Donkey Ride over the Ridge

by Jane Akshar on 24 Feb, 11

I now know where the expression walking like an Egyptian comes from, who ever first said it had just done the donkey ride over the ridge in Luxor, Egypt. It is an amazing experience following in the steps of the workman that built the tombs on their daily commute from their homes at Deir El Medina to the Valley of the Kings.

We started really early as it is much cooler then and easier on man and beast. I had asked for and been promised a nice quiet animal, it had to be very strong as well as I am no light weight. I went with my daughter and some friends and we started at my home on the West Bank. The donkey man, Ashraf, managed to get us all on board which was an accomplishment in itself. My saddle seemed to be really insecure but off we went. This is an amazing way to travel the soft clip clop of their little hooves as you go along. Exchanging greetings with locals on their way to work. We got to the cross roads and the big tours busses had right of way. Well actually they didn’t because our donkeys were determined to keep on going and we couldn’t stop them. The police man was in fits of laughter as he stopped all the big coaches so this group of middle aged ladies on uncontrollable donkeys went across. Our guide was laughing to hard to be of use. Actually he told me afterwards he always lets that happen because the guests enjoy it.

We went passed the Colossus of Memnon and up to the workman’s village at Deir El Medina. You could appreciate the site of Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple so much better from our vantage pint and you were going slow enough to take note of all the current excavation work. It was so interesting.

At Deir El Medina we started ascending the mountain. The donkeys needed little guiding as they had done this route many, many times, which was just as well because all my concentration was on hanging on. The path ascended quite quickly and within a few minutes you can see the village laid out beneath you, it is an amazing site to get this view, like a plan drawing.

Just to the right looking back you could see the Valley of Queens and even in the distance the mortuary temple of Rameses III at Medinet Habu. Only 10 minutes and already we had fantastic views. The ascent started getting steeper and my saddle more insecure. Whoops I started to slip and gracefully, I like to think, descended to the ground. I told him that saddle was moving. We got it sorted out no problems and were off again.

There were a couple of places where we had to get off and the donkeys went by themselves but most of the route was accomplished riding. There were some people doing the same route by foot. Which if you are young or active is a great alternative but I am neither so I was sticking to my donkey. Well at least I was trying to. It was amazing to think you were treading in the footsteps of the tomb builders. You wondered if those steps cut in the rock were from ancient times. The views were spectacular, the landscape and the distant view in the haze of the cultivation. But it was the sites that I couldn’t get over. We had already seen Medinet Habu, Deir el Medina and the Valley of the Queens. And wasn’t that Ramasseum in the distance, down below us there was the temple of Hatshepsut and to the side the Valley of the Kings.

Actually at the top you realise the relationship between the Valley of the Kings and Deir El Bahri much more clearly. It is only a short distance between the two. It made it much easier to understand the relationship between Hatshepsut’s tomb and her temple. The Valley lay beneath our feet and we could see what looked like small ants scurrying around going into tombs, the entrances of which we could see clearly. And on the other side looking straight down on the top terrace of Hatshepsut and the ramps of the lower levels.

At the top my daughter amused herself looking for fossils and we found loads. At this point the donkeys left us as it is very steep, they went down by themselves in no time but we took ages as we walked down by the side of the temple getting the most fantastic views. Stumbling across rock cut tombs and small burial pits. We found even more fossils and came back with bulging pockets.

I guess you could call this trip the poor man’s balloon ride as the views we got were similar but the price was a lot cheaper.

But we hadn’t finished, we now went back through the villages and roads with the donkeys picking up pace as they sensed their stable lay ahead. Our feeble cries of “hush hush” had no affect and actually we were a lot more confident by this time and rather enjoyed racing along in out donkey derby.

But I know I am going to regret it tomorrow, my poor muscles, yes I shall definitely be walking like an Egyptian.

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