As mentioned in my other post on Thebes (located on West Bank of the Nile), there is lots to see in this area just across the river from Luxor, Egypt. The three sights below are “must do’s”, two of which are major tourist sights (the third receives far fewer tourists). For a map of places visited in Egypt click here.
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is the number one tourist spot in ancient Thebes. It’s the location of the tomb of the world famous King Tut and many other pharaohs from the 18th – 20th Dynasties (1550-1069 BC).
Some of the tombs were known and open as far back as Greek and Roman times and others were discovered more recently (such as King Tut’s, which was just discovered in 1922). Many of the artifacts from King Tut’s tomb are found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (a new Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open in March 2015 near the Giza Pyramids). Your ticket will allow you to see three tombs in one day and the number of visitors to each tomb is limited (King Tut’s requires a separate ticket).
It is just about impossible to get meaningful pictures in the Valley of the Kings since photos aren’t allowed in the tombs and the exteriors are just dark entrance ways with signage. However, the tombs themselves are incredible. Many of the tombs are accessed via long corridors going deep into the hillsides, some have chambers in addition to the main tombs. These tombs are carved out of solid rock and the walls and ceilings of most corridors and rooms are highly decorated with beautiful paintings.
Sixty-two tombs have been excavated to-date, and there are probably more to be discovered. This remote location was chosen to thwart grave robbers, but even though many tombs were hard to reach, robbers found a way into almost all of the tombs.
Temple of Hatshepsut (Deir al-Bahri)
This temple was constructed by Queen Hatshepsut in the 18th Dynasty (she reigned from 1473-1458 BC). The setting is dramatic and the temple is in good condition and from a distance is almost looks new—hard to believe it’s 3,500 years old.
There are many carved and painted reliefs still in good condition even after thousands of years. There are also some older temple ruins on the site. Be prepared for the crowds here.
Medinat Habu Temple
This temple is huge, and 2nd to only Karnak in size (Karnak is located on the East Bank north of Luxor). However, it receives fewer visitors since it is a little off the beaten track from the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut.
It is the mortuary temple of Ramses III (reigned 1184 – 1153 BC) and was patterned after the mortuary temple of Ramses II (the Ramesseum, nearby). Medinat Habu has survived in much better condition than the Ramesseum.
The temple area was inhabited until the 9th century and was the center of economic life in Thebes for centuries. Allow a couple hours to wander the extensive ruins.