Our trip: Dec. 26, 2017–Jan. 20, 2018. Day 9

The air is so pure and the light so incredibly beautiful that Youssef, our driver, suggests we go to Deir-el-Bahari (Hatshepsut’s temple) first. Very few tourists (they will arrive in droves as we leave, so planning an early visit is a marvellous idea). We avoid the minitrain and walk up the ramp to admire at leisure the beauty of the site and building (if only the EU funded a resurfacing of the road which is now black and horrible). We spend 2 happy hours in relative peace trying to avoid a guide entertaining his clients with risquées but totally apocryphal jokes about Hatshepsut–we are not prudes but in a place like this why do you need trashy anecdotes? The reliefs of the expedition to what is now Somalia are fascinating. On the top level a very friendly soldier guarding the temple borrows my torch to show us the interior of a gorgeously painted chapel (North side). We then go to the Ramesseum (the relief of the battle of Kadesh is NOT to be missed). The French team under Dr. Christian Leblanc seems to have finished the excavation of the royal palace, noone in sight. We then go to the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinat Habou. It probably is a mistake because after the supreme grace and elegance of Deir-el-Bahari the temple looks brutal and all too “virile”–an imposition upon the land. I suppose one needs to see it all by itself and spend the day there (truth be told our visit is somewhat spoiled by a guide howling in broken German who seems to be everywhere with us). After this long day we have dinner at the Lantern Room and sit in the WP bar with our usual cigars, whiskies, and margaritas.

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