Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb: Capturing Over Three Thousand Years of Egyptian History

One of my most jaw dropping travel experiences involved photographing the tomb of Queen Nefertari in Luxor, Egypt.  Buried in the Valley of the Queens in 1360 BC, her mausoleum represents one of the most stunning and well-preserved examples of Egyptian funeral art.  Having the chance to take photos of Nefertari’s tomb truly epitomizes a unique occurrence.  Not only does it date from three thousand years ago, it is also typically off limits to anyone carrying a camera.

Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb: Capturing Over Three Thousand Years of Egyptian History

Photos of Nefertari's Tomb. Nefertari is seen here with Goddess Heqet, the goddess of fertility.
Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb. Nefertari is seen here with Goddess Heqet, the goddess of fertility.

 

Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb: Capturing Over Three Thousand Years of Egyptian History

 

First Off, Who was Nefertari?

Queen Nefertari reigned in Egypt as the Royal Wife of Ramesses II the Great.  She’s one of the most famous Egyptian queens along with Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut.   She died around 1,360 BC, making her tomb over three thousand years old.

 

Photos of Nefertari's Tomb. Maat is seated here with arms with ostrich feathers. Maat was the goddess of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice.
Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb. Maat is seated here with arms with ostrich feathers. Maat was the goddess of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice.

 

Photos of Nefertari's tomb. Maat, the goddess of truth and cosmic order, protects Nefertari with her outstretched wings covered in ostrich feathers. Ostrich feathers have an intrinsic ability to hold electrostatic charges, and are hence known as collectors.
Photos of Nefertari’s tomb. Maat, the goddess of truth and cosmic order, protects Nefertari with her outstretched wings covered in ostrich feathers. Ostrich feathers have an intrinsic ability to hold electrostatic charges, and are hence known as collectors.

 

Why is Nefertaris’ Tomb so Special?

Nefertari’s tomb ranks as one of the most visited sites in all of Egypt.  Therefore, access is limited to small groups of fifteen people for a maximum of ten minutes per visit.  Furthermore, cameras are not permitted inside.  At times guests are even asked to leave cell phones behind.

With over 484 square meters (5,200 feet) of wall space, Nefertari’s tomb serves as the largest and most elegant of all of the wives of Ramesses II.  Moreover, the size and scale of the elegantly painted walls baffled me.  Add to that their age and high level of preservation.  Her tomb honestly left me spectacularly dumbfounded, constantly muttering “oh, my!”

When the tomb was discovered by Ernesto Schiaparelli in 1904, the walls were covered in black mold and soot from years of sitting untouched.  To restore the art, the walls were then simply washed.  Therefore all the paint and details I was observing were all original.

I wondered how could such color have lasted for thousands of years?  I needed hours to fully appreciate this Egyptian jewel.  Since my visit was limited to only ten minutes, I felt rushed to capture as much as I could both mentally and digitally.

 

Photos of Nefertari's tomb. Nefertari was known as Nefertari Meritmut. Nefertari signifies 'beautiful companion' and Meritmut signifies 'Beloved of [the goddess] Mut'.
Photos of Nefertari’s tomb. Nefertari was known as Nefertari Meritmut. Nefertari signifies ‘beautiful companion’ and Meritmut signifies ‘Beloved of [the goddess] Mut’.
Photos of Nefertari's Tomb. It is often considered to be the Sistine Chapel of ancient Egypt regarding it's stunning artistry.
Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb. It is often considered to be the Sistine Chapel of ancient Egypt regarding it’s stunning artistry.

 

How did I Manage to take Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb?

Luckily there were no lines when my tour group arrived, thus allowing us to enter immediately.  However, the guard outside asked us to store any bags and cameras in small bins located just outside the tomb.  Then one by one he asked us to also relinquish our cell phones.

Thankfully he wasn’t that thorough.  I lagged behind, managing to maintain my cell phone in my pocket.  Although I had no real plans to take any photos, I retained it just in case.  At times some guards allow discreet photos with no flash for a tip.  Certainly I did not want to do anything that would either damage the tomb or cause the indefinite confiscation of my cellular.

Since I was the last one to enter, I also managed to be the last one left inside.  In fact, as I entered part of my group was already exiting.  As I meandered around, the guards approached me and actually began encouraging me to access restricted, roped off areas. 

Although I declined to enter the prohibited sections, I did wonder about the possibility of taking photos.  So with my hands I mimicked the act of taking pictures.  Both nodded encouragingly.  Then they eagerly began motioning me to take out my phone and start shooting.

I passed the guard $100 Egyptian pounds (about $5 USD) and began taking pictures.

As the guards kept looking up the stairs as if expecting someone to come down, I rushed around the tomb euphorically.  I wanted to capture as much as possible without causing harm to the tomb.  Room by room I went, shooting away at each wall.

Once I finished the guards signaled for me to do it again.  Not wanting to jeopardize my luck, I passed them another one hundred pounds and headed outside.  Really the second payment was more of a thank you for allowing me to do something that very few have to opportunity to do.

 

Photos of Nefertari's tomb. The green god here is Khnum, considered to make the bodies of children from clay and place them in a mother's uterus.
Photos of Nefertari’s tomb. The green god here is Khnum, considered to make the bodies of children from clay and place them in a mother’s uterus.

 

Photos of Nefertari's tomb. By 1904 when the tomb was discovered, tomb raiders already stole the treasure, including her sarcophagus and mummy.
Photos of Nefertari’s tomb. By 1904 when the tomb was discovered, tomb raiders already stole the treasure, including her sarcophagus and mummy.

 

How to See Nefertari’s Tomb

At present, tickets to see the tomb cost $1,000 Egyptian pounds ($56 USD).  They can be purchased at the ticket office in the Valley of the Queens.  Please bear in mind that entrance to the tomb is restricted to only 150 visitors per day.

Alternatively you can purchase the enhanced Luxor Pass which allows access to all sites and museums on the east and west banks of the Nile, including the tombs of Seti I and Nefertari (which are not part of the regular Luxor Pass).  The enhanced Luxor pass costs $200 USD and can be purchased at the Public Relations Office in the Luxor Inspectorate, which is behind the Luxor Museum.  You’ll need a copy of your passport and a passport sized photo.  Passes do not need to be bought in advance.

Map to Nefertari's Tomb in the Valley of the Queens in Luxor, Egypt.
Map to Nefertari’s Tomb in the Valley of the Queens in Luxor, Egypt.

 

Photos of Nefertari's tomb. Seen to the left is one guard who is pacing back and forth. In front of him is the tomb entrance.
Photos of Nefertari’s tomb. Seen to the left is one guard who is pacing back and forth. In front of him is the tomb entrance.

 

Photos of Nefertari's tomb. Piece's of Nefertari's mummy were discovered in the burial chamber and transported to the Egyptian Museum in Turin by Schiaparelli, where they remain to this day.
Photos of Nefertari’s tomb. Piece’s of Nefertari’s mummy were discovered in the burial chamber and transported to the Egyptian Museum in Turin by Schiaparelli, where they remain to this day.

 


READ MORE ABOUT EGYPT

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Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job in Boston, sold everything & moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico to start a rental business.  Now I spend 4 months a year exploring the globe with no advanced reservations. I just pack up and go, using my extensive travel experience to choose what to do next.  Also, I specialize in adventure travel, often visiting obscure locations like Lebanon!  My goal is to show the world that traveling is fun, easy and safe!  Learn how you can pack up and go!.

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