Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut, Rameses III Temples Luxor Egypt

Valley of the Kings – planetware

The extensive archeological sites around Luxor are alluring. Visiting them is an extraordinary opportunity, but there’s so much to observe, it’s a bit overwhelming. I’m taking several tours led by knowledgeable Egyptologists – with a one-day break in between explorations. Unable to join groups, my tours have been private with a guide and driver. When it’s just you and a guide, it can be an intense day, filled with more information than you can possibly retain :o( – unless of course, you’re an archaeologist and/or Egyptologist. I try to do research before and after each tour, and it helps a little. This post covers bare-bones basics learned during tours of the following tombs and temples:

In addition to major sites, my guide, Muhammad, took me to a small alabaster factory, where everything is handmade. At the end of the tour, we stopped at the Colossi of Memnon, not far from my apartment.

A somewhat exhausting part of these tours is the overabundance of tourists. It’s close quarters inside the tombs and a bit claustrophobic. Many tourists seemed more interested in taking selfies than learning about the impressive archeological sites.

Tombs versus Temples

An important distinction regarding archeological sites is the difference between Egyptian “tombs” and “temples”. Underground burial tombs in The Valley of the Kings were excavated in hidden locations to protect them from raiders. Ancient royal families didn’t visit tombs containing the mummified bodies of their dead relatives. Instead, they frequented locations where temples were built to remember and honor the dead and worship “kings of heavenly lineage”.

Valley of the Kings Entrance to a Burial Tomb – memphistours

Tombs and temples tell elaborate stories about the kings and queens they represent. Lives are detailed in beautiful hieroglyphics and colored symbols carved into the sandstone. Structures reflect the unique history and individuality of each pharaoh, and every aspect of construction is planned well in advance of death.

Life stories of the pharaohs are complicated, but images inside the tombs elaborate on their accomplishments. They describe royal family members and the Egyptian gods and goddesses who influenced them.

The Valley of the Kings – memphistours
The Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings has existed for over 500 years, from the 16th to 11th century BC. It’s one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Excavation in continually in process, and new discoveries are constantly being made. Since the end of the eighteenth century, the area has been a focal point of archaeological and Egyptological exploration.

Rock-cut tombs were “excavated in burial sites for pharaohs, major royal figures, and privileged nobles of the New Kingdom – 18th to 20th Dynasties of Ancient Egypt“. The Valley of the Kings in Luxor is on the west bank of the Nile River. During the 1920s, the area became famous after British archaeologist Howard Carter and his benefactor, Lord Carnarvon, discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. In 1979, The Valley of the Kings became a World Heritage Site. When it toured the US during the late 1970s, I vaguely remember viewing the Treasures of the Tutankhamun Exhibit in San Francisco.

Tomb of Tutankhamun – Hurghada Excursions

Currently, The Valley of the Kings contains “sixty-three tombs and burial chambers of various sizes”. Almost all of the tombs have been “opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still provide an idea of the opulence and power of the Egyptian pharaohs”.


“The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology, giving clues about the beliefs and funerary practices of the period.”


Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut Luxor Deir el-Bahari – Wikipedia
Egyptian Limestone

The Valley of the Kings occupies over 1,000 feet of limestone and sedimentary rock, forming “cliffs in the valley and nearby Deir el-Bahari. The rock was “originally deposited between 35 and 56 million years ago. At that time, the Mediterranean Sea extended as far south as Aswan”. During the Pleistocene Epoch, steady rains carved a valley out of the plateau.

Each burial tomb is assigned a KV (Kings Valley) number on an area map. One admission ticket grants visitors access to three out of a “rotating list of eight open tombs”. I went inside the following burial tombs;

  • Ramesses IV (KV2)
  • Ramesses III (KV11)
  • Seti I (KV17)

I took a ton of photos, but it was difficult keeping them separated. Most aren’t captioned.


“There is little year-round rain in The Valley of the Kings, but when occasional flash floods hit the valley, they dump tons of debris into the open tombs.”


The Tomb of Ramesses IV

The Tomb of Ramses IV was my first exploration in The Valley of the Kings. It’s said to be the “perfect archetype of tombs of the 20th dynasty”. The surreal transition from the outside world and descending into an underground place of such splendor and art is a bit eerie! Stone walls and ceilings are graced with “detailed carvings and colorful paintings in shades of deep indigo and rich ochre”. The corridors depict scenes from the “Litany of Re and the Book of the Dead, where the Pharaoh Ramesses IV interacts with deities on his journey to the underworld”.


Hieroglyphs tell the story of the “pharaoh’s life and afterlife, while countless eyes of everyday Egyptians, enemies of the king, and falcons and gods alike watch patiently from the stone”.


The tomb descends into to the burial chamber of Ramesses IV, and its stone sarcophagus. All lies beneath a ceiling-wide painting of Goddess Nut, the matriarch of the Egyptian pantheon.

Egyptian Sky Goddess Nut – Encyclopedia Britannica
The Tomb of Ramesses III

Ramesses III is the father of Ramesses IV. He was a fierce fighter and brilliant military strategist. At the entrance to his tomb, there’s a wide corridor “bedecked in engraved scenes of sun worship from the Litany of Re”. Ramesses III tomb has floor-to-ceiling reliefs from ancient Egypt’s oldest funerary book, The Amduat, known as “the book of the hidden chamber”. Images from the book include a “life-sized depiction of jackal-headed Anubis,” god of embalming and friend of the dead.

Anubis Egyptian God of the Dead – Egypt Museum

Further down the corridor, there’s a “four-pillared room showcasing Ramesses III speaking with Egyptian gods Thoth, Horus, and Osiris, surrounded by rows of ordinary peoples of the world in scenes from the Book of Gates”.

While the tomb of Ramesses III is said to have “ensured the great king’s proper passage into the afterlife,” his pink quartzite sarcophagus passed out of the tomb centuries ago. Today, it’s on display at the Louvre in Paris.

Ramesses III Pink Granite Sarcophagus – agefotostock
The Tomb of Seti I

King Seti I ruled ancient Egypt during a period of “artistic revival”. His special tomb is considered an “incredible complex of 19th-dynasty design”. It’s the “deepest dig” and longest tomb in The Valley of the Kings, with a “plummeting passage”. King Seti’s tomb has eleven magnificent chambers appointed with extravagant engravings and paintings.

King Seti I – Trips In Egypt


“Extensively detailed with gorgeous bas relief artwork, the tomb of King Seti I is arguably the most spectacular of all the tombs found in The Valley of the Kings. It’s famous for setting a high aesthetic standard to which ensuing rulers aspired.”


An Oscar or Stone Statue in Ramesses III Temple?

Tomb illustrations include detailed figures and carvings dating back to the “art style of Egypt’s Old Kingdom”. The motifs from ancient Egyptian theology are recognizable from The Amduat, Book of Gates, and Book of the Dead. Beautifully painted ceilings in the burial chamber outline constellations in the night sky.

Queen Hatshepsut

Queen Hatshepsut (hat-shuhp-soot) was the sixth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. She was one of few women to rule as an Egyptian pharaoh, and by all accounts, a fascinating woman.


“Evidence of her remarkable reign (c. 1479-1458 BC) didn’t emerge until the 19th century. Hatshepsut’s long rule was a time of peace and prosperity, filled with magnificent art and a number of ambitious building projects, including her memorial temple at Deir el-Bahri”. The Queen Who Would Be King Elizabeth B. Wilson Smithsonian Magazine


Queen Hatshepsut Mortuary Temple Luxor – Memphis Tours

Widowed queen of her half-brother, King Thutmose II, and daughter of King Thutmose I, Pharaoh Hatshepsut II became regent after her husband’s death, and was to rule for her young stepson, Thutmose III, until he came of age. Instead, she became Pharoah. She was accused of “deception and deviant behavior,” and Thutmose III claimed she usurped his kingdom. Hatshepsut ruled as “co-ruler with her stepson, Thutmose III, but held power as a queen for between 7 and 21 years”.

Ramesses III Temple

After Thutmose II ascended to the throne, he tried to destroy Hatshepsut’s monuments and erase all evidence of her rule. You can see defaced images of her throughout the temple.

Considered one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, “Hatshepsut brought great wealth and artistry to Egypt”. She “sponsored one of Egypt’s most successful trading expeditions, bringing back gold, ebony, and incense from a place called Punt, modern-day Eritrea, a country in Africa”.


“There had been only two or three female pharaohs who ruled Egypt in the previous 1,500 years before Hatshepsut. Each ascended to the throne only when there was no suitable male successor available. Cleopatra would rule some 14 centuries later.”


Sphinx Queen Hatshepsut Temple
Temple of Medinet Habu Ramses III

The Temple of Medinet Habu was built for worshipping Pharaoh Ramses III and his predecessor Ramses II. Ramses III was one of the most influential pharaohs of the XX Dynasty and considered “one of the best pharaohs of Egypt’s New Kingdom”.

Inside Temple of Ramesses III

The Ramses III Temple was the last of the great funerary structures built in Western Thebes, and it’s currently the best-preserved monument on the west bank. It was “built on the southern border of the necropolis, near holy Theban Hill. Amon, god of air, and the Hermopolitan Ogdoad, eight deities who helped create the world, rested on Theban Hill”.

Queen Hatshepsut – Egypt Today

Medinet Habu “resembled a fortified town, with temples, palaces, chapels, and residential neighborhoods”. Throughout 20th dynasty invasions, the entire population of Thebes took refuge inside the walls of the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III.

Entrance to the three-story temple is through a fortified gate. The king’s non-public residence is on the highest floor. Temple pylons and walls are “embellished with scenes portraying the king engaged in various ruthless military campaigns”.

The second court has painted reliefs “portraying spiritual holidays”. They were preserved by Christians who “reworked the realm into a church during early Christianity in Egypt. Christians covered offensive pictures with plaster.

The temple wasn’t crowded and had a special aura about it. The small, isolated inner chambers are quiet, and peaceful. The temple was recently renovated, but there’s more work to be done. The temple has been vandalized, but some of the stolen stones were later recovered.

Dendara Temple Luxor – Egypt Fun Tours

Tomorrow, I’m going on a tour of Dendara Temple. More later…

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