Lonely Planet review
The tombs in this area are some of the best, but least visited, attractions on the west bank. Nestled in the foothills opposite the Ramesseum, there are more than 400 tombs belonging to nobles from the 6th dynasty to the Graeco-Roman period. Where the pharaohs decorated their tombs with cryptic passages from the Book of the Dead to guide them through the afterlife, the nobles, intent on letting the good life continue after their death, decorated their tombs with wonderfully detailed scenes of their daily lives.
Only 15 or so tombs are open to the public – they are divided into five groups and each requires a separate ticket from the Antiquities Inspectorate ticket office near Medinat Habu.
Tombs of Khonsu, Userhet & Benia (Nos 31, 51 & 343)
Khonsu was First Prophet in the memorial temple of Tuthmosis III (1479–1425 BC). Inside the first chamber of Khonsu’s tomb are scenes of the Montu festival at Armant, about 20km south of Luxor, the festival of the god of war over which he presided. The sacred barque with the shrine of Montu is towed by two smaller boats. The gods Osiris and Anubis are also honoured, and in many scenes Khonsu is seen making offerings to them. The ceiling is adorned with images of ducks flying around and nests with eggs. Next door is the less preserved tomb of Userhet, a priest during the time of Seti I (1294–1279 BC).
The Tomb of Benia , just behind that of Khonsu, is even more colourful. Benia was a boarder in the Royal Nursery and chief treasurer also during the reign of Tuthmosis III. There are many scenes of offering tables piled high with food and drinks overlooked by Benia, and sometimes by his parents. In a niche cut out at the end of the tomb is a statue of Benia flanked by his parents, all three with destroyed faces.
Tombs of Menna & Nakht (Nos 52 & 69)
The beautiful and highly colourful wall paintings in the Tomb of Menna and the Tomb of Nakht emphasise rural life in 18th-dynasty Egypt. Menna was an estate inspector and Nakht was an astronomer of Amun. Their finely detailed tombs show scenes of farming, hunting, fishing and feasting. The Tomb of Nakht has a small museum area in its first chamber. Although this tomb is so small that only a handful of visitors are able to squeeze in at a time, the walls have some of the best-known examples of Egyptian tomb paintings.
Tombs of Ramose, Userhet & Khaemhet (Nos 55, 56 & 57)
The Tomb of Ramose , a governor of Thebes under Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, is fascinating because it is one of the few monuments dating from that time, a period of transition between two different forms of religious worship. The exquisite paintings and low reliefs show scenes in two different styles from the reigns of both pharaohs, depicting Ramose’s funeral and his relationship with Akhenaten. The tomb was never actually finished, perhaps because Ramose died prematurely.
Next door is the Tomb of Userhet , one of Amenhotep II’s royal scribes, with fine wall paintings depicting daily life. Userhet is shown presenting gifts to Amenhotep II; there’s a barber cutting hair on another wall; other scenes include men making wine and people hunting gazelles from a chariot.
The Tomb of Khaemhet , Amenhotep III’s royal inspector of the granaries and court scribe, has scenes on the walls showing Khaemhet making offerings, the pharaoh depicted as a sphinx, the funeral ritual of Osiris and images of daily country life as well as official business.
Tombs of Sennofer & Rekhmire (Nos 96 & 100)
The most interesting parts of the Tomb of Sennofer , overseer of the Garden of Amun under Amenhotep II, are to be found deep underground, in the main chamber. The ceiling there is covered with clear paintings of grapes and vines, while most of the vivid scenes on the surrounding walls and columns depict Sennofer and all the different women in his life, including his wife and daughters and his wet nurse. The guard usually has a kerosene lamp, but bring a torch (flashlight) just in case.
The Tomb of Rekhmire , governor under Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep II, is one of the best preserved in the area. In the first chamber, to the extreme left, are scenes of Rekhmire receiving gifts from foreign lands. The panther and giraffe are gifts from Nubia; the elephant, horses and chariot are from Syria; and the expensive vases come from Crete and the Aegean Islands. Beyond this is the unusual chapel. The west wall shows Rekhmire inspecting the production of metals, bricks, jewellery, leather, furniture and statuary, while the east wall painting shows banquet scenes, complete with lyrics (the female harpist sings ‘Put perfume on the hair of the goddess Maat’).
Tombs of Neferronpet, Dhutmosi & Nefersekheru (Nos 178, 295 & 296)
Discovered in 1915, the highlight of the brightly painted Tomb of Neferronpet (also known as Kenro), the scribe of the treasury under Ramses II, is the scene showing Kenro overseeing the weighing of gold at the treasury. Next door, the Tomb of Nefersekheru , an officer of the treasury during the same period, is similar in style and content to his neighbours. The ceiling is decorated with a huge variety of elaborate geometric patterns. From this long tomb, a small passage leads into the Tomb of Dhutmosi , which is in poor condition.