Today their ruins stand alone, surrounded by green fields backed by barren hills.
Along the way, we have tantalizing glimpses of what awaits, as a number of mortuary temples are visible in the hillsides far in the distance. They are eerie glimpses of the ancient past, looking as if they might be windows created by the earth-dwelling aliens living within. They are strange and unwelcoming.
I approach Hatshepsut’s temple on foot from the (very large, very hot) parking lot.
What strikes me most is how modern the structure appears. It looks like a Deco art gallery or museum dropped here from far away.
Reaching the temple requires maneuvering through the other visitors and climbing a long series of ramps and/or stairs under the scorching sun.
I don’t think I’ll ever get there.
The temple itself is sort of disappointing. Even though I knew there wouldn’t really be much left inside (the vengeful Thutmose III made sure that nothing that obviously referenced his stepmother remained once he finally ascended to the throne), it is still a little disappointing after the detailed carving and gaudy decoration on display this morning. There should be more inside such a striking structure!
Not that there isn’t anything here. There are a few painted panels and a phalanx of large statues standing guard.
I love the way the color still brings life to some of the faces.
Of course, the best thing about actually being at the temple of Hatshepsut may be the view of the landscape as it falls away in all directions down to the green fields along the Nile and the sprawling city of Luxor beyond. Hatshepsut sure had an eye for real estate!
My time here is almost up and it is really hot. I am baked from the sun (even with the protection offered by my handy-dandy Cobber sunhat). Far off to the side, souvenir stands proclaim the availability of gifts and ice cream. Nancy had pointed it out as we got off the bus, but now I really don’t have time to go over there. (It’s quite a hike.) Well, maybe if I hurry. . .
I get one of the last ice cream bars in the freezer. The man selling them is chatty, so I tell him that my bus is about to leave and I must hurry or I will miss it (totally true). There are shady tables nearby. If my time were my own I would plop down at one of these tables, buy a book on Egypt, and let this bored merchant chat for awhile while I eat my ice cream. Instead, I grab my ice cream and race back to the little tram that will take me back to the bus. (I am not the last one to board. As on other group tours, I seem to have a slightly better grasp on timeliness than some of the other photo-fiends on my trip, so, while I am often – like now – late, I am seldom the very last.)
My ice cream bar arouses a little jealousy among some of my fellow travelers. With good reason – it may be the best ice cream I’ve ever had, cold and creamy in the hot sun. Of course, context counts for a lot when it comes to ice cream treats.