As I mentioned earlier, Anne and I were very impressed with the tombs of the Nobels which are home to the best “reliefs” and hieroglyphics depicting daily life.
In the valley of the nobles the security guards seemed more prevalent than they were in the Valley of the Kings! This made it hard to get any one on one time with a guard that may be open to “Baksheesh” as a bribe to be allowed to take some photos.
I managed to sneak in these two pictures of the “reliefs” and hieroglyphics.
Over 450 tombs have been discovered of the nobles of ancient Eygpt. These were civil servants, generals and wealthy people that could afford grand tombs if not quite on the scale of the Pharaohs. Today there are around 15 tombs that are available to visit but they are set up in groups so you have to buy a ticket for each group. I would recommend buying tickets to two groups and this should allow access to 5 or 6 tombs which is plenty for a single visit.
Among the most popular are Rekhmire, Ramose, Sennefer and Userhat. Each tomb has a "guardian" who is supposed to ensure you keep to the rules but they will let you take photos for a few pounds - don't use your flash as this damages the paintings.
The tombs are located across the road from the Ramesseum and you will need to pay a guide to escort you to each tomb. The price of the tickets is quite cheap, £30 Eygptian, but add on the cost of £50-70 for a guide and tips for the guardians and it soon adds up.
I would say I enjoyed them just as much as the Valley of the Kings and there were hardly any tourists here.
Just one thing to remember, you have to walk up a fairly steep hill and if it is a hot day it can be quite exhausting so go early in the morning, take a bottle of water and slap on the high factor sun block.
Photos in the tombs of the nobles are prohibited as they are in all the other tombs. When you are inside though the tomb "guardians" who accompany your visit will tell you it's okay to take photos for a couple of pounds. I confess I did take a couple of photos but made sure the flash was supressed as this is the reason they are prohibited. I did feel kind of bad for breaking the rules but as the saying goes "when in Rome".
Seriously though, if you are going to take photos inside the tombs PLEASE supress your flash.
Often referred to as the Valley of the Nobles, this necropolis is not much of a valley. It is located on the lower slopes of the Theban desert hills facing the Nile Valley and is made up of a couple of large areas around the town of Old Gurna. This necropolis was the burial place for high officials and notables during the New Kingdom. Although their number exceeds royal ones (over 400), these tombs are much less elaborate, not only because they were not made for royals, but also the poor quality of the limestone in this area. Most of the tombs are painted with vivid colours and scenes. Many of these tombs are open to the public.
The tombs I saved for last. After all, how interesting can they be, right? I did enjoy them, but they were bottom of my list of things to do. Most of the tombs were small amd required you to hike through the valleys. Once you've seen 2 or 3, you've pretty much have an idea what they all look like.
I started with the Nobles. I wanted a comparison scale of least to greatest. The Nobles are located in a village owned by the locals. The story I got from a local was that the government tried to relocate the villagers in order to capitalize on the tombs for tourism purposes. They built cheap homes elsewhere, relocated them, and cashed in on the tourists. When their homes fell down after a year, the locals moved back onto the tombs and have been here ever since. Since they receive no royalties from the government they offer their services as guides to the various tombs. The tombs can be difficult to find in the midst of all the decrepit buildings so it's not a bad idea to hire a guide. Of course you'll have to bargain.
Also you're not allowed to photograph in the tombs. It's not because you're liable to damage the paintings. You can always turn off the flash. I think it's to have exclusive rights over the pictures. A hint: if you want pictures use a digital camera. Turn off the flash, use the widest aperture possible to allow in the most amount of light. Turn off the sound too.
This trip should take about 1-2 hours to visit 3 tombs. Visit Tomb of Inherka (No 359), Tomb of Sennedjem (No 1), and Tomb of Peshedu (No 3).
When finished go to the Valley of the Queens.
The unfinished tomb of Ramose is the perhaps the most interesting of the tombs here. Governor of Thebes during reigns of Amenophis III and Akhenaten, the tomb was apparently abandoned during construction when the monotheistic worship of Aten by Akhenaten decided to move the capitol to a new city at Tell al-Amarna. Thus, the artwork, extraordinary in it's refined workmanship shows various stages of production. There is a unfinished charcoal sketch and unpainted basreliefs. One work is the beautiful representation of a funeral procession, showing women weeping. The equality of status of men and women are shown in masterful detail of Ramose his wife and other relatives. The tomb is well lit, but photography of such clean and unfinished basreliefs is particularly difficult. The images here though are only slightly enhanced by computer.
Lonely Planet points out that the tombs of the Nobles, situated as they are among buildings of rather poor neighborhood in the village of Qurna, are some of the least visited tombs in the West Bank. Walking through town, we were surrounded by charming children whose limited English vocabulary was surprisingly well pronounced. The children begged us to buy these pitiful little charm dolls. I recall one girl about age 10, whose portrait I regrettfully failed to take, with dark brown skin and blond hair. I believe that she probably typifies the appearance of an ancient Egyptian child. At the tomb of Userhet, the thob wearing guard offered to reflect light into the tomb with a shiny piece of copper. So these photos of winemaking, daily life, and Userhet hunting gazelles from a chariot are partly a reflection of the guards efforts. Userhet was a royal scribe to Amenophis II.
Lonely Planet writes that Prince Sennofer of Thebes, supervisor of the gardens at the Temple of Amun in Karnak under Amenophis II, is frequently depicted with his sister. Interestingly though, the relationship appears more romantic, and since Sennofer is clearly a black Nubian and the woman, whether his sister or wife, is a white Egyptian. In any case, the paintings of grapes and vines on the ceiling,
Like Tombs of the Artisan's the Nobles tombs provide more of a view of real life in Egyptian times. This was the life of a poor agricultural worker, but rather of the work and family of a wealthy bureacrat. Khaemhet's tomb is marked as tomb #57 and is locked at night. The tomb has some wonderful reliefs, but the tomb was heavily damaged, perhaps by someone who lived there, because much of the art is heavily restored. Khaemhet was a court scribe and the walls of his tomb are richly decorated in heiroglyphics. He was also an inspector of granaries, under Amenophis III, and so the walls also depict in places agricultural life. At the far end of the tomb is a statue to two seated figures. The left one is greatly defaced, and is either Khaemhet's wife or the god of darkness. Khaemhet himself receives even at the corner some light shining on his face.
We've visited five tombs in the Valley of th Nobles. It was a great experience, as these tombs lay scattered in a 'valley' that is still inhabited. We were told that the governement wants the people to move, so they have no running water nor electricty. We bought tickets at a ticket boot outside the valley, near a cross roads. Check which tombs you want to visit.
We were dropped off at a parking place. You can try to find your own way, but we choose a guide to bring us to the various tombs. We agreed 30 pounds before hand ('money is not a problem, sir'. 'No, but for us it is') .
The tombs are very different, not as elaborate as the one's in The Valley of the Kings, but some were very remarkable. In every tomb is a caretaker willing to point out some details, but do not expect a long explanation. Have some 1 pounds notes ready and be prepared for an argument over the amount of money. In one tomb there was a man with a mirror outside and a man with a mirror on the inside, shining light on the pictures.
Less touristed than the more famous Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, are many tombs of the nobles of the New Kingdom (in particular the 18th Dynasty). It is well worth a look to check these out if you have the time to do it.
The tombs usually consist of two or more chambers cut into the rock which were then painted. The deceased may of been buried in a well which was dug down either in the tomb or in the courtyard in front. The tombs date from the 6th Dynasty to the Graeco-Roman Period, although the vast majority date from the New Kingdom.
A scene from the tomb of Nakht (1430 BC) showing a funerary banquet scene, where three girls play music for thre guests.
The instruments from right to left are, a double flute, a lute and a harp.
Such instruments were frequently shown in other scenes in tomb of Amnemhat, at Thebes.
Such long lute might give the impression of a Greek modern "bouzoucki", also it is quite familiar now in Turkey.
Another ancient Egyptian scene of semi nudism can be seen also at the British Museum. (the musicians and dancers, which show a sort of folkloric dance or rather belly dance).
Looking for the tombs of the nobles is very special. The tombs are between the houses in the old village Gurna. There are 400 tombs or more of the Middle Empire dynasties. There are no signs, so the local people have to tell or show you where the tombs are. In 1983 we visited several tombs of theh Nobles, not always so beautifull as the tombs in the valley of the kings, but we prefered this place because of its ambiance.
The Tombs of the Nobles are very different to both the Valley of the Kings and the valley of the Queens as they portray scenes from daily life.
The Tombs can be found in (yes in!) the modern village of Qurna.
Finding the village is easy as it`s on the main road opposite the Ramasseum. Finding the tombs is more of a problem as there are very few signs. Fortunately ;-) there always seems to be a local who`s willing to show you around.
If you know which tombs you want to visit then insist on going there as your `guide` is likely to want to take you to the tombs where his `cousin` is the guardian.
Don`t be surpised if you`re invited back for tea after visiting the tombs. Go if you`ve got the time, but expect a sales pitch. Alabaster carvings and fake antiquities abound.
This is a distance viewq of the tombs of the noble. I didnt visit any of these. Admission ticket 20 EGP (May 2006), which should be puchased in the central ticket office near the Colossi of Memnon.