A well-traveled dirt road leads back into the valley
formed by the hills on either side. Although not high by my experience, rising
up from the sandy floor, the Theban Hills are impressive. Jagged crevices run
up and down the sides of the hills, and in many places, man-made square arches
can be seen. The Tombs of the Pharaohs. I’m walking in the footsteps of an
ancient people. How cool.
I hurry to catch up with him. A mistake, sweat stings
my eyes and grit scrapes my cheek when I wipe my face. My shirt is sticking to
me by the time I come even with him. Does Re never find a cloud to hide behind?
Did I say Re? Now I’m starting to think as an Egyptian. Good grief. Must be the
heat. There is no shade anywhere. Like a shimmering mirage on a hot highway,
the heat rises in waves off the barren hillsides. No trees can withstand this
burning furnace. The only shelter exists under the entrances to the tombs.
Tut hurries ahead, but I may never get here again, so
I take my time. We pass one entrance, and I walk over closer to it. Heavy
wooden doors covered in hieroglyphs bar the way. Ancient rope—rough, scratchy,
and strong—twisted around the door handles and knotted tight, holds them closed.
On the right door handle there is a clump of mud molded like those wax seals
used on letters. It covers the handle and the rope. Symbols are pressed into
“Tut, what is this for and what does it say?”
He hurries over, curious.
“Why the rope and this lump of mud?”
“Lump of mud? Oh Roosa, you are looking at the
Necropolis Seal placed here by the priests. That it is still here means that
the tomb is intact. No one has entered since the burial.”
“Does the seal say whose tomb this is? Is it a pharaoh?”
“No, not a pharaoh. Here.” He points to a set of
hieroglyphs. “These state that this is the tomb of the dignitary Ramose.” He
pauses. “I remember hearing stories about him when I was young. He was the
governor of Thebes during Thutmosis IV’s time.”
“Do all the tombs carry this seal?”
“Yes, but even in my reign, it was becoming difficult
to keep the tombs sealed. Thieves continually broke in to steal the property of
“Yes. When they were caught, their hands were chopped
I gasp at such horrible consequences.
“You are shocked. I understand that in your time,
there does not exist an undisturbed tomb here.” He waves his hand around the
entire valley. “Who are these people who think they have the right to touch a
Pharaoh of Egypt, even a dead one? They disturb our sacred resting places and
steal the items left for our journey into the afterlife. May they all be cursed
along with their families.”
I stand beside him, my mouth agape. Up to now, Tut has
been determined in his mission, angry at Horemheb, but he hasn’t lost his
composure. Until now. I try to find words to soothe him.
“They only want the world to know about the pharaohs
of ancient Egypt. How magnificent they were. How they lived.”
He turns on me. “You don’t learn about a people by stealing
what is sacred to them. In my time and yours, they are nothing more than common
“Scholars have shared what they learned. They search
for knowledge. I learned about you from the artifacts in the exhibit.”
“Harrumph! What do you and they know? Nothing. Nothing
at all! All you do is seek the treasures and the gold to make yourselves rich.”
He spits in the dirt. “You wouldn’t know wealth if you were buried in it. Tomb
robbers, the whole lot.”
He stomps away almost at a run, propelled by his
anger. I hurry to keep up with him. We round a bend and to the left a small path
winds up a cliff and then disappears. His chest heaves with ragged breaths and
he’s actually vibrating he’s so enraged.
“We aren’t all like that, you know.” I whisper, wanting
to avoid a harsh response. “Some of us understand that true wealth comes from
within, from one’s heart, from love for others, and from respect for family.” I
pause. “Some of us do.”
He says nothing; he doesn’t turn to look at me, but
his breathing slows; his fingers unclench.