Ben is our Marketing Executive, and in December 2021 he travelled to Egypt on our King Tutankhamun 10-day group tour. Of all the multiple highlights, including the Pyramids and a Nile-felucca cruise, it was the tomb-strewn Valley of the Kings that really took his breath away. Read on as he takes us inside the Valley of the Kings! Warning: This article features images of ancient Egyptian mummies, which may be disturbing to some readers!
COVID-19 put paid to my first On The Go Tours trip to Jordan in March 2020, as borders around the world slammed shut. I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me this time. I flew into Cairo on 9 December 2021 full of anticipation. I’d never been to Egypt before, and although I knew quite a bit about the country (you get that when you work for On The Go), I was desperate to get started. Eight days later, having seen the mighty Pyramids, sailed to Philae Temple in Aswan, explored Karnak and cruised the Nile aboard a felucca, I thought things couldn’t get any better. But it was on the final full day of my tour, when I visited the legendary Valley of the Kings in Luxor, that my experience in Egypt really peaked. Here’s why!
Arriving at the Valley of the Kings
Crossing to the West Bank of the Nile by boat, my group was picked up by minibus, from where we travelled towards the Valley of the Kings. We passed the towering statues of Amenhotep III, known as the Colossi of Memnon (returning here later for photos). We also got a glimpse of the hilltop house of Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1922. Arriving at the visitor centre, we saw an amazing scale 3D model of the site, which makes you realize how far down and into the rock some of the tombs go! We then took a small train up the hill to the tombs.
Only a few of the 62 tombs at the site are open to visitors at any given time. But our guide, Alam, knew exactly which of the available tombs were the best ones to visit. You get into three tombs with your entry ticket. A note that if you want to visit the tomb of Tutankhamun (which you absolutely should!) then the cost is not included in your entry ticket. It costs an extra 400 Egyptian pounds (approx £20 GBP). Tickets checked; it was now time to head inside the Valley of the Kings!
Tomb 1: K.V.6 (Ramses IX)
The first tomb we explored was a “classic” style of tomb. A steep passageway descended fairly sharply straight down to a burial chamber, where the king’s sarcophagus once rested. The passageway down to the chamber was decorated in hieroglyphics, still holding much of their original colour. Colours in Ancient Egypt were created from natural resources including plants and rocks. The Ancient Egyptians were able to mix them to create secondary colours as well as primary ones.
When an Egyptian pharaoh came to power, his or her first priority was almost always to begin construction on a tomb, the afterlife being so central to the entire civilization. The hieroglyphs carved onto the walls tell the history of the king or queen. This includes tales of their greatest successes in policy and battle. They also feature traditional funerary texts, all told in hieroglyphics. So the tombs were constantly being worked on until the day the ruler died.
The tomb of Ramses IX boasts some of the best-preserved hieroglyphs inside the Valley of the Kings, as you can see from the images displayed here. I was astounded at the state of them, I had no idea that so much of the colour would still be visible. Relatively little is known about the reign of Ramses IX, but he is thought to have been a grandson of Ramses III. There is also a wall dedicated to him at Karnak.
Tomb 2: K.V.8 (Merenptah)
The second tomb we entered was that of King Merenptah, who ruled Egypt for approximately 10 years during the Nineteenth Dynasty. This tomb was less visually impressive than that of Ramses IX, but it was far bigger. The small upper chamber was discovered in antiquity. But it was the famous Howard Carter who uncovered the rest of the tomb in 1903. As we descended further down into the tomb, the passageway opened up into a colossal burial chamber, where the original stone sarcophagus and lid are still present.
Merenptah was a successful military leader, waging war against the Libyans, amongst others. His father, Ramses II lived to be around 90 years old (which is staggering in itself!). So Merenptah was already an elderly man when he assumed the throne, hence his relatively short reign. You have to stop and think about just how old these tombs are. We’re talking about kings and queens who lived hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus Christ! Let that sink in for a second.
Tomb 3: K.V.11 (Ramses III)
Ramses III is a fairly well-known pharaoh, regarded as the last great king of the New Kingdom, and the last to wield significant power. It was during his reign that Egyptian military and economic power began to decline seriously and terminally. However, he did manage to ward off an invasion by the “Sea People”, which would have hastened this decline. His tomb is built in the same classic style as Ramses IX, but it is significantly longer and features well-preserved images of important Egyptian deities. These include Anubis and the three-headed lizard which represents the Evil Eye. There are lots of decorated side rooms before you reach the main burial chamber.
Tomb 4: K.V.62 (Tutankhamun)
I simply had to pay the extra fee to enter the tomb of one of Egypt’s most famous kings. Tutankhamun’s tomb is small, perhaps because of the relatively short reign of the king, thanks to his untimely death at the age of 18 or 19. However, the walls surrounding his sarcophagus are stunningly decorated with floor-to-ceiling scenes. And there is a calendar on one wall, featuring monkeys that look as if they could have been painted yesterday.
Best of all, the mummy of the Boy King himself has been returned to the tomb. Whilst many Egyptian mummies have been lost, and many more are housed in the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, seeing Tut’s mummy in its original burial chamber is a true sight to behold. In fact, I would go so far as to say it was the highlight of my entire trip. Travelling during the pandemic has its positives; my brother and I were the only people in the tomb during our visit, just us and a 3,300-year-old king. For a special treat, see the video below for a glimpse inside the tomb of Tutankhamun. WARNING: This video does feature the mummy of Tutankhamun, which may disturb some viewers.
Coming to Egypt, I knew that the Pyramids of Giza would cause my jaw to fall to the floor. I knew that cruising the Nile aboard a traditional sailing boat would be an unforgettable experience. And I knew that the size of Karnak would cause my brain to explode. I didn’t know just how thought-provoking and visually stunning the Valley of the Kings would be. I had no idea just how well-preserved the tombs would be, or how varied. And being able to enter the tomb of Tutankhamun, and see his mummy with my own eyes, was really the icing on the cake. The perfect end to what had been an almighty adventure.
All of On The Go Tours’ trips to Egypt include a visit inside the Valley of the Kings. Whilst the tombs you see may well be different to the ones I saw, your Egyptologist guide will make sure you visit the best ones available on your given day. And the ticket to enter the tomb of King Tut is always available. If you’d like to visit Egypt for yourself, then make sure to check out our award-winning range of Egypt tours.