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Africa 1980

"When the celebrity or ex-president or glamorous public figure wishes to make a charitable appearance it is nearly always in Africa, for the sake of the exotic— or is it the drama of high contrast in black and white, or its being hypnotically unintelligible? In Africa the traveler’s license is unlimited, and Africa itself magnifies the experience in a way no other place can." Paul Theroux

Toward the end of January in 1980 I traveled with a friend of many years and a tour group of avid Solar Eclipse chasers for a short stopover in Cairo, Egypt and then on to Nairobi, Kenya where after a week we were to be bused to a small town of Voi in southern Kenya from which we hoped to view the Solar Eclipse of that year on February 6. I had acquired Solar Eclipse fever in the previous year when I had taken leave from my new position in a technology consulting company called Capgemini, to drive with a friend across the snowy hinterlands of North America to view a totality from a spot near Fargo, ND on February 26, 1979.

After landing at the Cairo Airport we were bused to the Gezira Sheraton Hotel located on the island of Zamalek between Cairo and Giza in the Nile River. Next morning we joined a day tour devoted to exploring the historical evolution of the pyramids. We rode a bus up the Nile to Mazghunah, a pyramid site located fairly close to Dashur. The casing stones have long ago been removed from Mazghunah's two pyramids and their superstructures are barely discernible. The site was excavated by Flinders Petrie along with other archaeologists in 1910/11. Amenemhet IV and Sobekneferu have been suggested as the owners of the two unfinished pyramids at Mazghuna but there is no conclusive evidence of this. The southern pyramid is about 3 miles from Sneferu's Bent Pyramid. The base was 52.5 meters square but it was never finished. The outer burial chamber contains an inner monolithic burial vault made out of quartzite like the Black Pyramid for Amenemhet III at Dashur. There was a large granite plug ready to slide over the top, however, it was never used since no one was ever buried there.

Zamalek Island Mazghunah Pyramids Black Pyramid at Dashur Red Pyramid at Dashur
Bent Pyramid at Dashur Stepped Pyramid of Djoser Entrance to Serapeum Serapeum at Saqqara

We next drove the short distance to Dashur to see the remains of the Black Pyramid of pharoah Amenemhat III who ruled from 1855-1808 BCE, the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid of Snefru who as the first king of the Fourth Dynasty (about 2600-2450 BCE) and famous as the first king for whom a true pyramid was constructed as a burial place. His son Cheops went on outdo his father by building the the Great Pyramid at Giza. Next we drove to.the ancient necropolis of Saqqara to see the stepped pyramid Djoser.

Saqqara is known for being , the oldest complete stone building complex in history. Another 16 Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation or dilapidation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times. Next stop was a walk-thru of the Serapeum, located to the north west of Djoser's pyramid. The Serapeum is the burial place of the Apis bulls and consists of a number of long straight underground gallerys cut into the rock, with side chambers containing large granite sarcophagi , weighing up to 70 tons each, which held the mummified remains of the bulls. The temple was discovered by Auguste Mariette, who had gone to Egypt to collect coptic manuscripts but later grew interested in the remains of the Saqqara necropolis. In 1850, Mariette found the head of one sphinx sticking out of the shifting desert sand dunes, cleared the sand, and followed the boulevard to the site. After using explosives to clear rocks blocking the entrance to the catacomb, he excavated most of the complex. Unfortunately, his notes of the excavation were lost, which has complicated the use of these burials in establishing Egyptian chronology. Mariette found one undisturbed burial, which is now at the Agricultural Museum in Cairo. The other 24 sarcophagi of the bulls had been robbed.

Sphinx at Memphis
Isis Tmple at Memphis
Ramses II at Memphis emple in Faiyum
Death Masks in Faiyum Alabaster Pedestal at Abu Ghurob Niuserre's Sun Temple at Abusir Abu Ghurob Temple etail

Next we drove on to Memphis, which as Ineb-Hedj was the first capital city of the united ancient Egypt in the Old Kingdom. Referred to in some texts as the "Fortress of the White Wall", it is likely that the King Menes established himself here at the mouth of the Nile Delta about 3000 BCE and diverted the course of the river with dams to better control his new union between the two rival kingdoms. He then bound his regime closely with the worship of Ptah, the god of creation and artworks, by building the royal funerary chamber, housing all the elements necessary to royalty: temples, shrines, ceremonial courts, palaces and barracks. The golden age began with the 4th dynasty, which seems to have furthered the primary role of Memphis as a royal residence where rulers received the double crown, the divine manifestation of the unification of the Two Lands. Coronations and jubilees such as the Sed festival were celebrated in the temple of Ptah. The importance of the shrine is attested in this period with payments of food and other goods necessary for the funerary rites of royal and noble dignitaries. This shrine is also cited in the annals preserved on the Palermo Stone, and beginning from the reign of Menkaura, we know the names of the high priests of Memphis that seem to work in pairs at least until the reign of Teti.

After looking at the sites in Memphis we reboarded the bus to drive to the Faiyum which occupies part of the ancient site of the city known by the Greeks as Crocodilopolis where in ancient times the sacred crocodile kept in Lake Moeris was worshipped. Founded in around 4000 BCE, Faiyum is the oldest city in Egypt and one of the oldest cities in Africa. Faiyum is the source of the famous death masks or mummy portraits painted during the Roman occupation of the area. The Egyptians continued their practice of burying their dead, despite the Roman preference for cremation. While under the control of the Roman Empire, Egyptian death masks were painted on wood in a pigmented wax technique called encaustic. While commonly believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt, the Faiyum portraits instead reflect the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city.

Our next stop was at Abusir where Old Kingdom attention was turned in the reign of Userkaf, the founder of the 5th Dynasty, when he chose the site to built a remarkable and until then unique monument: a solar temple. Several of his successors would not only follow his example and build their own solar temples, they would also prefer this site for their burial. The last solar temple was apparently built by Menkauhor, towards the end of the 5th Dynasty. Although Menhauhor's funerary monument has not been found or identified, it also seems that with the last solar temple, the kings of Egypt lost interest in Abusir as a burial ground. The site continued to be used, however, by the Memphite nobility until the end of the pharaonic era. The three first pyramids that were built here, a couple of hundred of yards to the south of Userkaf's Solar Temple, had their northwest corner aligned on the same diagonal. This diagonal is believed to have pointed at Heliopolis, a city on the Nile's east bank located to the northeast of Memphis and dedicated to the cult of the solar god. Two royal pyramids break the diagonal alignment: the unfinished pyramid believed to have been started by Shepseskare somewhere halfway between Sahure's pyramid and Userkaf's Solar Temple; and the pyramid of Niuserre that was inserted between Sahure's and Neferirkare's pyramids in such a way that the unfinished causeway and Valley Temple that were intended for Neferirkare's monument were diverted to Niuserre's.

Userkaf's sun temple is actually about half way between Abusir and Niuserre's sun temple, and is generally referred to as being at Abusir. Yet, his pyramid was located at Saqqara, while most 5th Dynasty kings built theirs at Abusir. It was excavated by Herbert Ricke and Gerhard Haeny in the mid 1950s. Like Niuserre's complex, it sits atop a promontory on the desert's edge. Userkaf's complex is not only the oldest of these two, but was the first of any built and was probably the first royal structure built at Abusir. If there is a precedence to his temple, it might be the 4th Dynasty Great Sphinx Temple at Giza, which appears to haven been dedicated to the sun god and may have involved ritualistic activity similar to that carried out in the 5th Dynasty sun temples. This sun temple is also in a much more ruined state then Niuserre's complex. Furthermore, because of this king's short reign, it was not finished during his lifetime.

The Niuserre' sun temple is located at Abu Ghurob, not far from Abusir where his pyramid is located and where many other 5th Dynasty kings built their pyramids. Years ago, before the purpose of Niuserre's structure was known, it was called the "Pyramid of Righa" by travelers. Niuserre's sun temple was originally excavated by the German archeologists, Ludwig Borchardt and Heinrich Schafer between 1898 and 1901. We believe it was originally made with mudbrick walls forming a grid that was then filled with rubble. Later, these mudbrick "retaining" walls were sheathed in a casing of yellow limestone blocks. It basically had three primary components, consisting of a valley temple a desert or upper temple, and a causeway that connected the two. The name of the sun temple was originally "Delight of Re".

The identity of the builder of the step pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan is not known with certainty. His name is not mentioned in the monument itself. However, vases found in a nearby mastaba mention the name of the Horus Khaba, an elusive 3rd Dynasty king. As it was customary for members of the nobility to be buried near their king, this has been taken as evidence that the unfinished step pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan was built for Khaba. Had this pyramid been finished, it would have risen up in 5 steps to a height of some 45 meters. There were no traces of outer casing. Although it is somewhat simpler, the substructure is similar to that of the Step Pyramid of Sekhemkhet. It's substructure consists of a sloping corridor dug in the ground, leading to a burial chamber of 3.63 by 2.65 meters and a height of 3 meters.

After a papyrus making demonstration we ran from the tour group and spent the remainder of the day escaping children seeking baksheesh as we walked through the city of Giza to reach the temples at the base of the Pyramids of Giza. From Gisa we made our way by taxi to the "Alabaster Mosque" (Mosque of Muhammed Ali) on the Citadal of Cairo. It was built on the site of Mamluk palaces destroyed at the behest of the patron, an act reminiscent of that of Saladin who wiped out all traces of Fatimid power by dismantling their palaces, and it also superseded the adjacent Mosque of al-Nasir Muhammad as the new state mosque. This first independent ruler of Egypt chose to build his state mosque entirely in the architectural style of his former overlords, the Ottomans, unlike the Mamluks who, despite their political submission to the Ottomans, tenaciously stuck to the architectural styles of the two Mamluk dynasties. But then, as an Ottoman governor of Albanian origin, his primary identification was with the Ottomans rather than his local subjects and he even had designs on the Sultanate for a time.

Pyramids from Giza Camels and Pyramids Sphinz and Pyramids Great Sphinx
Mohammed Ali Mosque Mohammed Ali Mosque Interior Mohammed Ali Mosque Detail Mohammed Ali Mosque Dome

We spent all of the next morning in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities which is, unfortunately, purely for the purpose of entertaining group tourism. It has the dark look of a fortified storehouses with badly labeled, disorganized artifacts meant to be consumed purely as objects with little historical significance besides their apparent old age. The Egyptian Museum displays neither tell a story nor convey a coherent narrative, national or otherwise. Instead, the organization of displays is sometimes by theme, such as the famous room of mummified animals, by a period or by a person such as King Tut and his objects. What is lacking is not a manipulation of objects for a nationalist narrative, but rather evidence of a central component of any successful museum: curation.

At present, the Museum’s organization is a priori. Egypt’s top public museum demonstrates not only the greatness of ancient Egyptians but also the near absence of the fields of public history, museum studies, and art history in today’s Egypt. Even the most studious visitor will not leave the Museum with a better understanding of the historical evolution of ancient Egyptians’ lives. Nor do displays confront the modern history associated with the exploitation of ancient Egyptian art and its fluctuating position in the formations of national and colonial identities in Egypt and in Europe.

Because Egyptian tourism is dominated by the package tour variety, most visitors experience the museum as part of a larger group herded around by a tour guide who is trained to showcase certain pieces, while breezing by the rest. The antiquities authorities fail to realize that the majority of tourists who visit the museum have been to museums in their own countries, which are probably better maintained and curated. This means that most visitors leave the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities distraught by its poor state and out-of-date displays and organization.

Museum of Egyptian Antiquities Museum of Egyptian Antiquities Interior Tutankamen Mummy
Tutankamen Chariot Museum of Egyptian Antiquities Museum of Egyptian Antiquities Akhnaton

After reluctantly leaving the museum we had lunch in the Shepherd Hotel and then took a long stroll through the Khan el-Khalili. before returning to the hotel for dinner. Next morning we flew to Nairobi and joined five other people from our Solar Expedition group to share the costs of a guide and a Land Rover for an expedition on the following day. Our intentions were to see as much as we could of the Kenyan Highlands because our trip into the south for the eclipse would enable us to see the hotter and flatter areas toward Mombasa The Kenya Highlands Region was known as the White Highlands during colonial times since the European population tended to concentrate there. The region consists of two major divisions, lying east and west of the Great Rift Valley that runs north-south. These regions are made up of a variety of geographical subdivisions whose origins are diverse. The entire area is characterized by significantly higher altitude, cooler temperatures, and, generally speaking, more plentiful precipitation than in other regions.

We drove north on A2 out of Nairobi for 40 kilometers and arrived in the town of Thika. Towards the end of the 19th century, outsiders began to settle in this outpost as a convenient resting spot between Nairobi and the upcountry highlands for British settlers. Europeans and Asians began to stop and remain at Thika, the former setting up farms, and the latter setting up shops. A monument in the shape of a pillar was erected by the British in the early 1900s in the central business district of Thika to commemorate the founding of Thika as a town.

After visiting the central market in Thika we drove north out of town where we stopped to look at the waterfalls and a herd of zebra before continuing on to check in at the Treetops Lodge.near the township of Nyeri, 1,966 m (6,450 ft) above sea level on the Aberdare Range and in sight of Mount Kenya. First opened in 1932 by Eric Sherbrooke Walker, it was literally built into the tops of the trees of Aberdare National Park as a treehouse, offering the guests a close view of the local wildlife in complete safety. The idea was to provide a hunting experience in relative safety and comfort. From the original modest two room tree house, it has grown into 50 rooms. The original structure was burned down by African guerrillas during the 1954 Mau Mau Uprising, but the hotel was rebuilt near the same waterhole and has become fashionable for many of the rich and famous. It includes observation lounges and ground level photographic hides from which guests can observe the local wildlife which come to the waterholes at night.

Nairobi Giraffe Downtown Thika Thika Coffee Dryng Falls North f Thika
Treetops Lodge Treetops Lodge Interior Mount Kenya Treetops Lodge Waterhole Visitors

Next morning we toured through Aberdares National Park and got our first look at large herds of elephants before descending into the Great Rift Valley to look at the flamingos on Lake Nakuru, a small, shallow, alkaline-saline lake located in a closed basin without outlets in the Eastern Rift Valley of equatorial East Africa. As night fell we drove up the east wall of the rift valley to return to Nairobi.

Aberdares National Park Entrance Mount Kenya from Aberdares Elephant in Aberdares Water Buffalo in  Aberdares
Wart Hogs in Aberdares Rhino at Lake Nakuru Treetops Lodge Interior Great Rift Valley

After breakfast next morning in the old Stanley Hotel, we began our meandering five hour journey back down into the rift valley toward the southwest corner of Kenya and the Masai Mara National Reserve. Masai Mara is the name given to an extension of Tanzania's Serengeti National Park crossing the border into Kenya. For the remainder of the afternoon and much of the next morning we saw lions, leopards, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, and gnus before moving on to camp among hundreds of beautiful weaver birds outside of Amboseli National Park.

Stanley Hotel in Nairobi Masai outside of their brush fenced village Impala in Masai Mara Lodge in Masai Mara
Lions in Masai Mara Water Buffalo in Masai Mara Gazelles in Masai Mara Weaver Bird at Amboseli Camp

Safari Map

After a long day in Amboseli looking at elephant herds, zebra, and giraffes in the foreground and Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background, we continued to travel east along the Tanzanian border past the active volcanism of the Chyulu Mountain Range. In leaving a dry riverbank we cross a tongue of lava not far from the Chyulu that is from a recent eruption only two hundred year ago. On it is an elephant trail where the comings and goings have crushed the coarse black rock into fine grey gravel. After another twenty miles we arrive at our evening lodging in the Taita Hills. I finally get a good look at a striped hyena. I am told that there are two principal species of hyena. The spotted hyena occurs across most of Africa south of the Sahara, and the stiped hyena overlaps the spotted's distribution in parts of Central and East Africa, then continues across a broad swath of North Africa and the middle east, all the way to India. Perhaps more han any other animal, the hyena evokes in humans a feeling of evil. It has wide jaws more powerful than a lion's, and it is the only predator adapted to chewing, swallowing, and digesting bone. Its back slpes into a thick neck that seems to hang down in a skulking pose of someone who has just committed a sinister misdeed. Hyena hunt in packs, and they are known to run alongside their prey, tearing bites of flesh out and swallowing them, continuing until the victim succombs from lose of blood or trips over its own entrails.

Lodge at Amboseli Elephants and Kilimanjaro Zebras in Amboseli Giraffe and Kilimanjaro
Striped Hyena Chylulu Mountain Giraffes Lodge in Taita Hills Sunset in Taita Hills

Next morning we drove into Tsavo National Park to visit the Mzima Springs. At the base of the Chyulu, these natural springs produce 60 million gallons of fresh sparkling water daily. The waters are alive with shoals of hippopotami and waterfowl. An underwater observatory has been built that gives an incredible view of this crystal clear underwater world.

Hippos at Mzima Springs Not to Be Messed With Mzima Springs GiraUnderwater Observatory at zima Springs
Entrance to Tsavo East ChyluluTsavo East Giraffs in Tsavo East ood Court near Tsavo East

For most readers of African hstory Tsavo is a place of many ghosts. The ghosts of thousands of elephant, harvested for the ivory trade for centuries. The tens of thousands lost in the poaching wars of the ’70s (Tsavo means “slaughter”). The ghosts of the rangers who hunted the poachers. The ghosts of the Waliangulu who once stalked the giants with powerful bows, stealth and unequalled knowledge of Tsavo’s dry, thorn woodland. The ghosts of the Orama, their burial mounds marking their custodianship of the plains. The ghosts of the colonial engineers who pushed the cold steel of empire across the arid coastal plains to the Great Rift Valley. And the ghosts of the Indian “coolies” who labored under East Africa’s vast sky to lay the sleepers, clasp the rails, cut and place the stone of the rail bridge that still crosses the Tsavo River. And were preyed upon by the legendary Man-eaters of Tsavo. The ghosts of those two massive, maneless lions whose survival strategy drew a brutal, typically human response. The ghosts of the British and colonial soldiers who built the First World War forts above the Tsavo, and the Askaris and their German officers with whom they clashed. The ghosts of the Blixens and Finch-Hatton, the traces of the latter’s landing strip and hunting camp still evident south of the Galana River.

As far as indigenous African weaponry is concerned, I don’t think that anything has ever come close to the bow and arrow combination wielded by the Waliangulu. These wiry little hunters, barely 5 ft 2 inches high, used bows some 6 ft 3 inches long, drawing as much as 131 lbs. Their arrows, fletched with vulture feathers, had an overall length of some 3 ft 3 inches, including a broadhead tip and a ten-and-a-half-inch detachable fore-shaft poisoned with Acokanthera longiflora. Thus armed, the Walinagulu indulged in their speciality, which was the hunting of elephants. This was normally done at a range of some three to eight paces, the arrow being sent into the soft underbelly, where there were neither thick ribs nor a thick hide to protect the animal, and where a plentiful blood supply would ensure a quick circulation of the poison. So effective was this weapon that an elephant would normally drop after having run barely 200 paces.

Tsavo contains almost no tourism development or infrastructure. Most campsites and lodges are located outside its borders and human presence in the form of tourists is negligible, although that may have something to do with the time of year that we were there. The park’s extensive borders are unfenced, allowing on the upside, better functioning of the ecosystem in the form of wildlife migration, but on the downside, uncontrolled access and probably poaching. While national parks should primarily be about conserving biodiversity, Tsavo’s tourism potential is underdeveloped and that could be a future problem as reserves and parks are increasingly required to “pay their way” in the face of growing human populations.

Tsavo Maneaters in Chicago Field Museum ElephaStation on the Lunatic Express Lunatic Express Rails Patterson's Bridge
Voi Safari Lodge Voi Safari Lodge Voi Safari Lodge Voi Safari Lodge

Our day of Tsavo exploration took us along beautiful red roads with a stop at a station on the Lunatic Express. The railway station is a step back into a Victorian-era railway – this one was once known as the Lunatic Express – replete with 19th century mechanical signalling and token working. Touring through the old station building that houses the signalman’s office is like stepping into a previous century. We thought that the books and manuals high on a dusty shelf are just as the last colonial station master left them. After a stop at what is called Patterson's Bridge we continued on to the Voi Safari Lodge from where we would view the solar eclipse on the next day.

Solar Eclipse

A total eclipse of the sun is a primal, transcendent experience. The shutting off of the sun does not bring utter darkness; it is more like falling through a trapdoor into a dimly lit, unrecognizable reality. The sky is not the sky of the earth--neither the star-filled dome of night nor the immersive blue of daylight, but an ashen ceiling of slate. A few bright stars and planets shine in a familiar way, like memories from a distant childhood, but the most prominent object is thoroughly foreign. You know intellectually, that it is both the sun and the moon, yet looks like neither. It is an ebony pupil surrounded by a pearly iris like the eye of the cosmos.

Following my return from Africa in early February 1980, I took some steps to reorganize my life for adulthood by leaving my work as a salary slave to CapGemini while I was riding a wave of success for my work on an administrative system for Prudential-AARP. I took the initial steps for establishing an independent consulting company and secured a contract with the company that has now become Ernst and Young for some work in Seattle. Upon my return I secured a sub-contract responsibility to CapGemini for converting some utility monitoring systems from Univac to IBM and moved to an apartment in Westfield, NJ. During the same period, I sought to stabililize a deeply oscillating enthrallment by marrying the object of it in November. By the following June our combined efforts had resulted in the successful production of a male heir and by July of 1982 we were able to achieve equally successful results with a female.

After we had momentarily moved to Clarksburg, WV but before we had unpacked, I returned to Africa in October of 1982 when I repeated much of the earlier visit to Cairo in the company of my wife and our three month old daughter. After three days in Cairo, we then flew to Luxor, As the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the "world's greatest open air museum", as the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. Immediately opposite, across the River Nile, lie the monuments, temples and tombs on the West Bank Necropolis, which include the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.

Thebes was inhabited from around 3200 BCE. It was the eponymous capital of Waset, the fourth Upper Egyptian nome. Waset was the capital of Egypt during part of the 11th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom) and most of the 18th Dynasty (New Kingdom), when Hatshepsut built a Red Sea fleet to facilitate trade between Thebes Red Sea port of Elim, modern Quasir, and Elat at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Traders bought frankincense, myrrh, bitumen, natron, fine woven linen, juniper oil and copper amulets for the mortuary industry at Karnak with Nubian gold. With the 19th Dynasty the seat of government moved to the Delta. The archaeological remains of Thebes offer a striking testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height.

We first visited the Precinct of Mut. Its main features are a crescent-shaped lake, the later temple of Ramesses III, the temple of Mut, and the temple of Khonsupakhred. In addition there are a number of smaller buildings and shrines, as well as the temple of Nectanebo II, and the bark station of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. During festival processions, like the one of Hathor in her sacred bark to wed Horus at Edfu, the cult-image would be placed in a miniature bark which would be carried by the priests. At such times the people could come their closest to the god, and yes-no questions would be put to the image while it was carried forth. Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis used the oracle to legitimize their rulership, and legal and social problems could also be resolved by this divine yes or no. At the Sanctuary of Amun-Kamutef, which is located just outside the enclosing wall. Kamutef, the Bull of His Mother, would have been the solar god offspring of Hathor, another aspect of Mut. In later mythology he becomes the counterpart of Mut, identified as a husband.

From the main entrance an approximately 400 yard long avenue of ram-headed sphinxes leads north, directly to the tenth pylon of the Precinct of Amun-Re. Another avenue of sphinxes, also starting from the entrance, leads 250 yards west to catch up and flow into the long avenue of sphinxes that connects the Gateway of Ptolemy III Euergetes I of the Precinct of Amun-Re with Luxor Temple. The most famous aspect of the Precinct of Amun-Re, is the Hypostyle Hall, a hall area of 50,000 sq ft with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters. The architraves on top of these columns are estimated to weigh 70 tons. These architraves may have been lifted to these heights using large ramps made of sand mud brick or stone and the stones were towed up the ramps. If they used stone for the ramps they would have been able to build the ramps with much less material. The top of the ramps presumably would have either wooden tracks or cobblestones for towing the megaliths.

Precinct of Mut Processional Colonnade seen from the Peristyle Courtyard of Amenophis III GiraKarnak Temple Lotus Columns Detail of Temple Columns
Colossi of Memnon Valley of Kings Interior of Rameses Tomb Valley of Queens

After crossing the Nile on a ferry we drove in a tour bus past the Colossi of Memnon who stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep's memorial temple: a massive cult centre built during the pharaoh's lifetime, where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth both before and after his departure from this world. In its day, this temple complex was the largest and most opulent in Egypt. Covering a total of 86 acres, even later rivals such as Ramesses II's Ramesseum or Ramesses III's Medinet Habu were unable to match it in area; even the Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak, as it stood in Amenhotep's time, was smaller.

After passing the Colossi we continue our drive into the Theban Hills which are dominated by the peak of al-Qurn, known to the Ancient Egyptians as ta dehent, or 'The Peak'. It has a pyramid shaped appearance, and it is probable that this echoed the pyramids of the Old Kingdom, more than a thousand years prior to the first royal burials carved here. Its isolated position also resulted in reduced access, and special tomb police (the Medjay) were able to guard the necropolis. At the start of the Eighteenth Dynasty, only the kings were buried within the valley in large tombs; and when a non-royal was buried, it was in a small rock cut chamber, close to the tomb of their master. Amenhotep III's tomb was constructed in the Western Valley, and while his son Akhenaten moved his tomb's construction to Amarna, it is thought that one of the unfinished tombs may have originally been intended for him. With the return to religious orthodoxy at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Tutankhamun, Ay and then Horemheb returned to the royal necropolis.

The Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties saw an increase in the number of burials (both here and in the Valley of the Queens), with Ramesses II and later Ramesses III constructing a massive tomb that was used for the burial of his sons. There are some kings that are not buried within the valley or whose tomb has not been located: Thutmose II may have been buried in Dra' Abu el-Naga'. Smenkhkare's burial has never been located, and Ramesses VIII seems to have been buried elsewhere.

After visiting many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings we reboarded our bus to drive to the Valley of the Queens where wives of Pharaohs were buried in ancient times. Then it was known as Ta-Set-Neferu, meaning –‘the place of the Children of the Pharaoh’, because along with the Queens of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties (1550–1070 BCE) many princes and princesses were also buried with various members of the nobility. The tombs of these individuals were maintained by mortuary priests who performed daily rituals and provided offerings and prayers for the deceased nobility.

We spent an hour in the Valley of the Queens visiting Djeser-Djeseru meaning "the Holy of Holies", the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. It is a colonnaded structure, which was designed and implemented by Senemut, royal steward and architect of Hatshepsut to serve for her posthumous worship and to honor the glory of Amun. Although the adjacent, earlier mortuary temple of Mentuhotep was used as a model, the two structures are nevertheless significantly different in many ways. Hatshepsut's temple employs a lengthy, colonnaded terrace that deviates from the centralised structure of Mentuhotep’s model – an anomaly that may be caused by the decentralized location of her burial chamber. There are three layered terraces reaching 97 feet tall. Each 'story' is articulated by a double colonnade of square piers, with the exception of the northwest corner of the central terrace, which employs Proto Doric columns to house the chapel. These terraces are connected by long ramps which were once surrounded by gardens with foreign plants including frankincense and myrrh trees. The layering of Hatshepsut’s temple corresponds with the classical Theban form, employing pylons, courts, hypostyle hall, sun court, chapel and sanctuary.