LUXOR WITH KENT WEEKS (ORIGINALLY, 'LUXOR WITH ALAN LLOYD')
A special note from Alan Lloyd
Luxor is one of the largest and most spectacular monument complexes to have survived from the ancient or modern world. Its core is the ancient city of Thebes which rose to prominence during the Eleventh Dynasty (began roughly 2030 BC) and remained a major religious centre into the period of the Roman occupation of Egypt. It was also a crucially important political hub for much of the New Kingdom ( 1550-1069 BC), but its pre-eminence in that sphere of activity was subsequently severely eroded by changing political realities, though it always retained the capacity to function as a significant player, sometimes with spectacular success. The most important religious cult was that of Amun (Amon-re) who was associated with his wife Mut and their son Khonsu. At the beginning of the Eleventh Dynasty he was relatively insignificant, but his role as a dynastic god enabled him eventually to become the major deity of Egypt, a position reflected in the spectacular temple complexes of Karnak and Luxor on the east bank of the Nile as well as the royal mortuary temples on the west bank and the royal funerary installations in the Valley of the Kings, the adjacent West Valley, and the Valley of the Queens. The good and the great in the service of the state and temples were also represented in the series of tombs on the West Bank conventionally known as the Tombs of the Nobles.
Day 1 – Monday 5th October 2015
We fly from London to Luxor with EgyptAir, and on arrival we take our private transfer to the Old Winter Palace, Garden Pavilion Wing, for seven nights on room and breakfast basis.
Day 2 – Luxor
Our tour begins with a morning visit to the Luxor Museum to look at some of the finest Egyptian sculptures to be found anywhere in the world. We continue to the Mosque of Abu Haggag to see the column capitals erected by Ramesses II, now conserved and on view, and also enjoy the chance to look down into Luxor Temple itself from the outer court of the mosque. We also take a look at the Sphinx Avenue and enter the temple for a guided tour. We return to the hotel for a free afternoon, but we will have a meeting later when Kent will present a talk. (B)
Day 3 – Abydos and Dendera
Today we head north to Abydos where we see some of the finest reliefs in Egypt which have retained their original colours to a remarkable degree as well as the famous ‘King List’ carved on the walls in the Temple of Seti I which enables us to gain an insight into the predecessors with whom the king wished to be associated. We also take a look at the intriguing Osireion, modelled on the burial place of the mortuary god Osiris, before walking across the desert sands to the Temple of Ramesses II, a counterpart to that of his father Seti to the south. Here we see on the outer walls one of several relief sequences representing Ramesses’ alleged triumph over the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh and some well-preserved painted scenes inside the temple. Next, we visit the Greco-Roman Temple of Hathor at Dendera where we are now able to see the newly cleaned and restored ceilings, walls, and columns. Of particular interest here are the scenes on the back wall of the temple representing Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarion engaged in ritual activity. We have a lunch box from the hotel today. (BL)
Day 4 – Edfu and Esna
Heading south from Luxor we spend the morning exploring the Temple of Horus at Edfu, one of the best preserved cult temples in Egypt with its scenes of battles between Horus and Seth. After our picnic lunch, again provided by the hotel, we drive to the Ptolemaic-Roman Temple of Esna dedicated to the god Khnum, the ram-headed creator god. Much of this complex still lies hidden under the modern town, but its extraordinary position down in a hollow illustrates the way in which collapsible Egyptian villages made of mud brick grew up around stone-built temples in ancient and modern times. The temple has a lovely hypostyle hall with 24 columns each with unique floral capitals and is currently undergoing restoration. This temple contains some of the most difficult hieroglyphic texts in existence and contains the name in hieroglyphs of the Roman emperor Decius (249-51), the last Roman Emperor currently known to have his name recorded in this way. At this point Pharaonic civilization was solely dying. (BL)
Day 5 – West Bank I
This morning we will take our private launch to cross the Nile and then drive to the Colossi of Memnon. Much work is being undertaken at the colossi site by the Sourouzian expedition with spectacular results. Next we visit Deir el-Medina to look at the private homes and beautifully decorated tombs of the artisans and craftsmen who built the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. We also enter the Hathor Temple to the north, subsequently converted to a Coptic monastic site and still covered with Coptic inscriptions. We also visit the ‘Great Pit’ nearby which has played a major, if bizarre, role in the history of the site. We move on to the Temple of Seti I at Gurna where we will look at some beautifully executed reliefs and texts before continuing to Medinet Habu, the Mortuary temple of Ramesses III with, amongst other things, the superb reliefs depicting his triumph over the Sea Peoples. We have a relaxing lunch at the Moon Valley Restaurant before we visit some of the finest of the Nobles’ Tombs at Old Gurna. First, we go to Ramose, Governor of Thebes, where we see the crossover between classical and Amarna style reliefs and then to the smaller but delightful tombs of Userhat and Khaemhat. Our last visit of the day will be to the richly decorated tombs of Rekhmire (of huge importance) and Sennefer. This evening Kent will present a talk. (BL)
Day 6 –The Temple of Amun
Today we shall examine the reliefs and inscriptions at Karnak Temple on our in-depth tour. We have tickets for the Open Air Museum, and we also visit the Mut Temple and see the newly cleaned Khonsu Shrine. We will be back at the hotel by lunchtime, but those who wish may decide to stay on at Karnak. We have a free afternoon, but later today Kent will present a talk. (B)
Day 7 – West Bank II
Once again we take our private launch across the Nile to the West Bank and then we will head straight to the Valley of the Kings. We have three tickets for tombs open on the day. Then we move to the quieter West Valley, the resting place of the later kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Here, we shall enter the tomb of Ay (really the tomb of Tutankhamun), and, if possible, we shall take a look at what may well be the entrance to the unfinished Theban tomb of Akhenaten. We shall then take a walk along a side wadi to look at some of the ancient worker’s huts. The highlight of the morning will be the special AWT private-entry permit that we have obtained to enter the tomb of Amenhotep III. This tomb known as WV22 has been restored and has some amazing decoration. We take lunch at the Moon Valley Restaurant before visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri. Our last stop will be at Dra’ Abul Naga where we will enter the small but beautiful tombs of Roy, Shuroy and Amenemopet. (BL)
Day 8 – Monday 12th October 2015
After breakfast we take our private transfer from the hotel to Luxor Airport for our EgyptAir flight to London arriving early afternoon. (B)
Kent Weeks is one of the most celebrated archaeologists in the world for his work on the Theban Mapping Project and his re-discovery of KV5, the largest tomb ever found in the Kings’ Valley. Kent’s enthusiasm for his subject and ability to communicate with depth and humour makes him a star expert.
B=Breakfast L=Lunch D=Dinner