and the layout of the site revealed.
|The Romans must have used it as there is a well and small fort on the same site.
|One notable feature of
the temple is the relief
of the Weighing of the
Heart ceremony, which is
normally only seen in
tombs and not in a chapel.
|Another feature is the largest Sacred Lake in Egypt, also noteworthy for it not being rectangular –
perhaps Egyptian pragmatism in using the natural contours of the site!