After five straight days of Cairo’s hyperbolic hustle, our group took a weekend trip to Luxor to gawk at gigantic temples and climb inside ancient tombs – including Tut’s! – in the Valley of the Kings. Our guide, Nermeen, gave us one crash-course after another on Ancient Egyptian culture, which I got pretty obsessed with pretty quickly.
Ancient Egyptians were miraculously innovative and resourceful, but devoted all their resources (and time, it seems: Their correspondent tomb and temple complexes are ridiculously vast.) to worship of kings and men. (I realize the “but” there is like, “but this was a strange/illogical/wrong thing to do.” It does seem bizarre to me – in 2009, with access to generations of accessible dialog about our origins, spirituality and purpose. But for a civilization in 3,100 B.C., it makes a lot of sense to devote a mysterious life to the endless possibilities of a more mysterious afterlife. Or at least to interpret every natural, life-giving phenomenon, from sun to water, as divine symbols to insert into your daily routine.)
Every single decision, from the geographical locations of their tombs to the visual manifestations of their gods, was curiously logical: you lived on the East Bank, where the sun rose, and were buried on the West Bank, where it set.
When jackals repeatedly rifled through tombs to devour mummies, the Egyptians concocted Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification, because they believed they should glorify what they feared or could not control. They also recognized that gods were mere symbols, representing transcendent forces of nature. And they ruled at building stuff so big, it’s still extraordinary millenia later.
It’s impossible to articulate the size and beauty – physically, and in terms of meaning – of the monuments we saw this weekend. So, pictures: