The search for the ‘Missing Tombs’ began in Cairo at the Giza Plateau
Based at the Steigenberger Hotel we headed straight off to the Giza Plateau with the chance to enter pyramids, and the newly opened mastabas of Ka and Idu. After a quick break it was off to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization at Fustat, with time to view the Royal Mummies moved from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir some time ago.
We spent a full day at Saqqara although for most of the morning the whole site was suffering from a power cut. The Serapeum visit was very atmospheric by torch light, felt quite adventurous, and was enjoyed by all.
We had tickets for entry to the Southern Tomb, the Step Pyramid and the pyramids of Unas and Teti. We visited the New Kingdom tombs and Old Kingdom mastabas. A delicious feast of a lunch at The Sakkara Palm Club was very well received.
In Alexandria our hotel, the lovely Helnan Palestine overlooking the Montaza Royal Palace and the Mediterranean, proved a great hit. Our first visit was to Kom el Shuqafa followed by the Serapeum and Pompey’s Pillar. We also took time to enter the Mustafa Kamal Tombs.
The Great Alexandria Bonus
The highlight of the trip to Alex though proved to be yet again our private permit to visit Taposiris Magna. With our Inspectors we drove to the site and were delighted to be welcomed on arrival by Dr Kathleen Martinez.
Not only did Kathleen explain the site and her latest work but she allowed us inside the pylon and up on to the roof so that we could see how vast the site is.
We could not take pictures inside the temple as the team were working but outside, Kathleen showed her enthusiasm and led us down to the site of her latest discovery recently reported by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Whilst mapping the area at the Northern side of the temple they discovered the entry to a rock-cut tunnel. This tunnel, thirteen meters underground and two meters high, stretches thirteen hundred meters out to the Mediterranean. We then walked to the ‘lighthouse’ where we were shown the latest work in that area, including the clearing away of debris on an entranceway to yet another tomb site. Many thanks to Kathleen for her time spent with us on the day.
Our final stop in Alexandria was a more sobering affair. A short drive along the coast brings you to El Alamein where we visited The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial. The cemetery is beautifully kept and a credit to the men who work at the site.
Return to Cairo
Back in Cairo we had a day trip to Dahshur. A new special for this trip was an AWT entry permit to the pyramid of Amenemhat III, known as the Black Pyramid. The team had cleared the blocking walls and doors by the time we arrived with our inspector, and we all made our way down into the underground chambers and explored dead end passageways, finally viewing the quartzite sarcophagi.
Next, to the Bent and Red Pyramids where we were stunned to see a local man jumping from block to block from the peak of the Red Pyramid. Finally, on reaching the ground he was arrested.
On our journey to Minya we made a stop at Beni Hassan, where spectacular views awaited, along with the climb to the tombs themselves.
The Amarna Experience
Amarna was, as ever, fascinating and Chris gave a guide to the Royal Tomb and likely occupants while at the tomb itself. During the day we entered the Southern and Northern tombs, the North Palace and Stela U.
We met up with another Inspector, Dr Hamada Kellawy who showed us around the Small Aten Temple and walked us to the Archive area and explained the finds there to us. Finally, time at the Bridge that crosses the still used, but ancient main route through the city, where Hamada explained the importance of the site.
A Chance Encounter
Leaving Minya behind we headed to the lovely and rarely visited local Governors’ Tombs at Meir, set in the cliff high above the Nile Valley. Steps covered by drifting sand had to be negotiated before entering the Old and Middle Kingdom Tombs. Here, we bumped into Dr Salima Ikram head of Egyptology at AUC hoping for a quiet impromptu stop on her journey home. However, Salima very kindly chatted to our group before we all headed back down the sandy slopes to the bus. Sadly, on arrival at our next destination, Sohag Museum, we were told it had closed for the afternoon. So, we continued to Abydos and ‘The House of Life Hotel’.
Robbers’ Tunnel by Torchlight
We had a permit to enter the hidden tomb of Senusret III, so after meeting with our local Inspector who held the key, we got into our small cars and headed across the desert to the hidden tomb. There was no lighting available as the team were not working at the site but again torchlight was fine. Many of the group made it through the tomb traversing the robbers’ tunnel, following the rock-cut passage to the final chamber. They emerged back in to the sunlight, some time later, a little warmer and exhausted but elated!
We visited the temple of Seti I and then walked to the Ramesses II temple. At the temple, the team working on the site gave us a guided tour and much to our delight showed us new excavations that have just uncovered a massive Old Kingdom wall and pylon. This work is still unpublished, so we were very lucky to have everything explained to us.
After lunch at the hotel, we set off for Luxor arriving at The Old Winter Palace by 5pm. Our final three days were in Luxor and twice we headed to the West Bank to visit more tombs. The Valley of the Kings was our first call and our special permit entry, KV55. Although small and undecorated the tomb is famous for the dismantled gilded shrine panels, damaged royal coffin and canopic jars found there. Chris explained the layout of the tomb and the problems surrounding the interpretation of the finds and clearance by Theodore Davis in 1907.
Next day we visited the Workmens’ Village at Deir el Medina
Where lots of restoration and cleaning was in progress
Then to Qurnet Murai
A very full morning meeting up with old friends on the way
A Wonderful time was had by all!
Once again, a huge thank you to Medhat for his guiding skills and to Wael for all his help.
And of course, thank you to Chris for sharing his ideas, enthusiasm, sense of humour and giving such thought provoking talks along the way.
AWT would also like to thank all the local Inspectors from the Ministry of Antiquities who always give us their precious time to show us as much as possible, including new finds and projects, many of which are not yet published.