Of all the sights I just had to see in Egypt, The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahri was number one. In fact, with just three days in Egypt, I made sure there was a way to get to Luxor just to see it. Luckily, with two nights sleep, or lack of sleep, aboard a sleeper train, we were able to make my dreams come true.
It all started my senior year of high school when I decided to take AP Art History. From the moment I lay eyes on my gigantic textbook, I knew that I made the right choice. Each day, I was able to get lost in the world’s art before heading to classes I had no interest in like anatomy and physiology or probability and statistics.
For an hour each day, I was able to travel to far away places, and in many ways, I think that class was part of the reason I fell in love with the world and wanted to travel. Through art, I was able to learn about many cultures and countries, but I’ll never forget the day I learned about Queen Hatshepsut and her temple in the mountains near the Valley of the Kings. It stood out, and I knew that one day, I would have to see it for myself.
We arrived at Luxor on our second day in Egypt, and after a quick breakfast, we were on our way to the temple. It was 6am when we arrived, and we were the only ones there. With no crowds, it looked exactly as it did in my textbook ten years earlier.
The golden glow of early morning sunlight reflected off the temple and rocks and set in front of the perfect, clear blue sky, it was love at first sight.
At one point in time, the entire temple had been painted with bright colors. But, over the years, the elements had taken their toll on the paint. All that remained could be found on the inside, where the stone was shielded from the harsh sunlight.
It was easy to picture what the temple once looked like, covered in pictures painted in bright colors. It must have been even more stunning with the golden-brown rocks as a background.
After a break in the shade, we decided to climb upstairs and explore even further.
As is true with most places in Egypt, there were guides up there waiting for us. At most places, we were able to waive them away, as they require a tip, but here that was an impossibility because there was no one else for them to tend to.
At first, we weren’t happy, but then, they took us past ropes and let us really explore the temple. Then they took our photos in various places, showed us the best places to capture the whole temple, and took photos with us.
They were actually the best part of the experience, and we had no problem handing them over a few Egyptian pounds.
What was hard, however, was actually having to leave. Yes, there was so much more to see, but there I stood at the one sight I cared most about. Now, it was time to see other sights, but none had as much meaning as this one.
My fascination with Hatshepsut is one I don’t entirely understand, but the temple has always stood out to me. Maybe, it’s Hatshepsut’s story. Her reign as pharaoh and how she dressed as a man, right down to the false beard. Her husband’s son, who so clearly disliked her that he sought to wipe out her existence by erasing her name all over Egypt after her death.
She was a strong and powerful woman for her time, and I think at a young age, I looked to her as an inspiration. Seeing her temple brought what I had learned to life, and seeing her temple for myself helped me better understand that.