In January 1869, exactly 150 years ago, Miss Riggs joined Thomas Cook’s very first tour to Egypt and the Holy Land. Travelling overland, the journey would take three months, there and back. Miss Riggs kept a diary of her adventure and I am going to be posting from it over the coming weeks. This is day twenty-seven.
Saturday, 20 February
Breakfast at 6.30 so as to make an early start for the tombs of the Kings. We had to cross in little boats to the other side of the Nile; our other party had the start of us by half an hour so they took the first donkeys and we had to wait some time for ours. Stopped at Medinat Habou on the way – a long ride over the Lybian Plains and hills to the Tombs of the Kings and Valley of the Kings. An ascending road high up in the hills – numbers of immense tombs and rooms deeply excavated – selected a few out of the list and used our magnesium torches as it was quite dark. Our dragoman and steward of the boat brought our lunch and spread it at the mouth of one of these subterraneous caverns that once held so many dead, the walls of many covered with fine hieroglyphics and designs – Satan represented with legs and all the games and inventions of the period.
Very hot day – Mr. Dennett quite knocked up. The descent very steep – walked part of the way – and then down in the Valley the Memnomium presented itself large with grand pillars. At its side lies the broken colossal figure of Remeses II – the most prodigious proportions in the world – toes 3 ft. long – feet 5 ft. across instep – width of breast 24 ft – 887 tons in weight – broken into innumerable pieces.
We then proceeded across the plain to the 2 Colossi, the eastern one called the Vocal Memnon of the Romans, said by authors to have uttered a sound at the Rising of the Sun – 47 ft. high and 53 with pedestal – all stayed about this figure some time till daylight warned us to move. Found little boats ready and glad we were to sit and enjoy the deck after this fatiguing day.
Miss Riggs obviously never travels without a tape measure, but how she arrived at the 887 tons in weight, I don’t know. I am also at a loss to explain the presence of Satan in the Valley of Kings. The splendid photo above, by the way, comes form this excellent site, which documents another European party, in this case Swedish, travelling in Egypt, this time in winter 1900–1901.