Valley of the Queens

Valley of the Queens information

Luxor , Egypt
adult/student E£50/25, Nefertari E£100
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There are at least 75 tombs in the Valley of the Queens, which sits at the southern end of the Theban hillside. They belonged to queens of the 19th and 20th dynasties as well as to other members of the royal families, including princesses and the Ramesside princes. The most famous of these, the tomb of Nefertari, is only occasionally opened, but others are worth the visit.

Tomb of Nefertari (No 66)

Hailed as the finest tomb in the Theban necropolis – and in all of Egypt for that matter – the tomb of Nefertari was completely restored and reopened, but closed again. It is occasionally possible to visit. A replica of the tomb is planned to be installed, alongside the replica of Tutankhamun's burial chamber, near Howard Carter's house.

Nefertari was one of the five wives of Ramses II, the New Kingdom pharaoh known for his colossal monuments, but the tomb he built for his favourite queen is a shrine to her beauty and, without doubt, an exquisite labour of love. Every centimetre of the walls in the tomb’s three chambers and connecting corridors is adorned with colourful scenes of Nefertari in the company of the gods and with associated text from the Book of the Dead nearby. Invariably, the ‘Most Beautiful of Them’, as Nefertari was known, is depicted wearing a divinely transparent white gown and a golden headdress featuring two long feathers extending from the back of a vulture. The ceiling of the tomb is festooned with golden stars.

Like most of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, this one had been plundered by the time it was discovered by archaeologists. Only a few fragments of the queen’s pink granite sarcophagus remained, and of her mummified body, only traces of her knees were left.

Tomb of Amunherkhepshef (No 55)

The valley’s showpiece is now the tomb of Amunherkhepshef, with its beautiful, well-preserved reliefs. Amunherkhepshef, the son of Ramses III, was in his teens when he died. On the walls of the tomb’s vestibule, Ramses holds his son’s hand to introduce him to the gods that will help him on his journey to the afterlife. Amunherkhepshef wears a kilt and sandals, with the sidelock of hair typical of young boys.

The mummified five-month-old foetus on display in the tomb is the subject of many an inventive story, among them the suggestion that the foetus was aborted by Amunherkhepshef’s mother when she heard of his death. It was actually found by Italian excavators in a valley to the south of the Valley of the Queens.

Tomb of Khaemwaset (No 44)

Another son of Ramses III, Khaemwaset died young; there is little information about his age or cause of death. His tomb is filled with well-preserved, brightly coloured reliefs. Like Amunherkhepshef’s tomb, it follows a linear plan, and is decorated with scenes of the pharaoh introducing his son to the gods, and scenes from the Book of the Dead. The vestibule has an astronomical ceiling, showing Ramses III in full ceremonial dress, followed by his son wearing a tunic and the sidelock of hair signifying his youth.

Tomb of Titi (No 52)

Egyptologists are not sure which Ramesside pharaoh Titi was married to; in her tomb she is referred to as the royal wife, royal mother and royal daughter. Some archaeologists believe she was the wife of Ramses III, and her tomb is in many ways similar to those of Khaemwaset and Amunherkhepshef, perhaps her sons. The tomb has a corridor leading to a square chapel, off which is the burial chamber and two other small rooms. The paintings are faded but you can still make out a winged Maat kneeling on the left-hand side of the corridor, and the queen before Toth, Ptah and the four sons of Horus opposite. Inside the burial chamber are a series of animal guardians: a jackal and lion, two monkeys and a monkey with a bow.