Friday morning started with more sightseeing, firstly to the Collosi of Memnon, two gigantic statues of, I think, Ramses II and Nefertari (could be wrong about this, my head is swimming with all the Pharaohs and their wives, plus all the gods.) There was once a temple behind the statues but because it was mud brick, it didn't last.
After we spent half an hour at the Collosi, the four of us who wanted to ride donkeys into the Valley of Kings went to find the donkey man and got on our mounts. The rest of the group went by minivan. Donkeys are a lot easier to ride than camels, a much smoother ride and much closer to the ground! The ride took about half an hour and went through dirt roads lined with sugar cane each side, with a backdrop of the Valley of the Kings. Absolute magic!
When we got to the Valley of the Kings we had to leave our cameras in the bus as you cannot take them in (since about 4 months ago). Shame, as the sights were amazing. Our guide, Mohammed, has a degree in archaology and you can see it's his passion - he chose three tombs for us to visit, one each from the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties, so we could see the changes in construction. The ancient Egyptians found that the pyramids were raided by robbers and all the riches etc stolen, so the next move was to the secluded Valley of the Kings where they had concealed entrances, long corridors into the mountains, deep pits to trap robbers etc (and they were still raided!). Tutankhamen's tomb was protected as a later king had built his tomb over the top of Tut's and it was only found by chance by an archeologist. The inside of the tombs was decorated by carvings, drawings, hieroglyphics - some of the unfinished ones gave you an idea of how they went about decorating the walls, as you could see the rough drawings on the walls which in other parts were finished off or carved. Once the king died the tomb was sealed, whether or not it was finished.
The day was another scorcher so we were glad to get back in the air conditioned minivan for the trip to a local house in Luxor where we had a traditional lunch - soup, followed by chicken, rice, stuffed zucchini and peppers, vegetables and the local flat bread. We also had a drink made of hibiscus - we have had this in every hotel we have been to, the welcome drink. It's very refreshing. Shaima, whose sister cooked the meal, is also a guide who works in Luxor only and she was very interesting to talk to. She speaks excellent English and was able to answer all our questions on life as a Muslim woman. She is very accepting of the restrictions on her as a female, but had been to university in Cairo (archeology) living in an all female uni residence. The only disatisfaction she seemed to have was that she cannot travel outside Luxor on her own. She is still waiting for the perfect man to show up (we tried to fix her up with Mohammed!)
It was hard to tear ourselves away from Shaima as she was so interesting, but we had to get back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the rooftop pool then left at 6.30pm to catch the overnight train back to Cairo.
So here we are again, some of our group have already left to catch planes home and the rest of us are going out to lunch together. At 6pm tonight we have a meeting with our new group and leave early tomorrow morning (5.30am) for the trip to Sinai. We will be climbing Mt Sinai tomorrow so we had better get a good night's sleep tonight!