Valley of the Kings

Along with the astonishing knowledge used to build such wonders as the pyramids at Giza, ancient Egypt possessed a mystical culture - a culture that valued the passage of the soul to an afterlife. In order to reach this afterlife, the physical body had to be protected and preserved, and lavish tombs were constructed for those who could afford the privilege to help guide the spirit to the underworld. Most people recognize the pyramids as royal tombs, but many kings of ancient Egypt were not buried in such noticeable structures. Tomb raiding is always an issue for cultures determined to load their tombs with gold and riches as the Egyptians did. Most kings and queens were buried in the more discreet Valley of the Kings Egypt temples.

Located on the west bank of the Nile river across from Luxor, the Valley of the Kings was used as a royal burial ground for 500 years, approximately from the sixteenth century BC to the eleventh. At least sixty-three tombs of pharaohs, nobles, and queens dot the Valley of the Kings. Tombs here are cut into rock, often proceeding back into the rock for a long distance, but barely visible at the surface. The interiors are excellent examples of ancient Egypt architecture using a pyramid-like shape as the rooms get progressively smaller. The paintings and bas reliefs decorating the walls of the tombs further illustrate ancient Egypt architecture.

Tutankhamun's (King Tut) tomb is in the Valley of the Kings, but although the tomb is probably the most well-known in all of Egypt, the actual location is not as impressive as visitors might expect. The contents of the tomb have been relocated to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and the relatively small tomb is not as impressive as most of its neighbors. It's impossible to visit all the tombs, so doing some research ahead of time can pay off. The tomb of Seti I is the longest in the valley and contains remarkably preserved wall art, and the tombs of Amenophis II and Tuthmosis IV are also great bets for an interesting visit. Still, tombs are frequently closed for maintenance so expect changes to your plans.

Aside from the culture of ancient Egypt, the Valley of the Kings also touches on other cultures of the ancient world. Tourists have been visiting this location for over a thousand years and often left their mark - over 2,100 instances of graffiti were left behind, most in the tomb of Ramses VI.

A taxi from Luxor is the easiest way to get to the tombs. While the people of ancient Egypt toiled away in the sun to build the tombs, for most modern visitors the Valley of the Kings is quite hot. This is not a religious site so there is no need to worry about covering shoulders or your head, but don't leave too much skin exposed either. The sun is intense; bring water or money to buy it and wear sunscreen. Inside the tombs can also be hot. Visiting the valley during the fall, spring, or winter, and as early in the day as possible, is best.

Whether you are interested in ancient Egypt architecture, tombs, or artwork, you can find all these things in the Valley of the Kings.

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