APPROACHING THE VALLEY OF THE TOMBS ON FOOT
The morning freshness was still in the air. Gangs of prisoners were grading and watering the road which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Belgium would use on the morrow, when she came to pay the first royal visit to Tutankhamen in more than thirty centuries. But I did not keep to the winding way, made smooth for automobiles, which glides a chalk-white serpent trail between the tawny hills. Beyond green fields which I had last passed over in a boat, I saw the Colossi of Memnon and I made for them. I wanted to pass the many lesser gaping tomb-mouths before I finally came to the royal tombs behind the limestone ridge.
Camels and oxen were slowly turning the awkward sâkiyehs and bringing full water-jars to the top of the loop to empty their precious burdens in mud troughs, protected by woven mats, from which they were carried out to the thirsty fields.
As I passed through a mud-walled village, with its narrow alleys almost black under that hot light which lacks reflective power, a girl of ten or so stopped stripping sugar cane with her gleaming teeth to wish that my day be blessed and to offer to share her store.
Across the narrow opening of the street an inky form glided by with a water-jar upon her head. A turtledove sat on the wall and cooed. A small child, with a scarlet robe and shiny decorations on her headdress, leaped into a square of light and then faded away into the almost tangible shadow. Lying prone in the thick dust of the road, an unpedigreed "pup" diverted the traffic of the day.
I stopped for lunch at the rest-house near the temple, which was built by Hatshepsut, the sister, wife, and queen of Thothmes II (also spelled Tahutmes and Tethmosis). In the valley a string of tip-cars was dumping rubbish down the steep slope.
On the side of the wall which forms a thin partition between this ravine and the amphitheater of the Kings' Tombs hundreds of men and boys were working for the Metropolitan Museum of New York. They stopped to eat their meager lunches amid the piles of dirt where they had toiled.
In the courtyard of the rest-house a clever sleight-of-hand artist spread his cloth, arranged his shining cups, made his tiny chickens peep, and passed a wedding ring from inside a close-held handkerchief on to a stick, both ends of which were tightly clutched by his astonished spectators.