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A Day at Timeless El Kab

We booked an early call at the hotel, had a quick shower, breakfast and then away with my old mate Awad ali Awad (this is like the old days again) the only difference being this time we are in his new minibus. An early start 6.45 was necessary to enable us to catch the convoy to Aswan, we waited patiently by the recently completed Luxor bridge until the convoy arrived. Then off we went like a bat out of hell - or it seemed that way - non-stop until we arrived at the Black Horse cafe. Here the police checked the various registrations of the vehicles and head counted the occupants. The chief of the Police was not overly impressed when Awad stated my intentions to visit the Archaeological site at El Kab, finally he agreed to let me go only if I had my own personal armed guard whom he would provide to accompany me.

The convoy left and so did we armed, guard and all ( fortunately he was a smashing chap) on arrival at the archaeological site the entrance was blocked by an armed personnel carrier, after explaining why we had left the convoy and why I had my own armed guard they moved and permitted us to proceed to the ticket office. Although they (the six of them) followed my progress for an hour all good-natured I might add.

The first stop - after negotiating the countless steps - were the New Kingdom tombs on the Western cliff face.

1. Ahmose Son of Ibana ( Tc 5). chief of the sailors,
2. Paheri ( Tc 3 ) Mayor of Nekheb and Prince of the city.
3. Setau ( Tc 4 ) Prophet of Nekhbet,
4. Reneni ( Tc 7 ) Overseer of the Prophets.

The Tombs date from the very beginning of the New Kingdom to the time of Rameses 111 exhibiting excellent wall paintings and reliefs of everyday life and death, and exploits during the overthrowing of the Hyksos. The hieroglyphic inscriptions include depictions of the Tekenu and the Muu. Every wall demands your full attention. Through the ages many explorers and Egyptologists have visited and recorded the engrossing scenes, starting in modern times with Napoleon's Savants on the 20th September 1799 followed by Belzoni, Irby and Mangles on 15th August 1817, James Burton 1825,
Champollion in 1828, Wilkinson and of course the great Flinders-Petrie in 1887.

Wishing to view the Old Kingdom tombs we started into the adjacent Wadi, following ancient paths, alas all the tombs I visited were lacking any hieroglyphic decoration. The only Pharaonic remnant we came across was part of a mummified crocodile. Way below us on the Wadi floor our armed personnel carrier was still evident probably bemused, although I must say my newly acquired personal guard was taking it all in his stride (little did he know I would spend four hours at this enthralling site).





Now the highlight. We climbed down to the wadi floor scrambled back onto the Mini buss and off to the rock of vultures. I was determined to photograph as many Prehistoric and Old Kingdom graffiti as possible in the time I had at my disposal. On arrival we parked and walked towards this imposing sacred rock that stands isolated in the centre of the Wadi, it's great antiquity overwhelms your senses. Enhanced by the silence, only the breeze could be heard, the place is timeless. The prehistoric rock graffiti depicting abundant gazelles, cattle, warriors, multi oared sailing vessels possibly date back to 6000 BC. I find myself climbing higher and higher finally I am forced to stop when the climb becomes precarious, I'm in awe of this fantastic place. As Awad climbs up to join me he explains we have missed the next convoy (great news, now there's no pressure on me to rush). The extra-time allows me to visit the next rock of vultures only a further 200 metres or so away. Here I find mainly 6th dynasty graffiti naming Pepi 1 and Pepi 11. No climbing here, many inscriptions are cut into the rocks and boulders lying on the Wadi floor.

When completed, I walk over the rock strewn dry riverbed and climb towards the new kingdom temple of Amenhotep 111( Dr Joann Fletcher would never forgive me if I didn't visit here). A small temple with beautiful colours. When finished I spend half-an-hour sitting on the shady side of the temple, wondering how many inscriptions lie undiscovered in the Wadi's within my eyesight. If I only had the time to look. Maybe one day I will. Back to the Mini bus. Just as we're about to enter the air-conditioned comfort we are stopped in our tracks 4 beautiful gazelles inquisitively pass by at a discreet distance. Nothing has changed here since the beginning of recorded history.

Running short of time I briefly visit the Ptolemaic temple dedicated to the goddess Nekhbet attested to Ptolemy V11, X and X1. Although originally of the 18th Dynasty the remains of a rock stele of Rameses 11 worshipping Re' Harakhte and Nekhbet is in evidence. Finally back down the 42 steps to the chapel of Thoth erected by Setau the Viceroy of Kush in the reign of Rameses 11. Sadly not a great deal of decoration is left here.

Today has been my 4th visit to El Kab my previous being in 1989 the site especially vulture rock remains unspoilt and a great joy to visit. I took over 150 slides for my collection, and look forward to my next visit I'm sure I have much more to see given time.

Speaking of time being the essence we must return to the Black Horse cafe and rejoin the convoy on arrival, I say farewell to my bodygaurd whilst I am invited by the Commander in Chief to have a bottle of Coca-Cola ( which he kindly purchased) I remark how beautiful his country is. An hour or so later I'm having a Stella beer in the bar at the Luxor Sheraton reflecting on another wonderful day.



By Alan M Fildes
March 2001


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