The sky above the Valley of the Kings is now a clear paint box blue, but the looming mountains wear skirts of deep darkness, waiting for the sun to climb high enough to undress them.
the Valley of the Kings Egypt
For the rest of the tour of the Valley of the Kings, I feel an inner glow. As we move towards our bus for the journey to Deir El Bahari, a woman from our group whom I do not know well looks at me, touches my face, says, “You look so beautiful and so peaceful. I don’t know what happened in there but it shows.”
Nestled in the arms of the great rock walls not far from the Valley of the Kings, facing towards the east, is the magnificent temple of Deir El-Bahari. Twelve hundred years after Imhotep designed the Step Pyramid, Queen Hatshepsut, drawn more to the arts than to warfare, had the architect Senmut design a funerary monument for her father, Tutmose I, and herself. She chose a valley which had already been consecrated to the goddess Hathor. The design was an entirely new concept, making creative use of the great rocks spreading out like a fan behind the temple. Senmut built a series of great terraces that lead by means of ramps towards the sanctuary. Here in this temple, Hatshepsut restored the great rituals that honour the goddess Hathor.
With the sun now high in the sky, its rays hot on any exposed skin, we look towards an Everest-like flight of stone steps. We mount the stairs, pausing for photos as we ascend, finally reaching the entrance way to the temple.
Inside there are many structures, leading off open courtyards, so that the sky forms the roof and tall palms offer shading. The large temple’s inner walls are meticulously carved with hieroglyphs. A series of bas reliefs tells the story of Queen Hatshepsut’s birth and childhood, another tells of an expedition she led to the mysterious country of Punt, thought to be somewhere in the midst of Africa, for the carvings show giraffes and monkeys. High above on the inner side of a stone archway, I see a beautifully preserved painting in ochres and reds and blues of the winged presence of Isis, her arms outstretched, allowing the fullest wingspan.
We wander under overarching palms, exploring other buildings, some very ancient. A few of us discover the only tomb known to have been built for a priestess. We go inside the tiny building, pose for photos with our hands raised above the altar. Behind the main room, a narrow passageway circles around and back again, its walls covered with bas relief carvings. I stand for a long while before a carving of two kneeling figures, a man and a woman, facing each other, their open palms lifted towards each other as though in blessing. There is energy in this exchange, light and love being passed from one to the other.
Later, when I look at my photo of the carving, I see a narrow glistening chain of golden light passing across the two figures.
On our journey back to the ship, we stop for lunch at an outdoor restaurant, its roof a vibrant red flowered cloth that receives the breeze like a sail. We cross the river in feluccas, return to the Moon Goddess, to an afternoon free for rest, as the ship sails back upriver, rocking us gently in the Nile’s currents.
At five o’clock we gather in the Captain’s lounge, ready to re-enter the story of Isis and Osiris. Isis, who has flown over the reanimated phallus of her Beloved, is now, through Tantric magic, pregnant with Horus. Jean invites us to consider that Isis, during her long labours to develop the civilization of Egypt beside her husband Osiris, has remained childless, her womb fallow until the ripeness of time arrives.
“What in you is fallow, and needs to be called forth into actuality?” Jean asks us. “Each of us comes in already seeded with our creative potential, which we may bring into time. If we do not bring it into actuality, we are left with unspecified yearnings. We deny the validity of what we are.”
(to be continued)